Poway city manager's career path inspired by childhood

Poway’s new city manager attributes his decision to devote a career to local government to the countless hours he spent as a youth in Chula Vista parks and gyms.

“I was a ‘rec rat’ growing up,” said Chris Hazeltine. “It gave me benefit and purpose. I knew public service was in my blood even in those formative years.”

Hazeltine, 50, left his job as Carlsbad’s parks and recreation director to become Poway’s sixth city manager since incorporation in 1980. He replaces Tina White, who has retired. The City Council selected him from among a field of 50 initial applicants, which was narrowed down to three finalists. He started work May 6.

He said he was well aware of Poway’s reputation as a well-run city because “I’m a bit of a local government junkie.” Hazeltine said he was attracted to the city’s small-town feel. “The motto of ‘The City in the Country’ is spot on,” he said Monday. The fact Poway is significantly closer to his home in Tierrasanta than Carlsbad was also a plus. Other factors attracting him to the job were a stable City Council and “a staff that is well respected.” He, his wife and three children (now ages 20, 19 and 17) have visited Poway many times in the past, enjoying Old Poway Park, Lake Poway and other amenities, he said.

Hazeltine said he was 3 years old when his family moved from the San Fernando Valley to Chula Vista. He grew up in the South Bay and was a three-sport athlete at Marion Catholic High School (later replaced by Mater Dei Catholic High School.) He graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in recreation administration and obtained a master’s degree in organizational management from Point Loma Nazarene University. He went right into recreational services at the local government level, holding jobs with the cities of Encinitas and Oceanside before returning to Encinitas, where in 2004 he became director of parks. He was named parks and recreation director of Carlsbad in 2011.

As a department head in Carlsbad, Hazeltine was in charge of a $28 million budget, a $40 million capital improvement program, 56 full-time employees and 300-plus part-time employees. Carlsbad, a city with a population of 115,300, has 40 parks and special use areas and nearly 50 miles of trails.

Mayor Steve Vaus said Hazeltine’s experience managing construction projects was a big plus for the council. On Monday, the new city manager emphasized his initial top priorities will be overseeing the long-delayed Espola Road utility line undergrounding project and the new Mickey Cafagna Community Center, which will break ground this summer.

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