Russ Blewet+Bill Holland+Paul Russ

Hesperia City Council race’s top three vote earners, Russ Blewett, left, Bill Holland, center and Paul Russ gather for a photograph at Blewett’s election party in November 2014. (James Quigg, Daily Press) |

By Rene Ray De La Cruz, Staff Writer
Posted Jan. 3, 2016 at 12:02 PM

HESPERIA — As the Gateway City to the High Desert greets the New Year, changes in city leadership, new development and talk of the proposed Tapestry Project are expected to keep the city busy in 2016.

Here’s a closer look at issues and developments to keep an eye on:

1. Leadership changes

Newly appointed Mayor Bill Holland will have his hands busy along with the rest of the City Council as they begin to work with new City Manager Nils Bentsen, who will start Jan. 9 after a 27-year career with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Bentsen most recently was captain of the Hesperia Station.

“Nils is going to inherit a city that’s been well managed by former City Manager Mike Podegracz and his team,” Mayor Pro Tem Paul Russ said. “Mike and his staff laid a solid foundation for the last 15 years and Nils is going to reap the benefits of all that hard work.”

Russ said despite not having city manager experience, Bentsen was hired because “he’s a quality person with good leadership abilities and he’s a home-grown Hesperian.” He added that Bentsen will walk into a “plug and play” environment at City Hall, a “familiar environment for someone who knows most of the staff.”

“Our new city manager will experience a baptist by fire when he faces the Tapestry issue,” Holland said. “He’ll also have to deal with replacing three retiring senior staff positions.”

According to Holland, the longtime staffers leaving are Director of Development Services Scott Priester, Economic Development Director Steve Lantsberger and Director of Public Works Dale Burke.

Holland, who has served on the Council since 2010 and was re-elected in 2014, announced in September his plans to oppose incumbent San Bernardino County 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood in November.

The mayor said he’ll run against Lovingood, who is seeking a second term. Former Apple Valley Town Councilman Rick Roelle also has confirmed his candidacy.

Hesperia residents will also go to the polls in November and decide whether to re-elect Councilmen Eric Schmidt and Mike Leonard.

2. The Tapestry Project

The City Council will start off the New Year with a bang during a special meeting to discuss the proposed master-planned community at 10 a.m. on Jan. 16 at the Hesperia High School cafeteria, located at 9898 Maple Ave.

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