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Steve Potter, who is retiring this month as Napa police chief, will move into the city’s top job of city manager on at least an interim basis, the City Council decided Friday morning.

The council selected Potter at a special meeting called in the wake of City Manager Mike Parness’ surprise decision this week to retire as of July 24 instead of working to the end of the year.

Parness said he had hoped to serve through the rest of the year, but now faced another knee surgery that could not be put off.

Potter, who grew up in Napa and was appointed police chief in 2015, has been in the interim city manager role before. Last October, he was named fill-in city manager for three months while Parness was on medical leave.

Mayor Jill Techel said Potter will serve as interim city manager until at least early 2019, after the results of the City Council election in November are known.

Two of the council’s five seats are on the ballot. Peter Mott is seeking re-election, and there is an open seat formerly occupied by Juliana Inman who resigned mid-term. A half dozen candidates have said they will be running.

“We’d like to have the new council seated before we make a permanent selection,” Techel said.

Delaying recruitment of a permanent city manager also benefits anyone who would apply for the job, she said. “City managers want to know what the council will look like that they’ll serve with.”

“All this popped pretty quick,” Techel said of Parness’ decision to leave this month.

Potter, who has served with Napa Police since 1987, was entertaining other post-police chief job possibilities, Techel said. By agreeing to serve as interim city manager, he “is being incredibly flexible with us,” she said.

Techel said the council views Potter as an ideal candidate for the interim job, with the prospect that a longer term relationship may work out.

“He has so many connections with the community,” Techel said of Potter, who was raised here. “There is no one more fair and ethical than Steve Potter. That’s a great place to lead from.”

In an interview, Potter, 59, said he welcomed the opportunity to serve Napa in a new capacity after more than three decades in law enforcement.

“I really enjoy public service. I absolutely love this community,” Potter said.

“What I think they’re looking for is leadership. Leadership in disasters. Leadership on a day-to-day basis. Leadership to really serve the community is really important right now.”

If his performance as interim city manager is successful, Potter said he would seek a permanent appointment.

Councilmember Doris Gentry said Potter was “personally engaged with the community at every level,” making him a good pick to help Napa achieve plans for the future, including the new city hall project.

On July 28, Napa will get a new police chief. Parness picked Robert Plummer, a 27-year veteran of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

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City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.