The city of Susanville has a new city administrator — Mike Wilson. Earlier this year Wilson and the city council agreed to a two-year, at-will contract with a beginning salary of $101,907 per year. Wilson could qualify for a raise after a six-month performance review.
With Wilson taking the reins, the community owes a big debt of gratitude to Dan Newton, the city’s public works director who left his post to serve as interim city administrator following the departure of Jared Hancock. As everyone knows, Newton served our community well during his tenure. While he stepped up to lead the city when the council called, he’s probably happy to be back at his old job.
Wilson appeared at the Susanville Rotary Club’s Wednesday, March 5 meeting and shared the details his lengthy career in public service and how impressed he is with Susanville and Lassen County.
He didn’t waste any time praising the local community.
“I’m really happy to have the opportunity to come to the city of Susanville,” Wilson said, “and have the opportunity to work with a fine staff of people in what I can tell you is the finest community I’ve ever had the opportunity to come into. This has been the most welcoming place I’ve ever come into, and absolutely the finest, nicest people I’ve ever met.”
He said a firefighter friend offered him a place to stay at a cabin in Spalding.
“I told everybody on the council and all the employees when they interviewed me, I’m familiar with this high desert area,” Wilson said. “I’m familiar with the snow and the cold weather, and I’ll be fine, and all of a sudden I came up here and it was snowing more than I was used to. Winter showed up, which was really great, but I kind of forgot how to drive in the snow the past few years because it’s been so dry.”
But before he got to the cabin with his dog, his friend discovered the well at the cabin was frozen. But his friend found him another place to stay at an Eagle Lake resort until the snow melts.
“I thought, that’s really welcoming,” Wilson said. “It’s really kind when people do those kinds of generous things.”
Next on Wilson’s agenda was meeting the city of Susanville staff.
“Dan has a huge set of shoes I have to fill,” Wilson said. “Dan is one of the nicest and most giving people I’ve ever met in my career. Dan said, ‘I’m transitioning you into this job so I can go back to doing what I really like to do — pubic works stuff because I like building things.’ But Dan was really kind as he worked with me because he kept stepping in every time something came up that I wasn’t familiar with, and he’d fill me me. Dan’s the kind of guy who’d say, ‘You want me to handle that?’ Even today he drove me over here because I’m not sure where I’m going.”
Wilson said he is a 34-year public safety employee with experience in “police, fire and emergency management,” and he worked in public safety until he took the general manager job in Lake Shastina and “got familiar with water, sewer and administrative services.”
Wilson also praised Susanville Fire Chief James Moore.
“Chief Moore, a really nice guy,” Wilson said. “I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with him a couple of days now. Coming from a fire background, of course, we’ve got a lot to talk about, and I see that he runs a very good, clean, traditional fire station with great people, and they provide a function in this community that’s huge. Knowing what you have, and the professionals in your department, makes everybody feel really good.”
Wilson said he recognizes the contribution public service agencies make to the community.
“Nobody ever thinks about it until they need the fire department or the police department, that what a great thing it is to have them in the community — a professionally run organization,” Wilson said. “You have professionals who are highly trained and well qualified to go out there and save your life, put your house out if it’s on fire, as well as a variety of other things. They’re looking out for the betterment of the community. That’s what I like.”
Wilson also praised Kevin Jones, the city’s chief of police.
“I spoke with chief Jones a couple of weeks ago,” Wilson said. “He’s got a great staff.”
But Wilson said the city already was in good hands when he arrived.
“I’m very fortunate to be part of a great functioning team,” Wilson said. “I come into this environment in a role I’m familiar with because of my fire background and my law enforcement background, and I like teams. I think being part of a team is good. I’m not the person to walk in here and say, ‘I’m the boss and you work for me.’ I’m the person who walks in and says, ‘Can I join your team?’”
And Wilson wants to apply that philosophy to the community as well.
“That’s what I hope to do with the community,” Wilson said. “I want to be involved with the community. I hope everyone understands my door is open.”