Roger Grimsley has been involved in local politics for more than 40 years, stretching from his time as Hollister’s city manager in the early 1970s through his current tenure as San Juan Bautista’s city manager. He loves the machinations of government so much, in fact, that he came out of retirement to take the interim city manager’s job in the Mission City, calling it “reinvigorating” and an opportunity to work with people. What follows is a Q&A with Grimsley, 71, who recently had his interim title removed in a vote of confidence from the San Juan City Council.
What is your background in public service?
“I was city manager and public works director for city of Hollister in 1970s, I served on the elementary school board for about nine years, and went into private business for my engineering and land surveying office for about 25 years. I then got back into city government with the city of San Juan. It’s been a very enjoyable transition and very exciting.”
What appeals to you about government work?
The challenge here is the city of San Juan Bautista is very unique. It’s got a lot of history, a lot of legacy. I was impressed that the citizens are so enthusiastic; they volunteer and are willing to help out. It’s really a treat to work for them. They jump in and roll up their sleeves.
What brought you out of retirement to work in San Juan Bautista?
I saw it as a new challenge.
What are some of the unique challenges you face as an
administrator in San Juan?
There’s some capital improvement projects that we want to get completed. We’re earmarking those as some of our primary goals. There are asphalt overlay projects we want to initiate for some of the streets that are badly deteriorated and the other thing we’ve embarked upon is an economic stimulus to get a more balanced approach to tax revenues. We want to promote agricultural business parks on the south end of town to stabilize the tax base and give more opportunities for local people to work here.
We’ve identified an area down by the Mission RV Park and old San Juan-Hollister Highway as a goal to create a business park and have industrial land that will promote an expanded tax base. San Juan Valley has a lot of growers, we’d like to attract some of their satellite business offices here so they can manage their farming enterprises and activities here in San Juan.
How is your impression of the town different than it was before you took the city manager’s job?
When I first came in, I was expecting a government that is top-driven. Upon arriving here and interfacing with a number of citizens and business owners downtown, I’ve seen that it’s really driven by the citizens and that the city council is very active in participating in activities and functions. It comes from the ground up. That’s very positive.
What do you foresee as the future of the Mission City?
San Juan is still a very rural and historical district and it’s going to remain small. It features the mission and good restaurants and arts and crafts, as well as antique shops downtown. We’re not going to change that. We want to promote more tourism so we can get more visitors here and supplement the tax base. We’ll always remain a very historical, cultural, small city that takes a lot a pride in itself.