Major leadership changes occurred recently in two of the city’s most important departments.
Long-time public works director and engineer John Doyel resigned effective August 26.
Workload and the lack of staffing in the department played a role in his resignation, the Visalia-Hanford-Lemoore Future has learned. Doyel is on vacation and could not be reached for comment on why he resigned.
City Manager Mario Cifuentez said Doyel told him the reason he is resigning is that he has a tremendous job opportunity and wants to take advantage of it.
Deputy Public Works Director James Ross, who is not an engineer, is running the department on an interim basis, said Cifuentez. Ross declined to answer whether he will seek Doyel’s job.
Public Works is responsible for overseeing the city’s maintenance and construction of roads and sewers among other things.
Ross has worked for the city for two years and was employed in the Visalia Public Works Department.
Meanwhile, in the Hanford Community Development Department, Jason Waters, who is concurrently deputy city manager, will oversee community development, cannabis and economic development, said Cifuentez.
Waters started in his new role on Monday. His appointment was approved by the city council.
Darlene Mata, long-time community development director, is on leave.
Cifuentez declined to answer a question on Mata’s status referring the matter to City Attorney Ty Mizote, Mizote said he could not answer the question because he is not actively involved in the Mata suit. He said he would ask Mario Zamora and Megan Dodd, two attorneys defending the city in the suit, to contact Visalia-Hanford-Lemoore Future.
Mata is suing the city for more than $1 million over sexual harassment and other allegations involving comments and actions by Council Member Art Brieno who was censured by the council for his actions.
Brieno has denied any wrongdoing.
In Mata’s absence, Mary Beattie, who is also a member of the Visalia Planning Commission, was interim community development director. Beattie will continue to work for the city on a part-time basis on special projects, said Cifuentez.
Waters responsibilities include overseeing a department which monitors commercial and residential construction projects, administration of the city’s General Plan, building inspections, issuance of building permit and code enforcement. The General Plan is the city’s blueprint for development.
Waters has extensive planning experience. He was a planner in Tulare County from 2005 – 2007, then worked for the Tulare County Association of Governments from 2007 – 2013, worked for a year at the Community and Regional Planning Center at Fresno State and was planning director for the City of Woodlake from July 2014 – July 2022.
He said Hanford is a growing city and from a planning perspective there are a lot of opportunities. Hanford has a bright future and he wants to be a part of it, Waters said.
The community development department has two planners and the council has directed staff to hire a building inspection supervisor, said Cifuentez.