2012-07-13 / Front Page
Sedell receives celebratory send off
Hundreds turn out to bid farewell to city manager
Sedell, too, was a newbie, a Cal State Northridge student interning a couple of hours a day before becoming the city’s youth coordinator several months later.
Over the course of four decades, the Simi resident worked his way up to the very top, serving as city manager for the past 17 years until retiring last Friday.
Some would call it a storybook ending.
His secretary did.
Mary Bearns said the crowd of well-wishers who came to Sedell’s retirement party and all the accolades he received prove just how far he’s come and the effect he’s had throughout the region.
In fact, the banquet hall at the Reagan Library was packed for the July 9 party, with nearly 350 people in attendance.
The room was filled, a testament to the impact the 61-yearold has made, with local elected officials, mayors and council members past and present, representatives from the school and park districts, city employees and police officers, union leaders and even Simi’s first city manager, Bruce Altman, who hired Sedell 40 years ago—all friends and colleagues Sedell has made and kept while doing the city’s business.
“There is no one that has done more or given more for the betterment of Simi Valley,” said former city planning commissioner Tim Shannon, who acted as master of ceremonies for the night.
Sedell’s family, including his wife, Judie, was also there. The city’s former top executive has been open about the fact that he stepped down from his post so he could support his wife of 34 years, who has been battling metastatic breast cancer.
“Simi Valley is really going to take a hit to lose him. I’m sad to see him go, but Judie—she’s worth it,” Councilmember Mike Judge said.
Judge was just one of more than 30 people who took the stage to pay tribute to Sedell. They shared their memories, a few funny stories, some gag gifts and lots of plaques, along with an overall appreciation and admiration for his service.
“Mike is a dedicated person that cares about this city—but not just the city, the county,” said Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy, who represents Simi and Moorpark. “He wants to make a difference. Judging by the number of people in this room, he has.”
Many said the city wouldn’t be what it is today without Sedell. Former Mayor Bill Davis said Sedell made things happen, including the Cultural Arts Center, the police station, the senior center and the Simi Valley Town Center.
State Sen. Tony Strickland, who grew up in Simi Valley, compared Sedell to the lead character in the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“I can’t even imagine what life would be like without Mike Sedell,” Strickland said. “I believe Mike Sedell is the George Bailey of Simi Valley.”
During the speeches, the words “integrity,” “honesty” and “mentor” were spoken often, and many said Sedell’s legacy would be his fiscal responsibility.
When you work for Sedell, it was also said, you often get “worked by” him.
“When you know Mike Sedell, you love Mike Sedell. . . . You also hate Mike because he makes you work hard for every idea you bring to the table, and I think that’s what a city manager should do,” Councilmember Glen Becerra said.
“Mike always instilled in me: Do the right thing for the right reasons and the rest will fall into place,” Becerra added.
Officer Chris Coulter, president of the Simi Valley Police Officers Association, which represents the city’s 110 sworn officers below the rank of lieutenant, said Sedell did indeed make his people fight for their ideas, adding that he could be stubborn and a bit of a micromanager.
But Coulter said he learned, through talks at the bargaining table and during informal chats at the city gas pumps, that these qualities were borne out of a deep care and concern for the city.
“You have been a great leader, a worthy adversary at the negotiation table and a man who listens to his troops,” Coulter said.
Nancy Fisher, president of the local SEIU chapter that represents nearly 250 city employees, said much the same. Serving on three contract negotiations, Fisher said Sedell was understanding and compassionate.
“That was always his goal— what was best for both the city and the employees,” she said, adding that even during friendly lunches with staff Sedell would ask how the city could improve. “Mike was never above listening to anybody who had some kind of suggestion for the city.”
Sedell also earned respect from other city officials and city managers.
“It’s hard to have a colleague like Mike because when you’re debating, discussing issues, it’s hard to have an argument,” Thousand Oaks City Manager Scott Mitnick said.
Camarillo Mayor Jan Mc- Donald told Sedell, “There’s not going to be many people out there who will be able to match what you have accomplished.”
Sedell gave as much praise as he received.
“It’s not about me, it’s about ‘we.’ It’s about all the things that all of us have done . . . working together to build a community,” he said.
“All of you played some part in it, working with me. That doesn’t mean we always agreed, but we always found that common ground . . . because we have a common purpose, and that is to make this community a better place.”