Gene Joseph Albaugh, a former top Nevada County official who was an administrator for many Northern California cities and counties, died Sunday of gallbladder cancer, his family said. He was 79.
With almost 40 years of public service experience, Mr. Albaugh was sought by local governments far and wide to fill key staff posts. He billed himself as a "senior range rider" who contracted often on a temporary basis with cities, counties and special districts from Richmond to Siskiyou County to Ione.
He held interim finance positions with the newly created cities of Citrus Heights, Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova. He filled in as general services director for El Dorado County, worked with the Placer County Water Agency and was an administrator in Colfax, Wheatland, Plymouth and Folsom.
Before offering his services for hire as a consultant, he was Nevada County's chief administrative officer from 1979 to 1992. He retired in 2011 after three years as city manager of Nevada City, where he helped lure the Tour of California bicycle race to town.
Despite long commutes, Mr. Albaugh enjoyed helping local governments serve their constituents. In a 2004 interview, he told The Bee that retired officials have valuable experience that enables them to "hit the problem right away" as contractors.
"Every time I leave someplace, I think, 'Hey, that's it, I'm retired,' " he said. "Inevitably, someone will call up and ask for my help. I hem and haw and say, 'Yeah, I think I can do that.' "
Born in 1933 in McKean, Pa., Mr. Albaugh moved with his family to California and grew up in Richmond. He graduated from Richmond High School and served as an Air Force staff sergeant during the Korean War. He worked for Standard Oil Co. while studying at Contra Costa College and earned a teaching credential.
He taught English and coached sports at Salesian High School in Richmond and De La Salle High School in Concord. He earned a public administration degree from John F. Kennedy University and started working in local government in 1974 as an auditor for Contra Costa County.
Mr. Albaugh had five children with his wife of 58 years, the former Dolores "Dee" Peake. He lived most recently in Nevada City after several years in Auburn. He held leadership roles in civic groups and programs in many communities where he worked, including Rotary Club, United Way, Little League, the Elks and the Knights of Columbus.
He was widely praised for his administrative skills and his ability to work with diverse politicians. Family members and colleagues recalled a dedicated public servant with an upbeat outlook who, when asked how he was doing, always answered, "Bordering on the fantastic."
"That was just who he was," said his daughter Pamela Albaugh Wolff. "He saw the glass not half full, but overflowing."