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Brookings city manager returns to sea

By Tom Hubka

WesCom News Service

BROOKINGS – For incoming City Manager Gary Milliman, Brookings promises a life both he and his wife, Carolyn, long to return to: a home by the sea.

Milliman, currently the city manager of South Gate, said he is eager to start a career in Brookings as the city's top staffer.

"Brookings is just a community that, to us, offered what we were looking for and that is the smaller town atmosphere," he said. "A place where you are able to live and work in the same community, and develop a relationship with people in town."

Milliman was unanimously selected to succeed Interim City Manager Ken Hobson last Tuesday by the Brookings City Council. Starting with a field of 40 applicants, the council whittled that number down to three and Milliman.

Milliman agreed to a beginning salary of $90,000 and is expected to start working July 9.

He said he hopes to make the goals of the council his own while coordinating staff.

"My plan is to work closely there with the city council, get an understanding of what their goals and objectives are and really move on accomplishing those goals," he said.

Milliman received a bachelor's degree in journalism from California State College and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Southern California.

He began his career in the media, working as a reporter for The Daily Signal newspaper and the Los Angeles City News Service and as editor in chief for The Bell Gardens Review newspaper.

In 1971, Milliman simultaneously served as deputy city manager for the city of Bell Gardens and as a city councilor for the city of Maywood.

He went on to serve as city manager of Cotati for two years before taking the same position for the small coastal community of Fort Bragg in 1979. He held the position through 1997.

After working with the League of California Cities, Milliman returned to public administration in 2003 when he was hired as South Gate's city manager.

"What I found is that, after I left the profession and worked in the legislative advocacy field, I had an opportunity to come into South Gate in a crisis period in their history and be the interim city manager for six months," Milliman said. "I discovered that's where my heart is. That's where I needed to be."

Though South Gate had a population of more than 96,000 in 2000, Milliman said he is confident in his abilities to work for a small community again.

"I have a small town background where you learn to do more with less," he said. "I've applied that same principle here in South Gate. It will not be a challenge to move back into a smaller community"

Milliman oversaw substantial growth in some of the cities he served and said he would help Brookings grow without losing its character.

"What I hope to do is provide a resource for understanding how to appropriately manage growth so the community maintains its characteristics, but also grows in a way that allows it to be stable in its economic and housing abilities going into the future," he said.

Brookings City Council members said Milliman's experience made him the person for the job.

"He was far and away the most experienced and best qualified," Councilwoman Jan Willms said. "I was impressed with the fact that he had had coastal experience. It means he understands those issues."

Both Gary and Carolyn's desire to live on the coast again would help make for a long-term match between the city and Milliman, Willms also said.

"I think this is important because if spouses are connected in getting involved in the community, that makes a difference in the satisfaction of the person," she said.

The city has had recent trouble keeping a city manager. In two years, two full-time city managers have resigned.

Milliman said he plans to retire here as well.

"I'm not looking for a place to come in, be the city manager and leave," he said. "My plan is to serve as the city manager (in Brookings) and become very active in the community. Then some years later, that will become our retirement home."

Brookings Mayor Pat Sherman said that plan will bode well for stability in city hall.

"We knew he had a good chance of staying here for a long time and we need that stability," she said. "We know where we are and we also know where we need to get to. He has the skills, I believe, to get us to where we need to go."

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