The city, which one councilman described as "a ship without a captain," finally has found someone officials hope will steer it out of rough financial and political waters.
After an intensive and sometimes frustrating seven-month search for a new city manager, the City Council is expected to hire Donald E. Penman, 38, currently city administrator of San Fernando.
Penman's appointment, scheduled for council approval Wednesday, follows a rash of resignations and staff changes in Baldwin Park within the past year, leaving the city with no permanent mayor, city manager, redevelopment manager or city planner.
"I feel very happy," said Baldwin Park Mayor Pro Tem Bette Lowes, who has been in charge of council meetings since November, when former Mayor Leo King resigned. "It will be good to have a permanent manager on board now."
If approved, Penman will begin his new job Jan. 29. He would succeed Ralph Webb, who resigned under fire in May after the council complained about growing fiscal woes during his eight-year administration. The police chief, Carmine Lanza, has been filling in as acting city manager since Nov. 27, after three other individuals--including the city clerk--turned down the job.
Lanza said the search was "a long testing process, a long recruitment process. We'd been attempting for several months to fill the city manager position permanently. We're at the end now, I hope."
Credited with boosting San Fernando's economy and improving public services there, Penman said Thursday that he accepted the $86,500-a-year position in Baldwin Park, "because I felt it was a good move for me, a career move to a larger city."
Baldwin Park has 195 city employees, almost double the number in San Fernando, and about 63,000 residents, compared to 20,000 in San Fernando.
But with the larger territory comes greater fiscal problems: This month, Baldwin Park had to lend its own Redevelopment Agency $300,000 to cover a short-term cash flow problem.
And, with the city facing an expected shortfall of $500,000 to $1-million earlier in the year, the council axed several staff positions as well as the entire code-enforcement team, which was responsible for enforcing the city's health and safety laws.
More cuts may have to be made, said Lowes, suggesting the open position of redevelopment manager could be eliminated.
"Obviously one thing I'll need to do is take a look at the staffing and determine what the needs are," Penman said.
"I know the Redevelopment Agency seems to be struggling somewhat financially. That's one of the first things I'll have to get into."