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ON THE AGENDA: CITY MANAGER FRANK LUCKINO RESIGNS
City calls for unscheduled Council meeting on October 10
Update, October 9: Per an email from City Manager Frank Luckino, “The Council will be meeting Wednesday at a Special Meeting, closed session, to discuss the City Manager position. And potentially have an action that can only be at an open session of the Council. So potentially, the Council will adjourn Tuesday’s meeting to Monday October 16th to appoint an interim City Manager, which will give me 10 days with him/her.” So, there will be a closed session meeting on Wednesday, October 11 in addition to the public meeting on October 10.
The big news? As you’ve probably read by now, Twentynine Palms City Manager Frank Luckino has a new job in Desert Hot Springs as of November 6. The move to City Manager of Desert Hot Springs was publicly announced by DHS City Council on October 3, with Luckino submitted his resignation on October 4, effective on the 31st.
Luckino joins Travis Clark, who departed as Twentynine Palms Community Development Director in the summer of 2022.
It’s clear that Luckino’s departure was unexpected. City Council, which was announced as moving to one meeting per month for the balance of 2023, responded by reinstating the October 10 meeting but issuing a mostly empty agenda, containing just the approval of minutes and a City Manager’s report. We will update this report if a revised agenda is issued.
An October 4 email sent by The Desert Trumpet requesting details on the process of hiring a new City Manager has gone unanswered by Mayor McArthur Wright and Mayor Pro Tem Steven Bilderain. Kurt Schauppner writing for The Desert Trail / Hi Desert Star quotes the Mayor: I’m still processing everything…It’s going to cause some delays until we find a new city manger. Frank will be hard to replace so we have to take our time so we get it right.
Prior to the eight year tenure of Luckino, the City experienced turmoil in its leadership with two City Managers fired in two years: Richard Warne in 2013, and Joe Guzzetta, in 2014. City stalwart Larry Bowden acted as interim City Manager prior to the hiring of Luckino in 2015. It’s expected that the City will hire an interim City Manager prior to initiating a search for the permanent position.
Per the Desert Sun Frank Luckino will receive an annual wage of $235,000, deferred compensation of $12,000 and an auto allowance of $7200. According to Transparent California Luckino received a total compensation package from Twentynine Palms of just under $240,000 in 2021.
Desert Hot Springs is an older city than Twentynine Palms, having been established in 1963 (versus 1987 here). The DHS population is larger and concentrated in smaller area with 32,716 residents spread across 30.27 square miles. Twentynine is 58.76 square miles with a permanent resident population of approximately 16,185 which swells to 26,147 when the MCAGCC Marine Base barracks (MB) and other temporary MB personnel are included. Interestingly, Desert Hot Springs has a sewer system, but it is managed by the Mission Springs Water District.
Council member Daniel Mintz, speaking to Schauppner, commented, I wish he was still here. He has been a great city manager. We got a lot of things done in the past eight years.
Indeed, Luckino leaves behind several ambitious projects in various stages of planning, completion and reassessment including the Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) which is to be retooled, an underfunded sewer plan in need of a unfunded USGS survey to determine water quality and necessity, a wastewater plant with a location to be decided, an affordable housing complex with unbroken ground, the completion of the Freedom Plaza complex and the building out of initial stages of the Channel Trails project among other initiatives.
Luckino in accepting the position in front of DHS staff and City Council said, I’m looking forward to working with them, with you and with the community…and as mentioned by Mayor Pro Tem Nunez1, going forward, moving those mountains.
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The “moving mountains” suggestion was originally credited to “Councilman Gardner” before a correction was made.