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Rodarte to leave Norwalk council for contract cities post

DOWNEY — Norwalk City Councilman Marcel Rodarte announced April 5 that he was resigning his council seat to accept a job as executive director of the California Contract Cities Association here July 1, but he will start learning the work sooner than that, says outgoing director Sam Olivito.

Rodarte was to start training this week under the tutulage of Olivito, 80, who has held that position for 34 years.

He said Rodarte will need the extra time to absorb the knowledge and operational system of the Downey-based agency, 11027 Downey Ave., which represents 70 cities statewide, ranging from Lafayette in the north to Indian Wells in the southeast part of California.

Instead of the three R’s, Olivito said Rodarte will study four priorities: education, offering seminars and information; advocacy, with seven million local officials and residents to support or oppose legislation; networking, relationships with like-minded municipal officials; and access, a statewide communication system.

The executive board of the California Contract Cities Association meets the first Wednesday of the month and the Board of Directors meets on the third Wednesday. There is also the annual Sacramento Legislative Orientation Tour in January, seminars in May and October and a June planning session.

The current board chair is Pico Rivera Councilman Gustavo Camacho.

“We are the administrative arm of the Contract Cities Association,” Olivito said. “We offer meetings and executive sessions with all our members and we provide the staff needed for notices and educational programs such as are two seminars a year.”

The staff he refers to numbers three, plus his wife, Sharon Olivito, a partner in the management and public relations firm whose only client now is the association.

Its budget is about $750,000 a year

The office deals with state and county leaders to keep members advised of new laws and policies.

Generally, a contract city is a city that contracts for fire and police protection from their respective counties, but technically all 483 cities in the state are contract cities because they hire out for municipal services such as engineering, planning, trash collection or street sweeping, Olivito said.

Los Angeles is a contract city, but is not a member since it hasn’t paid its dues, Olivito said with a  laugh.

Dues can range from several hundred dollars a year for small communities to thousands for larger ones depending on population and assessed valuation, he said.

The first contract cities were organized Nov. 20, 1957 under what was called the Lakewood Plan.

Lakewood and seven other cities incorporated about that time and decided they needed a voice in county and state government. They included Bellflower, Duarte, La Puente, Norwalk, Paramount, Rolling Hills and Santa Fe Springs.

The first executive director was George Voigt. Olivito stepped in in 1982, and was joined by Sharon. They were married June 29, 1983.

Olivito had been doing similar work in public relations since 1969 for the Los Angeles County Rapid Transit Authority, a forerunner to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which resulted in him getting to know elected officials.

The association office worked out of several cities including Paramount and El Monte before moving to its current Downey office about six years ago.

Olivito said his greatest satisfaction on the job has been working with dedicated, concerned city officials who truly want to help their city.

Rodarte said his service on the Norwalk council has allowed him to form relationships with other elected officials, but his background is much different than Olivito’s.

Rodarte was born and raised in Norwalk, graduating from Norwalk High School in 1990. He served 21 years in the military, in both the U.S. Navy and Air Force, and served on the Norwalk Planning Commission from 2007 to 2010 before his election to the council.

He is a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council No. 3141 and the Norwalk American Legion Post No. 359.

He said he would like to move the office to Norwalk to stay in his home city and be near his daughter.

Under state election laws, the Norwalk council has 60 days to decide whether to appoint a replacement for Rodarte, conduct a special election, or go with four officials until the next regular election, which is next March.

Olivito was born in Morgantown, West Virginia, July 4, 1935, and moved with his family to Dearborn, Michigan, home of the Ford Motors Plant.

In 1949, at the age of 14, he drove his parents and sister, none of whom could drive, from Michigan to California, settling in Huntington Park, where he graduated from high school.

He attended Compton and East Los Angeles colleges, then UCLA.

When Olivito leaves, he won’t go alone. His wife, Sharon also will retire. They have six children, 13 grandchildren and several great grandchildren.

“I plan to do some traveling, visit Italy, land of my fathers, but we will continue to live in Downey, and I will be available to help out if needed,” Olivito said.