In a unanimous decision, the Oxnard City Council on Tuesday night voted to promote Assistant City Manager Prisilla Hernandez to interim city manager.
Hernandez, 45, who joined the city staff last year, assumes her new role today. She replaces the man who hired her--Tom Frutchey, who concludes his three-year stint as city manager next month.
Frutchey will be on a leave of absence, receiving full pay and benefits, from March 7 through Sept. 6, or until he finds a new job, City Atty. Gary Gillig said. Frutchey, who earned $110,000 annually, will also receive more than $24,000 in deferred compensation--payments that he accumulated during his tenure.
Tuesday’s vote stands in sharp contrast to last week’s session, where a bitterly divided council voted 3 to 2 to fire Frutchey. Councilmen John Zaragoza and Bedford Pinkard and Mayor Manuel Lopez voted against extending his employment contract, while Councilmen Tom Holden and Dean Maulhardt supported Frutchey, who was promoted from assistant city manager to city manager in October 1993.
The debate about Frutchey’s employment divided his supporters and opponents not only on the council, but also among city employees and residents.
Frutchey’s critics said his management style was one of intimidation and fear, while his supporters said he was a motivational leader who inspired his workers to do a better job.
Some council members questioned the transformation of government--spearheaded by Frutchey--that replaced departments with programs and department heads with team leaders. They said that resulted in a lack of accountability. But other council members said he was an effective city manager who reduced red tape and made Oxnard a more business-friendly city.
Frutchey is Oxnard’s fourth city manager in nearly eight years. The tenure for Oxnard city managers is less than half the national average of six years.
Council members said they are confident that Hernandez can ease the transition between Frutchey’s termination and the appointment of a permanent manager.
“Hopefully, this will bring stability and a positive direction for the city,” Maulhardt said. “She is most familiar with the city and will hopefully get us moving along at a quicker pace.”
Hernandez said that she was grateful to the council for appointing her and that she hoped to alleviate some of the tension among city employees--some of whom strongly supported Frutchey and others who were adamantly opposed.
“Thanks for your vote of confidence,” she told the council. “I will do my best to serve the community.”
Hernandez said she has been meeting over the past week with city employees to solicit input and ideas on how to move forward with the city’s business.
She said she does not know yet whether she will apply for the permanent position.
Hernandez came to Oxnard from Superior, Ariz., southeast of Phoenix, where she served as town manager for two years.
Married with three children, Hernandez graduated with a bachelor of science from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and received an MBA from Arizona State University in 1985.