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RP City Managers then and now

By: Irene Hilsendager
September 28, 2018

The Rohnert Park City Manager is appointed by the city council to serve as chief executive and administrative officer. Under the RP City Council, the city manager along with the city council establishes policies for operations within the city and it is the city manager’s responsibility to ensure that these policies are carried out. The city manager’s office supports the policy making needs of the council, implements council decisions and directives and manages the day-to-day operations of the city departments.

When the state recognized Rohnert Park’s incorporation as a city on August 28, 1962, there was no city manager. Instead Pete Callinan became the first mayor of the city and the first full city council chose him to be the first city manager in 1963 and was so until retiring in 1991. Before becoming city manager, Pete was an accountant for Kaiser Aluminum. Pete and Greta (now deceased) moved to Rohnert Park before it was a city.  They raised five fine children and son Joe is on the RP City Council.

Joe Netter was city manager for 1990 to 2003. He resigned in 2003 amid some controversy, but he said in a Jan. 2003 meeting “that it will be a real challenge for whoever sits in the city manager office as he and RP City Council hammered out the last details of his resignation. Netter said, “I am proud of my 25 years of service and I have to say the challenges, especially economic are cyclical.   

Checking through quotes from an old Jud Snyder column, “Somebody mentioned former assistant city manager, Carl Leivo. But why would he leave a cushy job with a private industry.” We’ve been told there will probably be 60 to 100 applicants for the city manager job here once the word gets out. I find that hard to believe. There can’t be that many candidates “who would love the challenge” left in the state since Gray Davis outlined his budget culling plans to lay waste to city and county treasurers.”

In February of 2003, Rohnert Park now has its third city manager in less than three months. Acting City Manager, Steve Donley was assistant city manager and was moved to replace Joe Netter. Donley was notified Feb. 14, 2003 of his call-up to active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard. Vickie Vidak-Martinez was mayor at the time and said “this has never happened before in the history of the city.” It is not something anyone planned-three managers in three months. When asked why Netter wasn’t called back to fill Donley’s job, Vidak-Martinez said, “No, we had closure on that.”

Since Steve Donley was leaving, steps had to be taken in search for a replacement. 

The initial procedural step by Rohnert Park’s City Council in the matter of City Manager Donley’s resignation was for the city council to formally pass a resolution unanimously accepting it. This was done in less than 20 minutes. The next step was to direct Interim City Manager Dan Schwarz (who was never appointed as a city manager, but did serve in that capacity from 2008 to 2010-moved on to the City of Larkspur) to come back to the council with recommendations on a search procedure with a possible timeline to find the replacement. Rohnert Park was without an Interim City Manager for the first time in almost two years. Schwarz was assistant city manager when Donley was managing the city.

Among the candidates were assistant city manager. Carl Leivo, but he had left city hall a few years ago to take on a private job. Leivo was named Rohnert Park City Manager in March of 2003. He emerged from an initial field of more than 80 applicants from all across the country. Carl has kept himself involved with the Golden State Homeowners Association.

City Engineer Jenkins was then tapped as acting city manager while waiting for a new city manager and Rohnert Park was still searching for a manager with often controversial meetings going on at city council.

Former San Luis Obispo City Manager John Dunn of Avila Beach was appointed via a resolution called “Consultant Agreement for Interim City Manager Services.” Dunn knew full well he had a formidable challenge in his Rohnert Park job.

Gabriel Gonzalez was hired as RP City Manager in June of 2010. He had been a city manager of Mendota, next to Fresno. Gabe was well aware of the transition time where both he and Dunn would be working for Rohnert Park in similar capacities. Gonzalez helped reduce the Rohnert Park city budget deficit from $9 million down to $2.2. In Sept 2013, Gabe resigned to take a job as manager of Augusta, Kansas. Gonzalez had finished his third year as the city manager. The spotlight then fell onto Darrin Jenkins who is the current RP City Manager.