Former Paradise Irrigation District Manager Becomes City Manager – Chico Enterprise-Record

PARADISE – Paradise’s ongoing rebuilding and water issues won a champion when Kevin Phillips began his new role as GM on August 31.

Phillips has lived in the area since 2000 and joined the Paradise Irrigation District in 2007. He served as the Interim District Manager in 2017, remaining the manager in a “difficult but exciting” position following the fire in camp.

He claims he never would have thought the city manager position would be his, but it is “an exciting step in my career” and he hopes to bring knowledge of what Paradise residents go through to this job.

Paradise Mayor Greg Bolin said Phillips was a natural fit for the job – “He showed real leadership through the campfire.”

“After being in the trenches here, he knew the people we worked with,” Bolin said. “He knew exactly what we needed… he knows what our problems are and knows all of our goals. “

Reinvent a city

Phillips says one of his main concerns, in addition to focusing his efforts on bringing homeowners and builders into the rebuilding effort, is to help manage PG&E settlement funds well, while “solving the problems. with FEMA “.

With his background in the Irrigation District, Phillips is also eager to explore several options for the future of Paradise water, with input from the public through a number of meetings around a sustainability study.

There are several options for each category that the public could consider, he said. For example, the neighborhood could consolidate within the city as a department, use a shared resource model, or use a private agency, as the city of Chico does.

Among these options, there are even more possibilities, he added.

“It’s going to take a lot of contributions from the community,” he said, citing examples of cities changing their river basin districts in the state, including Biggs and Santa Rosa.

As the community faces many challenges with rebuilding and eliminating fire hazards, there are “a lot of exciting things moving forward,” Phillips said.

He says he prefers to see the city as a “chessboard” of pre-existing ideas and properties – “It’s not a clean slate”.

“Thinking outside the box will be essential,” he said. Rather than treating the city and its development as a blank canvas, he would rather see “what is already there and restore it” by thinking of new strategies for security and community development.

Getting out of the city’s many dead trees first, with help from the California Governor’s Emergency Services Office Tree Removal Project, which Phillips hopes to move “in the most efficient way” is critical. .

Regarding economic development, he’s excited about a study on expanding broadband internet speeds for “the new normal” – “With working from home and telecommuting, we want to support that lifestyle here.

“For people who want to work on the hill, we also want to offer assistance to the owners,” he said.

Fire management

In the midst of a hot, dry season, Phillips said “everyone is on high alert” about the significance of the danger of new fires this year.

“The original escape plan (Paradise) was a good escape plan for what it involved,” he said. “They never thought of a fire… that would move as fast as it did.

“There is a need to see this as a living document as we move forward to fine tune it and make it more secure,” he said, as segmenting areas of the city that are bottlenecks in terms of evacuation routes.

However, he reiterated the importance for residents to appropriate their plot of land even when they no longer live on the ridge. The new major fire risk in Paradise is the broomweed problem, which Bolin says is worse than ever this year.

“I can say that there are a few (a lot) that people don’t take ownership of,” he said, praising Cal Fire-Butte County for constantly communicating with residents and landowners in the area. subject of lot maintenance.

Phillips said he wanted to “impress the owners of these lots, it is their responsibility to clean them up”. Cal Fire-Butte County cannot cope with all of the broom weed threats, he said.

“It can happen overnight… and it’s hard to see if you don’t drive here every day,” Phillips said. “I hope they will continue to do their part to keep those who live here safe. He added that property maintenance is not only an aesthetic practice of the city, but also to help keep the city safe, “so we are showing an example of what it is like to become a homeowner.” .

Bolin added that he was delighted to be working with Phillips and the current city staff after a year full of changes.

“Sometimes it’s hard for people to see what’s possible in Heaven,” Bolin said. “But our people can see the possibility in Heaven. Not the debris, the dead trees. They see the paths we are going to take. This team is able to adapt to these things that come up. “

Daniel E. Murphy