Horst settles in to Rocklin

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Rick Horst started his new gig as Rocklin’s City Manager on Valentine’s Day, leaving his wife in Florida to help his youngest son finish his senior year of high school. In the meantime, Horst has met with most of the city departments, looked over the budget, peeked at the city’s general plan and even attended his first Rocklin City Council meeting Feb. 22. “I need to understand where we are at before I understand where we need to go,” Horst said. Horst said he found many of the city employees shell-shocked from the economic downturn that’s forced the city to reorganize and eliminate a lot of positions. “There was shock and awe but the staff is now settled,” Horst said. “What I have really noticed is a resiliency in the staff understanding that we are here to do a job and we’re going to do the job, sometimes, doing more with less.” The survival techniques used to get the city through the great recession need to be reformed, he said. “We shouldn’t be doing things differently just to get by,” Horst said. Horst made it clear that the budget is his focus right now, which is due in May. “I’m engaging the process,” Horst said. “By the nature of who I am, I am going to be involved in the finances of the city, period.” Based on where the city is on the process, he said, there won’t be any surprises this year. “We have to do business different than in the past,” Horst said. “We have to be more efficient, more effective and smarter.” Councilman Brett Storey said he’s impressed that Horst has hit the ground running. “Rick is very much a team leader that wants everyone to succeed,” Storey said. “He is in some ways very much like an old friend you haven’t seen in a few years as you can easily talk with him and he makes a point to listen to what you have to say before thoughtfully commenting.” Horst said he’s trying not to scare people with the word “change.” “I’m kind of fond of saying that people should be a product of change not a victim of change,” Horst said. “Know what it is, what it means and the desired outcome and give input.” Horst said a lot of people have pulled his ear on plans for the downtown. “I think the real question is, what is the unified plan?” Horst said. “I’m not sure there is one. To get it right, we need to take some time.” Horst said a strategic plan on the downtown needs to be developed with a calendar to get there. That plan may include the Big Gun Quarry that was recently purchased by the city for $1 million in redevelopment money. But Horst said the city will not be putting any more cash up to purchase quarry artifacts tagged for salvage. “It would not be inappropriate to expect the community to step up for the balance,” Horst said. One of the reasons the city council noted hiring Horst was for his experience in redevelopment, which ironically he may never be able to explore as Gov. Jerry Brown has promised to scrap the state’s network of redevelopment agencies of which the Rocklin Redevelopment Agency is a member. Horst said right now the city has about $3 million in bond money that is unencumbered and is at risk of being turned over to the state to help fill in the state budget gap. “The sad thing about it is the city of Rocklin’s bond rating is better than the state of California,” Horst said. “If you are a holder of some of that debt, how would you feel? There are some real problems with this legislation.” Horst hopes that money could someday be used to reinvest in Rocklin in a way that promotes job growth and increases property values. As for issues with the city, Horst encourages all citizens to bring their concerns to city staff or him personally. “They don’t have to come to every council meeting,” Horst said. “If you have an idea or a complaint, share it. Any phone call I get will be returned. Anyone who wants to meet I will meet. It’s still about the people.” Horst is expected to deliver the State of the City address March 25 at Blue Oaks Cinemas 16 in Rocklin.