In 2006, the Sonora City Council adopted a list of "City Values" to help guide their future decision-making. Along with valuing "a hometown atmosphere;" "a commitment to historic preservation" and a "business-friendly environment," the council wisely embraced the values of "leadership, locally and regionally" and "teamwork for the greater good of the city."
Those last two values are embodied in Sonora City Administrator Greg Applegate, who last week reached a milestone - 20 years serving the city as CAO. Applegate is one of those leaders who lavishes praise on others when things go well; and shoulders much of the blame when things go wrong. He knows the value of teamwork, of recognizing the good work of department heads, city employees and councilors. He recently was quoted saying: "A manager is only as successful as the quality of the people he manages ... the employees of this city are fantastic. From top to bottom, they're extraordinary."
Applegate is one of the longest tenured city administrators in California. A more normal tenure is four or five years. David Mora, West Coast director for the International City/County Management Association, said Applegate is in select company regarding his length of service: "He really is the exception, which speaks highly of his ability, working relationship with the council and working relationship with the community."
Applegate credits "a stable staff and City Council" for his long tenure. Some 15 city councilors (by our count) have served on the five-member council since Applegate was hired. Applegate points to current Mayor Ron Stearn as "the one constant, the cog that turns the wheel." Stearn is serving his 11th consecutive term (45 years) on the Sonora City Council - going back to the city election of 1964.
After 20 years of walking the city, listening to the comments of residents and business owners, Applegate has an instinctive sense about Sonora. "I've built relationships, exchanged ideas and built a real base of knowledge," he said. "It amounts to a pretty good read of the community's pulse."
"He's absolutely dedicated to the community," said Karen Stark, city finance director for more than six years. "He's made a career of promoting, enhancing and supporting this city. We're very lucky to have him."
Accomplishments during the Applegate era are too numerous to list but they include the city's purchase and renovation of the Opera Hall; creation of the Dragoon Gulch trail and park; and passage of a measure dedicating tax funds to the city's fire and police departments. He was also on the forefront in establishing a city redevelopment agency to fund city improvements, pay for needed projects, annexations and commercial development. Applegate has recently represented the city on negotiations related to the expansion of Wal-Mart and approvals and permitting of a Lowe's Home Improvement Center.
Applegate also took a leadership role along with County CAO Craig Pedro, county supervisors, city councilors and the local business community to establish an Economic Development Authority. An executive director, Larry Cope, was hired in April 2009. The joint powers agreement and funding mechanism for the EDA came together at a critical time. The retention and expansion of existing businesses; the need to develop family-wage jobs; and the continued promotion and recruitment of business to our community is essential.
Greg Applegate has proven to be a "good hire" for the City of Sonora. He's provided an excellent return on investment over these past 20 years. He has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life in the city and has helped make Sonora an attractive place to live, work, visit and conduct business.