Garden Grove

Scott Stiles’ next adventure

SCOTT STILES, Garden Grove City Manager, stands in front of Kaye’s Kitchen on Main Street. Stiles, who will become city manager of Palm Springs on March 6, has been a supporter of a revitalized downtown area during his seven-and-a-half year tenure at City Hall (Orange County Tribune photo by Jim Tortolano).

By Jim Tortolano/Orange County Tribune

So, why did you want to leave your job as city manager in Garden Grove to go and do the same thing in Palm Springs?

“You know,” said Scott Stiles over an English muffin at Kaye’s Kitchen on historic Main Street in downtown Garden Grove, “that’s the thing that everyone asks me.”

The answer to his recent announcement of a decision to move from the land of Disney, strawberries and beaches to a sprawling desert city lies in the patterns of a man who has cast aside his original ambition as a sports writer to pursue civic leadership from the Dakotas to Ohio to California.

“Maybe I’m ready for one more adventure. I’ve always had a bit of wanderlust,” he said.

Stiles, who has served seven and a half years in City Hall, said he didn’t seek out the job with Palm Springs. At 64, and just having received a three-year extension on his seven-year contract with the Big Strawberry and a popular figure in a financially and politically stable city, he could have stayed where he was into retirement.

He didn’t seek to leave, but was contacted by a recruiter. “I really wasn’t looking to leave. I was very happy here. But I asked myself, is there a third chapter in my life?” he said.

The third act will be in an affluent community that expands rapidly during the winter, that has an international airport and contains – within its limits – tribal lands with their own set of issues.

But, still, it’s not all that different. “Homelessness is a problem there, just like every other California city. Providing affordable housing is another issue.”

Another area where Palm Springs and Garden Grove have commonality is in the hospitality business. Both cities have large hotel districts and depend on tourism.

He’s savoring the challenge, but also reflecting on how much he feels about his tenure on Acacia Parkway and the city he will leave behind. “I’m feeling good about this. I’m very proud of our central management team.”

As for advice he might have for whoever takes over his office on the third floor, he said, “Just get really involved in the community. And if you’re involved in the community, Garden Grove will embrace you and they will really appreciate you. I’ve lived in this city, and it doesn’t mean a city manager has to live in the city, but even if you don’t just be really involved in the community.”

As of March 6, he’ll be getting involved in a different community. And the one he’s leaving is already wondering where it could find another a lot like him.

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