‘Extremely huge shoes to fill;’ Officials announce replacement for City Manager Gary Esplin

In this December 2017 file photo, St. George City Manager Gary Esplin attends a ground-breaking in downtown St. George, Utah, Dec. 20, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — After 41 years, Gary Esplin is retiring as St. George city manager. City officials announced Thursday that Adam Lenhard has been hired as his replacement.

Adam Lenhard, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of the city of Clearfield, St. George News

Lenhard, who is scheduled to begin work Feb. 8, currently serves as city manager for Clearfield, a city of about 30,000 located approximately 30 miles north of Salt Lake City.

“Adam is who we chose among a field of very well-qualified people,” Mayor Jon Pike said. “We believe … that he will be the right person at this time to lead us forward.”

Lenhard is a Brigham Young University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in land use planning and a master of public administration degree.

He worked for the city of Clearfield for over 10 years and held several previous positions in public and private sectors working in planning, engineering and real estate development roles, including two years as planning director for the city of Eagle Mountain.

During his interview with the mayor and City Council, Pike said Lenhard’s thoughts on leadership development are well in line with the goals and vision of the city.

“There were some great candidates, but I think we chose right and I think going forward, things are going to be great,” Councilwoman Michele Randall said.

“Each one of us took it extremely seriously hiring a new city manager,” Randall said of the hiring process. “We knew we had extremely huge shoes to fill. We knew we weren’t going to replace Gary – you can’t replace that institutional knowledge that he has.”

Lenhard is scheduled to meet with Esplin before transitioning to his new role.

The council thanked Esplin for his four decades of service to the city during a public meeting Thursday.

“I am so impressed with the former city councils and mayors and with Gary on where we’ve come to here in St. George,” Councilman Joe Bowcutt said. “None of this happened by accident.”

When Esplin first started as city manager in 1977, there were only about 12,000 people living in St. George. Today, there are over 80,000 residents.

“It’s quite an accomplishment and a feat: 41 years, and so, Gary, we wish you the best,” Councilman Ed Baca said.

Councilwoman Bette Arial thanked Esplin for his fiscal responsibility in regard to city policy.

“Really, you could say he’s dedicated his life to St. George,” Councilman Jimmie Hughes said. “He’s had a vision, and he hasn’t been afraid to go for that vision and do the hard things to make it happen.”

In this January 2015 file photo, City Manager Gary Esplin addresses the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Thunder Junction All Abilities Park, St. George, Utah, Jan. 15, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

While his involvement in major city projects is prolific, one of Esplin’s more recent projects, the Thunder Junction All Abilities Park, was completed to great fanfare in October 2016. At the time, Esplin said he wanted the park to be the best of its kind and a model for inclusive park design.

Read more: Thunder Junction All Abilities Park debuts to massive crowd

He also recently saw to the restoration of The Electric Theater in addition to his day-to-day duties on projects both high profile and mundane.

“I get a lot of credit for a lot of things, and obviously, the staff and the employees, they do the work,” Esplin said Thursday. “I’ve never had a better staff than I have right now and the city’s never been in better hands.”

“In hindsight, I could do a lot of things differently,” Esplin said, “but never once did I make a decision that I didn’t think was in the best interest of the City of St. George.”

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • CPitch January 11, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    Gary Esplin has done a really great job for the city! Congrats to him retiring! Huge shoes to fill is right. I just hope Adam Lenhard gets ample training time with Gary!

  • aaron January 12, 2018 at 9:17 am

    Good riddance, this piece of crap unelected. Mormon city official. Became a millionaire off the backs. Off of the taxpayers. He stayed in long enough. To line his millionaire pockets, he is just another good old Mormon boy. How come he didn’t retire sooner. Oh wait he wanted to make sure he became independently wealthy off the backs of the city taxpayers. Unfortunately the cycle will just repeat itself with his replacement.

  • mmsandie January 13, 2018 at 9:46 am

    I was shocked to read Aaron’s comments.. we are lucky to have free speech in this country and thanks for St. George News we can express ourselves. Esplin has done a great job.. we always don,t agree with decisions but we have to respect the job done. It’s not easy with a city this big and people move here from all over the world. And have ideas.. I realize irs the good ol boys theory for sure and a lot is decided behind closed doors, but slamming, the work done, religion and money hungry is not right.. the problem becomes when a lot of Mormons have been here for. generations and own the land and certainly all have profited from d3velopement decusions

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