Sanger native Tim Chapa thought he would make a life in the San Francisco area – perhaps working for a tech company – but his hometown always seemed to pull him back.
The first time was in 1992, when Chapa’s father died and he came home to be with his mom. Then in January, Chapa, 49, who was the city manager in Rio Vista in Solano County, accepted the same position in Sanger – where he once worked before being laid off during the depths of the recession.
“I’m back because this community gave so much to me, my family, opportunity for me, opportunities for families like my own,” Chapa said. “When the time came to say if I’m good at what I do, hopefully I am, and what city do I best want to bring my skills to, it’s the city that I was born and raised in.”
The Sanger City Council voted 4-0 in December to hire Chapa as its new city manager. He replaced Brian Haddix, who resigned in May 2015 – months after a failed attempt by the City Council to oust him – for a similar position in Chowchilla.
Never miss a local story.
Tim Chapa is a strong and effective communicator and leader. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience.
Raul Cantu, Sanger mayor pro-tem
“Tim Chapa is a strong and effective communicator and leader,” Mayor Pro-Tem Raul Cantu said. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. He’s a team player and works well with the Sanger City Council and city staff.”
Chapa was one of nine children – and a twin – born to farmworker parents who moved to Sanger from Donna, Texas, in the late 1950s for the year-round agricultural work. What the family found was a community that “welcomed outsiders, welcomes people looking to work hard, raise their children and get a good education,” Chapa said.
The Chapa twins, Tim and Art, were among the eight valedictorians of Sanger High School’s Class of 1985. They went to Stanford University, where Tim Chapa graduated with a degree in quantitative economics. He later earned a master’s degree in business administration from Santa Clara University. Art Chapa graduated with a degree in human biology and went on to become a doctor, and a colonel, in the Air Force.
Tim Chapa made a name for himself in the central San Joaquin Valley. Weeks after returning home in 1992, he ran for the Sanger Unified school board and won. The construction of Sanger High School was one of the big issues the board tackled during his 4 1/2 -year tenure.
Chapa’s work in education continued with the Parlier Unified School District, where he was assistant superintendent of business services. He then worked for the city of Fresno as a management analyst in its Public Works Department.
Chapa was Sanger’s deputy public works director from 2002-06 and its development director from 2006-09.
In 2002, Chapa became Sanger’s deputy public works director and, in 2006, became the city’s development services director.
“It was a challenging time,” Chapa said, referring to the start of the recession and a housing bust that resulted in many abandoned new home developments in Sanger. A Fresno County grand jury report released in 2009 made things worse, accusing some Sanger city leaders of benefiting from cozy relationships with developers and mismanaging city finances for years.
“I felt, at that time, it was important to represent the best interests of the city rather than the best interests of the developers,” Chapa said.
When the city had layoffs that year, Chapa wasn’t surprised that his name was on the list.
He used the opportunity to move up, becoming city manager of Arvin in Kern County, then city manager in Rio Vista. When the top job opened in Sanger, Chapa – who is married with three teenage children – jumped at the chance to come home.
I’ve come back and I’m looking to do 10 or 15 years here. That’s when I retire, and, hopefully, with that long-term perspective, we can get things done.
Chapa is in the middle of writing the city’s budget for next year and is working to hire a new finance director. The position has been vacant since last fall. The Sanger Police Department needs more officers, too, and Chapa is working on helping with the department’s recruiting.
“I’m in for the long game,” Chapa said. “I’ve come back, and I’m looking to do 10 or 15 years here. That’s when I retire, and, hopefully, with that long-term perspective, we can get things done.”