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July 18, 2006 > Larry Cheeves - Union City City Manager

Larry Cheeves - Union City City Manager

by Arnie Becker

City managers, who are they? What do they do? How do they affect your city? TCV will be looking for the answers in the five municipalities we cover: Fremont, Hayward, Milpitas, Newark and Union City.

Confident and caring -- both describe Larry Cheeves, city manager of Union City. TCV recently sat down with Cheeves to get his perspective on the city as it is today and where he sees it headed in the future.

TCV: Tell us a little about your career with the city and how you came to be manager?

Cheeves: I had a kind of strange journey that started 30 years ago. After college and grad school, I needed to get a real job. I went into the public works department, going through the ranks and was happy with that job. In 2001 when the city manager left, the city council asked me to step in. I held that position for eight months before deciding to go back to my position in public works.

The next city manager was only here for 14 months and when he left in 2003, the city council again asked me to step into the position. I decided that if they want me [in the position of city manager] I will stick around. Prior to my appointment as city manager, I was public works director for 16 years. I have a total of about 28 years of experience in local government, having worked for five California cities. I earned my undergraduate degree from Pepperdine University and a master's degree in public administration from California State University Fullerton. I like the job and I have roots here including the fact that my wife teaches English as a second language here in Union City.

TCV: How is life in the manager's seat?

Cheeves: I enjoy it very much. Developing projects is one of the best aspects of the job, especially the actual doing of a project. For instance, the plan for the Union City BART corridor and station gives us the opportunity to develop high density housing and a town center in a project that will take two to five years to complete.

TCV: How is your relationship with department heads and staff?

Cheeves: Another positive aspect of this job is that I have an excellent working relationship with department heads and all of the staff. This allows me to accomplish things that would not be possible without this high level of cooperation. We see the bigger picture and are able to work together for the betterment of the whole community.

TCV: What is your biggest concern in the immediate future?

Cheeves: My biggest concern is resources. How are we going to pay for the things that are necessary and required for the citizens of Union City? Keeping control of expenses is another major concern. We have become a very lean city across the board. No significant project has been delayed or cancelled, but we've learned to do more with less. You can do this for quite some time but at some point revenues have to increase in order to keep up with spending requirements.

TCV: Have you had to cut positions in the public safety sectors?

Cheeves: No, we have had to reduce some staffing but this has been done almost exclusively by attrition rather than through layoffs. In fact we are now hiring in the fire department to backfill those positions we left vacant. We also have ongoing recruiting in the police department to fill positions as people leave, are promoted or retire. We have now filled positions we left vacant before.

TCV: We hear a lot about "reserves" in city budgets. How are the reserves in Union City?

Cheeves: Our reserves stand at about 12 percent of the annual budget. We do expect that these will go down to about 8 percent over time.

TCV: Many cities are experiencing increased revenues. Is Union City experiencing this today?

Cheeves: Yes. Property taxes have increased because as property changes hands it is reappraised to its current market value. Our tax base is expanding due to new construction. The state has also begun to pay funds that were promised but withheld in previous years. The state is now reimbursing us for criminal booking costs.

TCV: Is there anything that you would like to add?

Cheeves: We would like the people of Union City to know that we, as their governing body, are accessible. We encourage our citizens to call council members, or send email to them or myself. There are multiple commissions that deal with everything from city planning, youth activities, seniors, human relations, parks and recreation and other areas concerned with the running of the city. It is important that everyone know that the council is open, both during the council meetings themselves, and at any time via email and telephone.

The more people interact with their city government in a positive and constructive way the better we can serve them. If we don't know of a need, or a problem, there is no way we can respond in an appropriate way.

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