PIEDMONT -- Former mayors, City Council members, commissioners, volunteers and friends all turned out at a Feb. 7 reception at Piedmont Community Hall to honor retiring City Administrator Geoff Grote.
With 25 years of service under Grote's belt, the memories were many and the accolades profuse. Former Mayor Susan Hill recalled how she traveled to Ojai decades ago to interview Grote, who was city manager there at the time.
"It was one of the best decisions we ever made," Hill said.
Former police Chief John Sims kidded that he didn't have much to do in his job -- "after all, it's Piedmont." So he applied for the city administrator position, but Grote got it instead.
"They made a smart decision to put his hand on the tiller," Sims said.
The soft-spoken City Hall administrative assistant Lisa Argue said of Grote, "I've never met someone like him, respectful and humble. I respect his ability and intelligence. He treats everyone fairly. I sit close to his office, and I genuinely can never tell who he likes or dislikes when he's on the telephone."
Others like Mayor John Chiang, Councilman Jeff Wieler, former Mayor Patti White and Vice Mayor Margaret Fujioka echoed the sentiments of the others, saying Grote leaves an indelible legacy on Piedmont for his wise leadership and accomplishments.
The approximately 60 guests noshed on a supply of gourmet appetizers and wine, organized by retired City Clerk Ann Swift. Numerous city retirees attended to bid good luck and farewell to Grote. They included Sims, former City Attorney George Peyton, former fire Chief John Speakman, former police Chief Lisa Ravazza, former Public Works Director Larry Rosenberg, former Recreation Director Mark Delventhal and former Chief Financial Officer Mark Bichsel.
Several city retirees donned aprons to serve the guests wine and beverages, in between swapping stories and greetings. Grote received several parting gifts, including the famed blue Exedra vase replica from the council, a commemorative tea towel and a gift certificate to the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville presented by former Mayor Valerie Matzger.
"We know how he enjoys gourmet food and wine," Matzger said.
Grote will leave his post at the end of February.
"You can run, but you cannot hide," joked Councilman Bob McBain.
Grote was touched by the outpouring and told the crowd, "So many people I have to say 'thank you' to. There is real friendship. You accomplish things when you work together for something bigger.
"There were so many superb mayors and council members in Piedmont with more talent than I. Our plans and dreams overcame the controversy to lead the city. I am deeply honored to have worked with all of you. Thank you and God bless."
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