Callinan greeted with a chorus of loyal moos
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By Natalie Gray  December 6, 2013 12:00 am

Last Friday morning, when most were still groggy from Thanksgiving-feast induced hangovers, Joe Callinan stepped out to his yard to retrieve the paper and instead found a herd of cattle. Well, sort of.

The second-term council member and soon-to-be former vice mayor had his lawn littered with cardboard cutouts of adorable, pudgy cows, some looking wide-eyed over their shoulders and others trampling happily over the grass. All were wearing pointed celebration hats. In the center of the lawn was the biggest cow, with a sign that read, “Holy cow! We herd you’re mayor!”

The cows and their message was a surprise from Callinan’s long-time friends who own Fun Sign Surprise here in Rohnert Park.

The cows, though, in all their rosy-cheeked excitement, might have proclaimed their message a little early, but not by much. Callinan was voted in as mayor by his fellow members of the Rohnert Park City Council on Nov. 26 and he will be sworn in at the Dec. 10 council meeting, nearly 52 years after his father, Peter Callinan, was elected Rohnert Park’s first mayor.

“I’m really honored to serve as Rohnert Park’s mayor,” said Callinan in a phone interview. “I know how much my father put into this city and how much he loved it and still does…it means a lot to me.”

Current RP Mayor Pam Stafford made the motion to nominate Callinan, which was seconded by Councilman Amy Ahanotu, who will ascend to the vice-mayor position. According to Callinan, he had been hopeful for the chance to act as mayor during the city’s 50th anniversary last year, as a symbolic gesture to his father’s past position as first mayor. He says he has been teasing council members and friends that it’s taken the city 50-plus years to get its act back together and elect another Callinan as mayor.

“(Rohnert Park) is home to me more than most,” said Callinan. “I grew up loving the atmosphere of the town, the friendly neighborhood. Did I think I was going to be mayor growing up? No, but I am very honored.”

Callinan grew up in Rohnert Park with his five brothers and said that, as an athletic group of boys, they appreciated the large number of nearby parks and fields where they could play and practice sports. His father barely acted out a full term before he was asked and became RP’s city manager. Callinan said he grew up used to the idea of his father running the city, but never imagined getting involved with the town or its politics.

He attended high school at Rancho Cotate and began dating his future wife, Janet, when he was 15 and she was 14. The two married seven years later and will be celebrating their 33rd anniversary this year. All of their five children were born and raised in Rohnert Park and four remain here, along with Callinan’s three grandchildren. When Callinan was in his 20s, he opened his own construction company, Joseph T. Callinan Construction, which is still active 30 plus years later with a strong team of five, said Callinan.

According to Callinan, he became interested in Rohnert Park’s politics a few years back when he felt the city was heading in the wrong direction after his father retired.

“I was raised you don’t complain unless you are going to do something about it,” said Callinan. True to the statement, Callinan ran for and won a city council seat in 2008, was a part of the planning commission for eight years before that and acted as vice mayor to Pam Stafford this past year. 

“I am excited for Rohnert Park,” said Callinan of his upcoming role as mayor. “I’m not really excited for me; you really don’t have any more power than the other council members…we all have a vote. I am excited about this opportunity for Rohnert Park…I look forward to some of the development happening.”


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