Steve Hayman, who provided leadership and stability to a city government that was still finding its way, has tendered his resignation for personal reasons.
Although often unseen, as city manager Hayman was the most influential person in Rancho Santa Margarita for six years. He will continue in his role until Dec. 30.
"This has actually been a fairly long time coming for me," said Hayman, who has had a number of health-related issues over the years—most recently a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
"I only know how to do the job one way, and that's all out. It has been the way I approached being in the public service from Day 1. It really does take a toll; 35 years is a long career for anyone."
Hayman lived the job 24/7. In city government, he likened himself to the chief executive officer, the city council to the board of directors, the almost 50,000 residents to shareholders.
"I worry about them all the time," said Hayman, who turns 59 on Sept. 27. "My mother called me a worry-wart. I guess I was destined to do this type of work."
However, a growing concern about his health has forced Hayman to focus on himself rather than his community. He learned he had prostate cancer last December and spent the next six months evaluating what treatment path to take. Surgery was most likely, until information was presented to put that off.
"It's still looming," he said. "Right now it's regarded as very slow, very non-aggressive, and that's why I have the luxury of evaluating when the time is to have surgery."
He has previously beaten bladder cancer, and various skin cancers. For the past 1 1/2 years he has also stuggled with neck and shoulder difficulties.
"Many people say it has to do with stress," Hayman said. "The more you do things that are stressful, the more your body talks to you."
Hayman was hired in August, 2005, and told councilmembers at that time he would commit to 3-5 five years; he has served six.
Among those who didn't support Hayman at the time was former councilman Gary Thompson.
"Not voting for him was the worst decision I ever made," said Thompson, one of the city's original council members who resigned earlier this year to focus on his family. "He was an excellent city manager. I was wrong, and pleasantly so. He has been a great asset to this city. You couldn't ask for more than what he has produced and done for Rancho Santa Margarita."
Thompson rattled off a list of traits that he hopes the city council will look for in a replacement.
"His management style, attention to detail, his ability to engage not only with the council but the staff and the public," Thompson said. "He's a strategic thinker. He reacts when he needs to react, but he thinks ahead planning for the what-ifs.
"When we set policy, he wasn't afraid to tell us this was a bad idea. I don't want someone telling me what I want to hear, I want the truth. That's the biggest asset. If I'm going to do something stupid, you tell me I'm going to do something stupid."
Mayor Tony Beall was equally impressed with "the outstanding job" that Hayman did and the legacy he leaves behind.
"He will leave for his successor an award-winning and very well run city—one that has a balanced budget with millions in reserve, and one that is ranked as the safest in the state of California," Beall said. "He has much to be proud of and I want to congratulate him on a job well done."
Retired policeman Jerry Holloway, who first met Hayman in 1979 and sat across the table from him in police contract negotiations in Costa Mesa, was one of the first people to encourage Hayman to consider the job in RSM.
"I knew he would be the perfect guy for the job, and he was," Holloway said. "What struck us, and me, is that he was the only candidate that came to city council meetings. He came to the interviews and was able tot talk about real-world stuff that set him apart."
it was indicative of Hayman's thoroughness. He was an assistant city manager when he left Costa Mesa; he had a varied background, including the planning department, where he got his start.
Among the things Hayman is most proud of is the stability he brought to a new city that had incorporated in 2000.
"I wanted to create the culture that this commuity could identify with and appreciate in their local government," Hayman said. "Before I got here, the organization was still going through the exercises of how it would operate."
At this time, Rancho Santa Margarita is administered by only 19 fulltime employees, yet it has managed to survive the downturn in the economy when other cities have struggled. One reason for that, Hayman said, is the people who do the work, often in anonymity.
"I don't have a 100 percent success rate, but I will tell you that one of the things I've been most proud of is I have been able to generally make good hiring decisions—because it's never about one executive," he said. "It's always about the people we bring to bear to assist us in serving the public."
Hayman said that he's always been passionate about being a professional in public service, and feels fortunate to have attended college—at Cal State Los Angeles where he earned a B.A. in Poiitical Science and then graduate work at Long Beach State where he earned a Masters in Public Policy and Administration (MPA)—that specifically prepared him for his preferred career.
"I’ve always had a passion of bringing to the public sector being efficient, being professional, doing an honorable job," Hayman said. "I believe this is an honorable profession but it’s been given a black eye—and we know what I’m talking about (the city of Bell)—but my passion and belief will never go away. I’ll carry that into the next phase of my life, which hasn’t been defined yet."
That phase may include projects, or consulting work, but his full-time days are done—almost.