Ask the people of Eureka what they dislike about their town and there’s a good chance that homelessness and drug use would land right at the top of the list. But for Eureka’s new city manager, Dean Lotter, these issues are a part of why he moved here.
“Homelessness issues and drugs are probably the two biggest concerns of the public,” Lotter told the Outpost. “This might sound counterintuitive, but one of the things that attracted me to this job was to work on those kinds of challenges.”
Lotter officially started his new position last week, taking over for previous city manager Greg Sparks, who retired after serving the City of Eureka for five years. After months of recruitment and a thorough interview process, Lotter was selected from five finalists, including Eureka Public Works Director Brian Gerving and Community Services Director Miles Slattery.
Originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Lotter most recently served 13 years as city manager for New Brighton, Minnesota. Eureka is a big change but a welcome one for Lotter. He and is wife, Wendy, had been hoping to relocate to California for sometime now, he said, ready to escape from the harsh midwest winters.
Lotter understands that not being from the area may make some folks hesitant about his ability to manage the City of Eureka. But Lotter sees his fresh perspective as an advantage and believes he will be able to win over the skeptics.
“Every community that I’ve managed, I wasn’t from,” Lotter told the Outpost. “I’ve got a long track record of being able to build a connection with doubting Thomases. I’m okay if it takes time; it almost always does. I’ve also been around the block enough times to realize that there will be some people that will never accept me.”
But so far, Lotter says, the community has been very welcoming. He has been greeted warmly be his neighbors, local business owners and by his colleagues at City Hall. Lotter looks forward to working with city staff and the members of Eureka City Council, who seem to work very well together, he said.
“That’s certainly something that a new city manager likes to see,” Lotter said. “You don’t want to come into a divided council.”
When asked what he hopes to accomplish as Eureka city manager, Lotter said that, immediately, the council wants him to focus on Measure I — which would increase sales tax to fund road repairs. Lotter hopes to help educate and engage the community on this sales tax, which the city “needs, to do something about our roads.”
Lotter said he also hopes to focus on infrastructure and development. While exploring Eureka, Lotter said he was struck by some of the beautiful architecture in the area, but he also has noticed vacant lots and dilapidated structures, sites that are being underutilized.
Lotter believes his biggest challenge in Eureka will be tackling the social issues that attracted him to the job in the first place — homelessness and drug use. Though Lotter understands there is no simple solution to these issues, he hopes to improve some of the communication surrounding these problems.
“There are many programs in place that are being very successful,” Lotter said. “Possibly one of the issues is that the city isn’t talking enough about them with the public. That’s one area where I can possibly make a more immediate impact.”
Basically, Lotter is ready for any challenge that the City of Eureka brings. And though Lotter may not be from around here, he assured the Outpost that he is planning to stay in Eureka for a long time. He is already getting settled in his office, which he had repainted a soft shade of blue — a color that, according to his wife, relates to the “throat chakra” and promotes “good communication and relationship building.” He and his wife also bought a home in Eureka and would like to retire here, which Lotter expects to do in 15 years.
“As long as the community will have me,” Lotter said, “we’re here for the long haul.”