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Phaedra Norton named City Attorney

Mike Conway

Post Date:10/01/2018

Council names Phaedra Norton City Attorney

The Merced City Council has voted unanimously Monday night to appoint Phaedra A. Norton as City Attorney. Norton has extensive municipal law experience in the San Joaquin Valley. She starts as City Attorney Oct. 16.

'I want to thank the City Council for the opportunity to serve as City Attorney.  It is an honor,' said Norton.  'I'm looking forward to becoming part of the Executive Management team and bringing my nearly two decades of municipal law experience to my new position. 

'With the addition of UC Merced and the development that is occurring in the Downtown, Merced is a blossoming community and I am excited to become part of the legal team that has and will continue to provide legal guidance to the City Council, the Executive Management team and the organization,' she said. 

Currently serving in the Stockton City Attorney's Office as a Deputy City Attorney, Norton served as the City Attorney in the City of Turlock for nearly 10 years.  She has also served in the City of Modesto, City Attorney's Office for 9 ' years.

'The City of Merced is very fortunate to have Phaedra join our team,' said Mayor Mike Murphy. 'She brings a wealth of legal experience to the position in the areas of commercial and industrial development, reducing homelessness, building and financing infrastructure projects, minimizing exposure to litigation, and other areas that will serve the City well.'

'Not only is she a smart legal mind, but she understands our region and its needs. I have really enjoyed getting to know Phaedra through the recruitment process and have every confidence in her in this new position,' Murphy said. 'We are excited to have her as our City Attorney.

'I am thankful for the fine work that Jolie Houston and her colleagues at Berliner Cohen provided as our interim city attorney,' Murphy said.

Norton, 49, has extensive experience with issues that currently face the City. 'I've spent the last 20 years practicing law in the Central Valley and understand the issues that Central Valley cities face,' she said.

Norton's has handled land use and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) matters, public works projects, public contracts, municipal financing, police liability, labor and employment matters, economic development, redevelopment, Brown Act, Political Reform Act and Public Records Act matters.

Merced is facing concerns with water as the state imposes new regulations and supplies decline. Norton served as the general counsel on two water agencies in Stanislaus County while serving in Turlock.

'Water is the lifeblood of our community,' she said. 'If we can't provide a safe, reliable source of water to our industries, small businesses, and community members, it will dramatically impact our City, our quality of life, and our future.'

Norton also has past and current experience with Code Enforcement cases dealing with substandard and dangerous buildings. She has dealt with problem properties in Modesto, Turlock and now in Stockton.

'There are public health issues, crime, economic decay and other problems that occur when substandard and dangerous buildings are left unaddressed,' she said. 'The goal is always voluntary compliance, but when that doesn't work, we have to take a different approach.'

Norton said the residents of one Modesto neighborhood threw a thank you barbeque after she and the team cleaned up one particularly bad property.  'I kept the plaque they gave me as a reminder that we serve the citizens of the community,' she said.

'As the City and community members worked together we were able to secure a win for everybody, a win for the City, but more importantly, a win for the residents in that particular neighbourhood,' she said. 'These partnerships create a strong, healthy community where people want to live and work.' 

Norton sees herself as a communicator and a collaborator. 'I think of myself as being innovative as far as finding solutions and bringing those solutions to the discussion.  Working in Turlock, a community the same size as Merced, and working in two larger cities, Modesto and Stockton, gives Norton an extra advantage.

'That will be an asset when working for the City as it will enable me to bring those experiences to my new position,' she said.

Norton and her spouse of 15 years, Leslie Curtin, have a son who is a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corp. 

Norton said she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, and outdoor activities such as day hikes.  'I love sports. I'm sorry (Quarterback) Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt, so my 49ers aren't looking so good.' Growing up in Oakland, she is also a fan of the Giants and Warriors.

Norton received her Juris Doctorate from Humphrey College School of Law. She also holds an Associate's Degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from San Francisco City College.

The City Attorney's annual salary is $204,600.

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