Larry Combs will leave after 26 years as chief administrator with Sutter County to become the Chief Executive Officer of Merced County.

Combs was selected based on his success managing Sutter’s budget and partnerships with nearby cities and counties, according to a statement from the county.

His appointment is still preliminary, with an official vote to take place at an Oct. 27 official meeting. Combs, 60, will replace retiring CEO, Dee Tatum.

Combs led Sutter to be “fiscally stable, with little debt, a large reserve and no employee layoffs, even in light of state cutbacks,” a statement from the county read.

Sutter County Supervisor James Gallagher said Combs’ 26-year record clearly shows that he knows how to effectively manage the budget of a California county.

“You cannot ignore the fact that while most counties are struggling through serious budget cuts and layoffs, Sutter County has healthy reserves and has been able to weather the storm this year with relatively little change in its operations,” Gallagher said.

Now though, Combs turns his attention to a larger county, Merced.

“Merced is suffering some setbacks in its economy in terms of revenue,” Combs said in a phone interview. “(Merced) is in fairly decent shape and not financially destitute. Tatum has been an excellent CEO.

“But they have a housing market that declined more than the one here in Sutter, and a higher foreclosure rate in that area.”

In his new position, Combs will become the highest nonelected official in the county.

“The move to Merced comes at an opportune time because it is time for Sutter County to get a manager with a fresh perspective and Merced is in need of a manager with Larry’s skills and experience,” Gallagher said.

Merced County Supervisor Deidre Kelsey said Combs bring with him a very good reputation.

“There has been a lot of communication in the Sutter County area and its all been very positive,” Kelsey said. “Sounds to me he had a handle on finance.”

Combs will implement policy set forth by the Board of Supervisors and mange a $460 million yearly annual budget and 2,300 employees. In Sutter, he managed a $250 million budget and 1,000 employees.

“It’s going to be a much bigger job here in Merced County with more people and moving parts but he has the ability to handle that and react to events as they come up,” Kelsey said.

The 60-year-old Combs will begin on Nov. 30,

“It’s a very big change and I’m very excited,” Combs said. “The closer I get to the move the more excited I am. It will provide new opportunities and challenges and I’m always looking for something to challenge me and present me opportunities for growth and success.”

James Spencer can be reached at