A legacy continues
SRO crowd sees Callinan, Ahanotu take new seats on RP council
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By Jud Snyder  December 13, 2013 12:00 am

Rohnert Park’s City Council meeting room in city hall had one of its rare standing room only crowds Tuesday night, Dec. 10, when Joe Callinan and Amy Ahanotu officially took their seats as mayor and vice-mayor, respectively, for 2014. 

The seats and walls were filled with friends and relatives, former mayors and council members, former city managers, planning commissioners, committee members, a few lobbyists and probably more than a few looking forward to the free refreshments served in the lobby after the ceremonies. 

It was a special occasion for Callinan and Ahanotu. Both were first elected in 2008. Then again in the 2012 “ballot-less” election when no one challenged the incumbents.

For Callinan, Tuesday night was real special. In the audience was his father, Pete Callinan, RP’s first mayor and then first city manager, more than 50 years ago. Joe Callinan was presented with a huge gavel he didn’t promise not to use as mayor. 

Councilwoman Gina Belforte noted the connection. “No other city in Sonoma County has this father-son connection. Both have a passion for the city they live in.”

All council members had words of praise for the teamwork accomplished by city hall staffers, all the departments, such as public works, parks and recreation, finance, personnel, Spreckels theater and the police and fire department. They also had praise for the Graton Resort and Casino and SSU’s Green Music Center and the east side Sewer Trunk pipe. The approval by voters on Measure A last month also drew praise. 

And praise was given to recently departed city manager Gabe Gonzalez, now a city manager in Kansas. 

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Jake Mackenzie. “We should not forget the phenomenal job Gabe did.”

Belforte recalled the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) the city signed with the Graton Tribe a decade ago. “It was a crucial point in our development.”

A few comments from council members provided clues for city council action next year.

Ahanotu suggested the city should once again (after a two-year lapse) start discussions with the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District administrators and board. “It’s time to lay a new foundation to boost progress for both of us.”

Belforte wondered if talks with the Green Music Center could perhaps accomplish a system whereby the GMC would give the city a portion of its profits.

Mackenzie warned Belforte that SSU is a separate system just like the Graton Resort & Spa. “They both operate under separate rules, not the city’s.”

Ahanotu said, “I’m very much in favor of transparency in government,” indicating the city could do even more in this area. 

New Mayor Joe Callinan paid tribute to his wife of 33 years and remembered going to city hall when he was a child (he was born in 1959) and watching his father in action with the many city councils he served under for more than 30 years.

Former mayor Pam Stafford said, “We’re on the right track, financially, now. Our new city manager, Darrin Jenkins, is the right man at the right time.”

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