City swears in new mayor

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Former Rocklin Mayor Scott Yuill officially handed over the gavel to Councilman George Magnuson Dec. 14 to be the city’s new mayor for 2011. This is the fifth time Magnuson has been appointed mayor by the council since he was first elected in 1991. “The mayor doesn’t set a whole bunch in motion,” Magnuson said. “It’s just a figurehead, basically, to help guide the meeting.” Magnuson humbly accepted the title with Councilman Brett Storey appointed Vice Mayor. The term will last until December of 2011. Councilman Peter Hill presented Yuill with a placque from the council to thank him for his service. Yuill’s term as mayor was eventful, as the city enacted painful cuts as the city maintained a balanced budget. “I entered this year facing very clear objectives – make very difficult budget reductions to protect the city’s reserve and hire a new city manager with strong economic development skills,” Yuill said. Last week, city council unanimously approved an employment contract for a new city manager Rick Horst who comes from Ocala in Florida. “I am pleased with both outcomes and council’s ability to work together effectively,” Yuill said. “If I have the opportunity to serve as mayor again, I would be honored to do so.” Magnuson said he sees a lot of challenges ahead for the city in 2011. “One of them is going to be the economics with the state budgets and unemployment rates,” Magnuson said. Some financial experts have warned the next nationwide financial crisis could come from the looming nation-wide problem of state governments with financial deficits. California has borrowed money from Rocklin’s property taxes, raided its redevelopment and highway tax dollars as well as other local funds to help bridge yearly deficits at the state level. Magnuson said the council’s priority is business attraction and retention. “There is only so much you can do to attract businesses to town, then you have to do everything you can to keep them,” Magnuson said. Yuill, who was re-elected in November, said he’s making that a primary focus for his new term as well. “My primary focus over the next several years, however, will be to work closely with Mr. Horst to attract new business to the city and take steps to adopt more sustainable pension and compensation plans through good communication and cooperation with city staff.” Magnuson said the city is moving forward with plans to redevelop the downtown. Last month, the city finalized plans to allow the Redevelopment Agency to purchase the Big Gun quarry behind City Hall for more than $1.5 million. “If you have enough land that the city can help control, you can get development started,” Magnuson said. “Hopefully it will be a part of the downtown.” One of the challenges for downtown is the small turn of the century lots that have created challenge for development. “By the time you have your set backs it is not feasible to work on,” Magnuson said. “You have to set the property aside and land-bank it until there are big players that come along who can perform.” Magnuson said the city will be going through a transition in leadership not only at the city manager level but also at the police department as Chief Mark Siemens officially retires in March. “I don’t know if he’ll go internal or a nation-wide search. I think we have some good people in house, but it’s his discretion where he wants to go,” Magnuson said. “There will be replacements of the department heads but that’s the discretion of the city manager.” As mayor, Magnuson will now lead the city council meetings and sign proclamations and official city resolutions. “People think the mayor has a lot of power,” Magnuson said. “I have the same vote as everybody else.” Magnuson was born in the Bay Area but lived in Rocklin and Roseville in the early 1970’s to attend Sierra College. After he married, Magnuson moved back to Rocklin in 1977 and raised two children in Rocklin schools. “I liked the area,” Magnuson said. “It’s nice to see some of the changes that have happened.” Magnuson deflected questions about a possible retirement from the council after his term ends in 2013. “I don’t know that for sure. You always hear rumors,” Magnuson said. “I have no idea what the future will bring.”