Randy Groom returns to the big city

It’s back to a suit and tie for Randy Groom, who admittedly had grown accustomed to the more relaxed and casual atmosphere of Exeter, where he served as city manager for seven years.

Following the retirement of Mike Olmos, Groom’s been hired as city manager for Visalia, where he formerly served as city clerk and deputy city manager.

It’s more formal and he has quite a bit more work to do.

After all, Exeter has a population of around 10,500 and Visalia, 130,000+. Groom said he was prepared and ready for the adjustment.

“It’s definitely a change,” he said, “I really did fully acclimate to that community [Exeter]. But, there’s the benefit of leaving work, here, for 18 years and coming back.”

Visalia City Manager Randy Groom and his dog, Bandit, are in search and rescue training. Photo courtesy of Randy Groom.

Groom had worked in the private sector and for Visalia Unified School District inbetween management of the two cities.

“I found myself taking some of Visalia to Exeter,” he said. “Now I am bringing a little bit of Exeter to Visalia.

“Visalia is a big city and has big city problems, we can’t get away from that. But, we can also portray some of the small town qualities as well.”

One of the big city problems he refers to are the issues resulting from homelessness, for a lot of reasons, he said. Homelessness is not a very big issue in Exeter. Another big problem is traffic.

“In Exeter, there are no two-lane streets, you just stay behind the other car. There’s no jockeying for position. Visalia is a big city – it has a faster lifestyle.”

Groom noted that, as city manager, it is his job to implement the policies of city council.

“It’s to bring reality to their visions,” he said.

And while it is not his job to come up with policy, he can express his concerns and ideas.

“It’s good to have a new perspective and having been in a number of places, you gain experiences from other areas.

“But, if something is working, well, there’s no concern. If there’s room for improvement, let’s think about it.”

Groom and his wife, Sally, live in the country outside of Exeter.

Their three children are grown and they have one grandchild.

On the weekend, Groom and his Australian Shepherd, Bandit, are training for search and rescue with the Sierra Central Team of the California Rescue Dog Association. They are the only team from Tulare County, Groom said, and are about six months away from being certified.

“It’s a two to three year commitment just to get certified,” he said.

Team Groom will search for lost persons and is also being cross-trained for cadaver search.

When they first started, Groom said he went home to his wife and told her they couldn’t do it – it was just too time consuming.

She asked him why – their children were grown – he should have time. So, he continued on.

He soon learned the time was not about training the dog, but rather training him.

“They may want to be able to drop you into the wilderness and be sure you’ll be OK for a few days,” he said.

They train in a variety of locations with the Sierra Mountain range.

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