Manager Who Held Post Only 8 Months Dies : Rolling Hills Seeks City Chief

Times Staff Writer

The Rolling Hills City Council on Monday will talk about selecting a city manager after the death last week of Joseph P. Leach, 61, city manager for eight months.

Leach died May 31 at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance after five years of vascular problems that required several operations, friends and colleagues said.

Rolling Hills Mayor Tom Heinsheimer said the council at its regular meeting Monday will discuss the procedure for recruiting a manager to head the three-member staff. Rolling Hills, a private residential community of 2,076 people, contracts with the county for police, fire and health and safety services. Heinsheimer said City Clerk June Cunningham may be named acting city manager.

Position Filled


The post of city manager in neighboring Palos Verdes Estates was filled this week, with Gordon Siebert, 34, the unanimous choice of the City Council for the $54,000-year-job. Siebert has been public works director in Rancho Palos Verdes and public works manager in Palos Verdes Estates under a contract with the city. He takes over as city manager on July 1. William J. Fawell, acting city manager since the Feb. 28 resignation of Tom Devereux, will return to his old job as assistant city manager and planning director.

Palos Verdes Estates Mayor James Kinney said Siebert’s “strong background” in financial planning and public works and capital improvements administration “provides areas of expertise we need.”

Leach, his wife and two children lived in Rolling Hills Estates. He became city manager last October after retiring as special projects director for the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission.

Leach came to California in 1956 and spent nine years as assistant city manager in Redondo Beach. He was Rolling Hills Estates city manager from 1965 to 1973. He then returned to Redondo Beach as city manager but was ousted 18 months later after a 1974 election changed the political makeup of the City Council. He went on to teach public administration at California State University, Long Beach.


Born in Ohio, Leach in 1948 became known as the youngest mayor in the United States when, at age 25, he was elected in Sharonville, Ohio. He served two terms.

Back From Vacation

“The three things that were important to Joe were his family, government and golf,” said Rolling Hills Estates Councilwoman Nell Mirels, a longtime friend of the family.

Rolling Hills Councilwoman Ginnie Leeuwenburgh said Leach returned to work May 27 after a two-week vacation during which he saw his son Kevin, 20, play for UCLA in a Florida golf tournament.


City Hall staffers characterized Leach as a professional who was pleasant to work with. Said Heinsheimer, “Joe’s greatest attribute was his ability to be extremely efficient while maintaining an informal style.”

Leach, who was buried Tuesday at Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, is survived by wife Wilda, son Kevin and daughter Cathy, 21; brothers Charles of Manhattan Beach, James of Illinois and Chester Traynor of Santa Fe Springs and sisters Kathryn Sharon and Martha Mesi, both of Ohio, and Mary Samson of Downey.