Roughly halfway through his fourth term on the Arcata City Council, Mark Wheetley has announced that he’ll be stepping down and moving about half an hour south to become the city manager of Fortuna.

This morning Wheetley told the Outpost that after 30 years working as an environmental specialist for the state of California, he’s getting ready to retire — from that job, anyway. But he said that through his experience in Arcata and working with the League of California Cities he’s gained relevant training and experience.

“I thought this might be a direction I wanted to pursue,” he said.

Wheetley expects to start the Fortuna gig at the beginning of April, but he may step down from the Arcata City Council before the end of this month.

“I feel like we’ve got a very experienced council,” he said. “I’m hopeful — though it’s not my call — that they might consider appointing someone versus [incurring] the cost of a special election.”

In recent election cycles Arcata has had a hard time attracting candidates. Wheetley said he’s been reaching out to members of municipal committees and commissions to see if anyone’s interested in taking his place, but the reception has been lukewarm. 

“Some of ‘em don’t flat-out say no,” Wheetley said with a chuckle.

After moving to Arcata to attend HSU in 1977, Wheetley moved away in 1985 but came back eight years later and has been in the college city for the 23-plus years since then. But he’s now planning to move once again.

“I hope to keep my house in Arcata,” he said. “However, part of the agreement [with the City of Fortuna] is they would like the city manager to live in Fortuna. So in order to be effective I will commit to doing that.”

Fortuna officials agreed to give him a year transition time, but Wheetley said the move makes sense. “It helps to be on the ground to get the day-to-day to get pulse of the community.”

Here’s a press release from the City of Fortuna:

Fortuna, CA- This morning at the Fortuna Chamber of Commerce’s Annual State of the City Breakfast, Mayor Sue Long announced that a contract has been signed with Fortuna’s new City Manager, Mark Wheetley.

According to Mayor Long, Council is “still working on some of the logistics for a firm start date and should have that information available early next week.”

Mayor Sue Long has stated that Mark Wheetley is “…enthusiastic, energetic, and approachable. He will be a great Asset to the City of Fortuna.”

Mayor Pro Tem Tami Trent said, “I am very excited to get a City Manager that already knows and loves Fortuna.”

Council Member Doug Strehl said, “I’ve known and worked with Mark through the Redwood Empire League of Cities and am very excited that he will be our City Manager. Along with his expertise and our great city staff “Fortuna Strong” will get stronger.”

According to Council Member Dean Glaser “Fortuna City Council has chosen to hire local rather than utilize a hiring firm to advertise for candidates outside Humboldt. The Council had utilized outside hiring agencies in 2002 and 2012. This time a local candidate has successfully met the Council’s mandates and will be our City Manager for 2017. I’m truly delighted with our choice and I’ve known him for the past 10 years.”

Council Member Tiara Brown stated “The staff at the City of Fortuna are extremely dedicated and hardworking. I am thrilled to have Mark on board. With his leadership and forward thinking mentality, Fortuna’s future is bright.”

The City Council is expected to announce Wheetley’s start date soon.