Not that long ago, the town government was split on Steve Searles.
Not any more.
Searles, who is Mammoth’s wildlife specialist (and sudden television star, with “The Bear Whisperer”) won a $74,315-a-year contract for three years on Wednesday when the Town Council approved it.
“Everyone needs a hero,” said councilman John Eastman, “and every community needs a hero. Steve Searles is a hero for the Town of Mammoth Lakes.
“We need him as our wildlife specialist in Mammoth Lakes.”
Searles also won concessions for gasoline for his truck, and won a request that would pay him consistently throughout the year.
Because he works primarily in the warm-weather months, Searles’ previous salary varied, depending on the time of year.
Searles served in Mammoth as an uncompensated volunteer until 2004, when he became a part-time employee of the town assigned to the police department.
That ended in March, 2007, when he again became a volunteer.
He has been a contractor for the town since 2009, but his contract was slated to end on June 30.
The contract also contains a cost-of-living provision based on the Consumer Price Index for Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County.
In addition, the contract provides an additional $900 a month for health insurance.
Searles attended the meeting Wednesday but had no comment. Rather, he silently and quickly ducked out the door almost as soon as the council vote (unanimous) was completed.