Merced City Attorney Phaedra Norton was confirmed for the same position in Riverside by the City Council Tuesday.

Norton fills the position left vacant in October when the council terminated the contract with Gary Geuss, who was city attorney for nearly five years. The reasons for his discharge were not specified.

The 52-year-old Norton was selected following a nearly three-month search.

“I am excited to join the Riverside team,” Norton said. “I look forward to bringing the knowledge and experience I developed in the San Joaquin Valley to Southern California and contributing to the Riverside community.”

The Office of the City Attorney has a staff of 39, 18 of whom are lawyers, prosecuting violations of the municipal code, helping to write and vet ordinances and working with outside counsel in litigation involving the city.

“As a growing city with its own utility, Riverside is often confronted with extremely complex issues,” Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson said.

“We need wise and experienced legal counsel to navigate these issues, and I am confident Phaedra Norton is the right person to ensure that we do.”

Norton has served as Merced’s city attorney since October 2018 after seven months as a deputy city attorney in Stockton. She had also been Turlock’s city attorney for Turlock. She has also worked for the Central San Joaquin Valley Risk Management Authority and Modesto.

“Phaedra Norton has years of experience in charter cities like Riverside, so she is very aware of the opportunities and challenges facing local government in California,” Councilman Jim Perry said.

“Her experience in the utility field will also be exceptionally valuable to assisting Riverside Public Utilities.”

Norton’s annual salary will be $286,000.

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