08:44 AM PST on Wednesday, January 13, 2010

By IMRAN GHORI
The Press-Enterprise

San Bernardino County supervisors appointed Ontario City Manager Greg Devereaux as the new county administrative officer Tuesday, citing his track record in creating economic success.

Devereaux, who starts on Feb. 15, had been mentioned by supervisors as an early favorite during the two-month search for a new county administrator. Turns out he was the only candidate interviewed, said Board Chairman Gary Ovitt, who led the search and approached Devereaux about taking the job a few weeks ago.

“I look forward to working for you and with each of you to articulate your vision for the future of this county,” Devereaux told the board after it voted unanimously to approve his contract.

Devereaux replaces Mark Uffer, who was fired by the board Nov. 17 on a 3-2 vote. Uffer spent five years in the position.

Devereaux, 58, has a long background in city government. He spent 13 years as Ontario’s city manager, preceded by four years as Fontana’s city manager. He also has held city positions in Garden Grove and Long Beach. He began his career in state government in West Virginia.

Devereaux said it’s a logical progression for him to move to county government, managing San Bernardino County’s work force of 19,000 employees. He said he looks forward to tackling the county’s issues, which include dealing with a $90 million budget shortfall in the next fiscal year.

“My entire career has really been involved in start-ups and fix-ups,” Devereaux said. “I’ve always liked the big challenges.”

During his time in Ontario, the city has become the Inland area’s top economic center with an airport, convention center and high-profile retail centers such as Ontario Mills. In 2008, the city’s long-planned Citizens Business Bank Arena opened, making the city home to the Inland area’s first major indoor sports and entertainment venue.

“It’s so important that we have somebody who has the skills to generate additional income and, most importantly, create new jobs,” Ovitt said.

Ovitt, a former Ontario councilman, was among those who hired Devereaux away from Fontana in 1997.

“So this is my second theft of Mr. Devereaux,” he joked.

In Ontario, one of Devereaux’s missions was to clean up city government following an embezzlement scandal that resulted in the arrest of three city officials.

The county has been troubled with scandals over the last decade from the conviction of two former county administrators for taking bribes to the arrest over the last two years of five former assessor’s-office officials on a variety of charges.

Devereaux will start with a higher salary and more job security than his predecessor.

Supervisors agreed to match his $305,000-a-year salary at Ontario along with a month’s vacation and benefits. The five-year contract states he can be fired only by a four-fifths vote of the board for specific causes, such as neglect of duties.

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