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Longtime City Employee Expected to Be Named Irwindale Manager

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Since 1959, when Alfred Fraijo Herrera was hired as a part-time park maintenance man at the age of 24, he has climbed the ranks in City Hall, from traffic cop to police sergeant to recreation director to assistant city manager.

Now, the 55-year-old Irwindale native is preparing to move higher up. Next week, Charles R. Martin is expected to resign as Irwindale’s city manager and city clerk, although continuing as city attorney and executive director of the Community Redevelopment Agency.

And indications are that Herrera, Martin’s longtime assistant, will be named to succeed him as city manager and clerk.

Herrera, whose great-grandfather Don Gregorio Fraijo emigrated from Mexico and was one of Irwindale’s first settlers, would be the first native resident, and the first Latino, to manage the 33-year-old city in a permanent post.

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He also would be the first permanent city manager that Irwindale has had for 17 years. Martin was hired as acting city manager in 1973 and never has been appointed to the permanent job.

Martin’s decision to relinquish two of his four Irwindale jobs comes as the balance of power on Irwindale’s City Council shifts to a new majority of Frederick Barbosa, Mayor Richard Chico and Robert Diaz. Barbosa, who replaced longtime incumbent Joseph Breceda after the April 10 election, said after his election victory that one of his first priorities would be to ask Martin to resign from two of his jobs.

Whereas other cities have gone through elaborate screening processes, conducted nationwide searches and run advertisements to find city managers, Herrera’s appointment probably will occur without much debate. He is Martin’s handpicked candidate, and at least three City Council members say they want to hire him.

“I see no sense in trying to find someone from the outside,” Councilman Salvador Hernandez said. “Freddie’s been there for over 30 years now. He’s pretty well qualified--very well qualified, I should say.”

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Barbosa and Chico also said they want to appoint Herrera, but Diaz and Councilman Patricio Miranda refused to say how they’d vote.

Besides wearing multiple hats in Irwindale and earning a $163,704 annual salary, Martin serves as city attorney for Sierra Madre and Temple City. At one time he held 16 jobs in six cities, including Azusa, San Marino and South Pasadena, while working for Irwindale.

Herrera’s salary in the new role hasn’t been determined; he now makes $66,000 a year as assistant city manager.

Some of Herrera’s supporters say he’s often had to fill in while Martin attended to his numerous other duties.

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“I don’t think it’s been fair,” Chico said. “I know (Herrera) had to deal with a lot of things that Mr. Martin hasn’t wanted to deal with, that the city manager should take care of.”

He added, though, that Martin “has done well for the city. We’ve had city managers in the past that were full time that didn’t do as well as Mr. Martin.”

Martin did not return numerous telephone calls placed to his office.

In spite of his multiple responsibilities spread over the San Gabriel Valley, Martin has been credited with helping to transform Irwindale from a dusty town of gravel pits to a bustling center of industry and commerce.

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Tax revenues generated by business parks and technological centers have swelled redevelopment agency coffers, making it possible to provide residents with free eye care, $10,000 home improvement grants, and college and trade school scholarships.

Herrera said he never planned a career in city government. In 1959, two years after Irwindale incorporated, he returned home from a two-year Army posting in France and planned to resume his part-time job in a water heater manufacturing plant. “I was just going to loaf,” he said.

But instead, the new city’s leaders lured Herrera into temporary work in the Park Department, where he helped start recreation programs. When it was time to form a police department, Herrera and several other Irwindale residents volunteered. They trained at the sheriff’s academy and became the city’s first officers.

In the meantime, Herrera took classes in recreation and police science at local community colleges and in planning and municipal government at UCLA and USC. But he said he never was at one campus long enough to get a degree. “I’ve learned the most while on the job,” he said.

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