With many accomplishments and much praise, City Administrator Keith Caldwell will end his seven-year tenure with the City of Bishop at the end of this month.
Caldwell, whose last day on the job will be Friday, Aug. 29, and his wife, Vicky, will return to their hometown of Winder, Georgia next month. “It’s going back to family. That’s big for us. I’m going back to my other home,” said Caldwell, where his children and grandchildren live.
The city administrator/finance director/community services director is returning to Winder to care for his ailing parents – especially his mother who suffers Parkinson’s Disease. “Our goal is to find the best way to serve them … to create a healthy environment and enrich their lives.” Caldwell said he also hopes to chronicle his very civic-minded, once very active mother’s view of the history and evolution of the family and the country. “It’s important to me and to my grandkids.”
Caldwell looks forward to coaching his grandson’s little league team, attending his granddaughter’s ballet recitals and taking the kids camping.
Caldwell said he doesn’t think he will experience culture shock in moving from the dry, high Sierra desert to a “hot, humid, very green” setting. “Winder has changed drastically,” from a about 3,000 people to about 20,000 and now a part of metropolitan Atlanta. “But the culture is not much different; there are good people in Bishop and good people in Winder.”
Nevertheless, “I will miss the staff and Bishop has become my home. I will miss this place terribly. It has been an honor to serve the citizens here.”
However, Caldwell is passing the leadership baton to new city administrator, Jim Tatum, who will start work on Monday, Aug. 25. “I wish Jim all the best and I’ll do my best to prepare him, to share the knowledge and information I have (to facilitate) his understanding of the projects and programs currently under review by City Council as well as the ones on the horizon.”
Tatum will be filling some big shoes. Since 2007, when Caldwell became community services director, he has transitioned to assistant city administrator and in 2010, to city administrator.
Caldwell’s accomplishments are myriad. Among them are: the 2009 ratification of City Park lease with Los Angeles Water and Power; the city’s Master Plan update; weathering the recession and balancing the 2013-14 budget; netting nearly $4 million in grant funds for all city departments; and establishing the Miss City of Bishop and Miss Teen City of Bishop pageants.
Under his leadership the recreation has blossomed with 11 adult classes and sports teams, including an increase the softball league from 15 to 40 teams.
Children can now attend summer day, arts and crafts, fishing and sports camps. Gymnastics, cheerleading and swim lessons are available. And new public events range from the holiday-themed, Movies in the Park and Skate Jam to bringing the moving Vietnam Wall to City Park.
His wide variety of collaborative efforts include working with Bishop Paiute Tribe, the middle and high schools, 4-H, IMMA and the Earth Day, Community Garden, Tree and Dog Park committees.
Among his departmental accomplishments, Caldwell includes Warren Street Improvement Project and Pine to Park Path planning; negotiating a three year agreement with employee unions; Bishop Police Department facility improvements and officer training paid for with $100,000 in seized drug money; a balanced General Fund Budget; and cooperation with Eastern Sierra Community Services District.
“I am very proud of my husband’s achievements,” Vicky Caldwell said, “He doesn’t like to take credit but he is a good mediator and collaborator” bringing people’s ideas to fruition.
With regard to leaving the area, the Round Valley School teacher’s aid and Bishop Creek Lodge summer worker, said Bishop is “truly wonderful little town with very friendly people.” Its remoteness and lack of traffic and population congestion are “a blessing. We will dearly miss Bishop and hope to come back for a visit in the future. Until then, “we have a little catching up to do (in Winder) and we want to be there for our parents.”
Although all of his colleagues could not be reached, here are snapshots of some coworkers’ sentiments.
Mayor Jim Ellis said, “Keith has a sense of caring and commitment to Bishop that makes him as local as any person born and raised here … Keith brought a new perspective on Parks and Recreation to Bishop and as a result, we are now providing year-round activities … I have appreciated his guidance, insight, dedication and friendship (and) I admire his commitment to his parents when they need him most.”
Mayor Pro Tem Pat Gardner said, “One of his greatest strengths is to allow his employees to rise to their fullest potential by supporting them and giving them the freedom to excel at their jobs. Because of that, we have an excellent city staff … I give him a lot of the credit for that.”
Councilmember Keith Glidewell said Caldwell’s many accomplishments have been “a tremendous asset to the city … I have always appreciated his warmth and personable manner. He has been a lot of fun to work with … and wish him all the best!
Councilmember Laura Smith said, “Keith has made more positive changes for the city of Bishop than anyone else I know of … Although he will be greatly missed he, has passed along much of his talents to the capable hands of our community service staff.”
Councilmember Dave Stottlemyre said, “Keith has … brought life to the park like an artist does to his canvas … Under the creative supervision of Keith and his dedicated staff, he has worked diligently with the department heads and City Council to continue providing a level of service that the community has enjoyed for many years … I wish him only the best as he continues his life’s journey.”
Public Works Director David Grah said, “I have always appreciated Keith’s open and approachable style. (He) did a great job allowing staff to do what they were best at doing while he dealt with issues of city-wide concern.”
BPD Chief Chris Carter, “You really can’t put the quality of a man like Keith Caldwell into words. He’s everything you’d want in a co-worker and leader, one of the best I’ve ever worked with. And he’s a good friend.”
Public Services Officer Gary Schley called Caldwell “a quality person (who) has helped me and inspired me, supported me 100 percent. I can’t stress enough what a good person he is.”
Parks Supervisor Dan McElroy said, Caldwell has inspired “a vision for the future (giving staff) all the tools to help make recreation a priority to the community.”
Recreation Supervisor Waylon Cleland said, “I appreciate all the knowledge and information he’s shared … We’ve grown exponential. He is so patient; you can always ask him anything. Our programs and services are top notch and we want to keep the momentum going that he has brought. Our first goal was to provide one program a week; now we’re up to 360 – every day except for major holidays. He taught us to set small goals and just build on those.”
A recent addition to City Hall, City Clerk Robin Picken said she learned a lot from Caldwell in the year and a half she has worked for him. “I always felt welcomed and part of the team with him.”
All of these colleagues said Caldwell was pleasure to work with and that they will truly miss him and his many contributions to them and to the city. In fact, they are throwing him a down home retirement during his last week in office.
Caldwell summed up his farewell, saying, “My time here has been a wonderful adventure, every day has been an adventure for us in a positive way. Now we look to this change as another exciting adventure.”