Why would someone want to take on the job of Los Banos’s interim city manager?

 “Because I have a great fondness for the Westside of Merced County,” responded Greg Wellman, who agreed to take on that responsibility earlier this month.

In an interview with the Westside Express, Wellman recalled that one of his first jobs in public service was working for Merced County in the late 1960’s as a probation supervisor in Los Banos, Dos Palos and Gustine.

Living in Merced, he drove his 1965 Oldsmobile to the Westside each day. “The people on the Westside welcomed me cordially and supported a 21-year-old guy so kindly,” Wellman said. “I’ll never forget their hospitality.”

That memory was in mind when he was asked to serve as Los Banos’s interim city manager, and he accepted the offer even though it had been a number of years since he last served in a similar capacity.

Wellman’s first day on the job was July 11. He soon recognized that his first order of business was to keep the city moving forward with needed hires in the fire and police departments and with projects the city had begun, such as the continuing development of the general plan.

“Police and fire are important to any city,” he said, “which is why these departments’ expenditures, primarily in personnel costs, require more than half of a municipal budget, including the city budget of Los Banos.

“The process has already begun to advertise for and fill positions like the fire department chief,” Wellman said, “and I want to make sure these processes continue in an orderly and timely way.”

Wellman realizes that the city is currently facing some challenges, but he said he “hasn’t been here long enough to get the complete picture.”

From his experience as city manager for Atwater and administrator for Merced County, he has learned the importance of “standing your ground” and the need “to keep going in the right direction, not to be deterred by bumps in the road.”

He realizes he’s here only for a short time, not to exceed 960 hours as required in the terms of his retirement. He wants to use his time to work closely with the city council and help the city run effectively and efficiently, until a permanent city manager is hired.

“Being a city manager, even for a short time, is like being a jet pilot,” he said, “having to keep track of 20 dials or tasks at one time. You can’t afford to become fixated on any one thing too long, or you’ll crash.”

Wellman has felt in his new position the same hospitality he felt when he worked in Los Banos more than 50 years ago. “It’s good,” he said, “to be on the Westside again.”