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Gridley Herald

Farewells and Introductions

Dec 27, 2023 12:33PM ● By Melody McDowell

Cal Fire was present en force to support exiting Division Chief Sean Norman and his successor, Division Chief Chip Fowler. Photos by Melody McDowell

GRIDLEY, CA (MPG) - This week marks several changes of the guard for Gridley and the surrounding community. Monday’s City Council meeting opened with a flurry of goodbyes, thank-yous, and introductions.

Police Chief Rodney Harr introduced the most recent addition to the Gridley Police Department, Officer Rollin Luntey.

Rollin Luntey is new Gridley Police OfficerGridley’s newest police officer, Rollin Luntey.

Gridley City Administrator, Cliff Wagner, is beginning his retirement and will be succeeded by Elisa Arteaga.

This leaves Arteaga’s position as Finance Director vacant, but a near-seamless transition is expected as the sitting Assistant Finance Director, Martin Pineda, has been hired to fill this role.

Martin Pineda is the new Gridley Finance DirectorMartin Pineda, who succeeds Elisa Arteaga as Finance Director for the City of Gridley.

Cal Fire Division Chief Sean Norman, who has served in the Butte County South Division for over twenty years, is also retiring. His successor is Chief Chip Fowler, and both men, with several of their division colleagues, were in attendance at the meeting.

Mayor Mike Farr expressed appreciation and presented plaques to honor the service given by Chief Norman and Administrator Wagner.

Plaques given to Administrator Cliff Wagner and Fire Chief Sean NormanMayor Mike Farr (pictured far left) and Councilmember James Roberts (far right) presented recognitions on behalf of Gridley’s City Council, expressing appreciation for the excellent service rendered by exiting City Administrator Cliff Wagner and exiting Cal Fire Division Chief Sean Norman.

Chief Norman shared that although he was unfamiliar with Gridley when he first took up this post, he quickly “fell in love with the community.” He said, “every day I came to work here I treated this town like it was mine. And that’s the golden rule of the firefighter – to be the kind of firefighter you want showing up at your house. And so every time I came here I tried to do that.”

He went on to say that “your city staff are some of the best, top-notch people I’ve ever worked with.”

Long-time employees and citizens of the City of Gridley, such as Elisa Arteaga, remember Chief Norman’s coming and Arteaga noted she felt a little emotional about this transition of someone who has worked closely with the City for so many years. Councilmember James Roberts presented Chief Norman with an additional handmade plaque recognizing his service.

As Administrator Wagner took the podium, he expressed feeling “deeply and profoundly grateful for the opportunity and for the trust that this Council placed in me to be able to serve this community.” He said, “I understood going into [this role] that there would never be a topic of conversation or an issue upon which I could possibly please everyone. And so you have to be prepared to fight for correct principles and what’s highest and best for this community.”

Wagner indicated that he has full faith in this transition of leadership, stating “this city has outstanding people. And it makes all the difference.” He described Elisa Arteaga as “the velvet hammer.” He said, “she is someone who is willing to fight for this community. She is invested in this community, and I have total confidence in her ability and in the department heads that lead the departments here and every member of staff.”

Fire Chief position transitions to Chip FowlerRetiring Chief Norman and the new Chief Fowler shake hands. 

After a brief recess, business was conducted by three members of the City Council, as Councilmember Calderon and Vice Mayor Johnson were absent. The consent agenda was approved, consisting of City Council minutes from December 4 and a planned schedule of Council Meeting dates for 2024.

The next item of formal consideration was the proposed increase of water and sewer rates for 2024. City Administrator Cliff Wagner reported that after two informative mailings made to the public in October, the 45-day “protest window” has elapsed and there have been only two contacts by community members. This meeting constitutes the formal public hearing to hear any community comments on the matter.

Community member Patrick Coghlan was present and spoke to his concerns about the fixed rate system and the timeliness and ease of access to the figures and rate studies prior to holding public hearing.

Wagner defended the transparency and legality of the procedures that have been followed in this process of rate increase. He reminded the Council that no adjustments to the current water and sewer rates have been made in 13 years and that changes are needed to ensure future viability. The council approved the proposed rate schedule, which can be viewed at

Christian Garcia, of Waste Management, returned for additional follow-up regarding the contract under negotiation for 2024-2028. Since the concerns brought forward by City Attorney Tony Galyean in November, regarding procedures for handling delinquent accounts, at least one additional study session was held and Deputy City Attorney Landon Little indicated that to his knowledge, all concerns with verbiage or procedure have at this time been resolved.

The contract was approved to take effect in January 2024; however, as a rate increase of 5% is included as part of the contract, City Administrator indicated that this part of the contract cannot be implemented until notice is given to the public (which can happen now, subsequent to tonight’s approval) and the required 45-day window expires.

The final item of business tonight was the approval of a future purchase of a bucket truck for the City Electrical Department.