Frank Rush reflects on his time as city manager for South Lake Tahoe
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Much to the disappointment of the South Lake Tahoe city council and many in the community, City Manager Frank Rush Jr. worked his last day in that role recently before moving to Big Bear Lake, Calif.
Rush’s last council meeting was Jan. 14 and he spent the time between then and his last day on Jan. 24 tying up loose ends.
He took some time on his last night to talk with the Tribune about his year as city manager.
Rush had visited South Lake many times before applying for the position, including spending his honeymoon in Tahoe in 1998.
“I wanted to come here probably for the same reason everybody else,” Rush said. “I wanted to come here because it’s just an absolutely amazingly beautiful place.”
Even though Rush’s time in South Lake was short, he accomplished quite a bit.
He worked with the council to reopen Fire Station 2. They came up with a financing plan that allowed them to hire more firefighters and get a new ladder truck. The station should be open in March.
Rush also worked to update the city’s street maintenance plan that will allow the city to rehabilitate four to six miles of streets per year.
Rush’s “swan song” for his time in Tahoe would be the 56 acres project.
“I’m probably most proud of the work that we’ve done in positioning the city to take control of the 56 acres, we’ve developed a good relationship with El Dorado County,” Rush said. “The goal for that is to give the city control of future development of that site.”
That project would include a central park type development and a “downtown” area of South Lake Tahoe. The city would possibly build a new recreation center, senior center, city hall and police station.
While not all projects are completed, Rush has worked to move the needle on some other projects including Loop Road, vacation home rentals and SnowGlobe Music Festival.
“I’ve been working really hard behind the scenes trying to help bring the community together on some of the divisive issues,” Rush said.
One issue that took up a lot of Rush’s time, is the cell tower debate. While Rush was unable to retroactively change the ordinances that allowed the approval of the cell tower and small cell facilities, he worked tirelessly to work with the citizens to find a solution.
He worked with Verizon Wireless to try and find a different location for the cell tower but they were unable to find one. He’s also started work on a new cell ordinance for future applications.
“Everything in life and especially in local government is trying to find the right balance,” Rush said about the cell tower debate. “At the end of the day, many times, there’s not a right or wrong answer, it’s about identifying what’s best for this particular community and what reflects the community’s values and finding that balance.”
While the residents can often be outspoken, Rush welcomed the dialogue.
“My goal for this community, and any community, is for people to engage in a thoughtful debate, to be passionate but to be respectful and to recognize that those five elected officials up there are just normal people trying to do the best they can to help their community.”
Rush’s advice for his successor – build good relationships with the community and promote community cohesion.
All in all, Rush feels like he’s leaving the city in a good spot.
“I feel good about where the city is at right now and I think under the city council’s leadership, it is moving in the right direction,” Rush said.