Surrounded by friends, family members and city officials, six new Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety officers and three new dispatchers were introduced and sworn in at last Thursday’s public safety swearing in ceremony at the Rohnert Park Library.
The celebratory event, which saw numerous attendees including RP City Council member, Jake Mackenzie and RP City Manager, Darrin Jenkins, was kicked off with the introduction of the department’s new recruits — all of whom come from a unique background with a passion for public safety.
“All of us have a choice. There are so many different agencies, both police and fire that you can choose to start your career with and we are very excited that these people chose Rohnert Park Public Safety,” said Director of RP Public Safety, Brian Masterson.
Many of the officers and dispatchers are Sonoma County natives and have family roots that go deep into the profession of public service.
Kyle Wiegman, public safety officer, is following in his father’s footsteps as his father Allan, was a police officer. While Weigman was born in San Jose, he grew up in Hydesville in Humboldt County. During his sports career at Fortuna High School Wiegman played basketball, football and was on the track team. He eventually went on to earn his B.A. in criminal justice at Sacramento State University, where he was also a community service officer for University police and completed his police academy training at College of the Redwoods.
“He has kind of started in the family business and we are very proud of him,” Allan said of his son.
Public Safety Officer Zachary Morrow is also joining part of the “family business,” as his father was also in the public safety field. Morrow, a Sonoma County local, has always been interested in public safety, starting as a police explorer in Sebastopol, according to the RP public safety department.
After he graduated from Analy High School in 2012, he became a volunteer firefighter with the Graton Fire Protection District. While he worked on obtaining his associate’s degree in fire technology, Morrow worked on the local Sebastopol ambulance.
According to Morrow, he is excited about his new job as a Rohnert Park officer because he is able to combine two of his loves — firefighting and policing.
Mark Branconi, also a Sonoma County native, was born in Sonoma and lives in Petaluma. He’s a graduate of Sonoma Valley High School and of Santa Rosa Junior College and the National College of Technical Instruction, where he received his paramedic training. His ‘jack of all trades’ work ethic also lead him to study fire science and criminal justice at SRJC, although he has always been enthusiastic about fire safety and public safety, according to his parents, Joanne and Bob Branconi.
“At 14 he was a fire explorer… and then he was a paramedic and worked in Sacramento and Sonoma. He is very dedicated,” his parents said. “We are super proud of him, he has worked so hard and we hope he is able to continue to do what he loves.”
Gina Piccinini, who was slated to be on duty following the ceremony, was also born and raised in Sebastopol and is the youngest of four older sisters. Her father, Jack Piccinini is a veteran of the Santa Rosa Fire Department and also ran for the Sonoma County Supervisor seat in 2016.
When Gina turned 18 she became a volunteer firefighter with the Sebastopol Fire Department and obtained her firefighter and EMT certification. She completed her police training at the Santa Rosa Police Training.
Officer David Horton, who in addition to his love for public safety, enjoys roller hockey and ice hockey, previously worked at the Snoopy Ice Rink in Santa Rosa.
Horton is also the only Rancho Cotate High School alumni to become an RP Department of Public Safety officer. In 2017, he completed the Modular Police Academy Program at the Santa Rosa Junior College.
Raul Gonzales III, public safety officer, is perhaps the farthest recruit, hailing from Santa Clarita and Riverside. He grew up in Irvine and graduated from Arlington High School in 2011. At only 17 he joined the Riverside City Fire Explorers and later completed his Fire Technology certificate at Mt. San Antonio College and in fire academy at Crafton Hills College.
For the past two years he has worked as an EMT for AMR in Hemet and recently moved to Santa Rosa for his new public safety position.
Masterson said it was surprising to get a recruit from so far away as it is already difficult getting recruits for a position that demands two different skill sets.
The three new dispatchers, Jenaye Dunlay, Alexis Simpson and Paula Elizalde are all Bay Area natives and have experience in criminal justice studies, dispatching with the CHP and in the dental field. Dunlay graduated from Sonoma State University with a criminal justice degree, Simpson graduated from SSU as well with a degree in English and creative writing and Elizalde got her degree in Spanish and history from Minnesota.
Masterson said of the new employees, “These are good people who put service above themselves.”
He also emphasized that even though family and friends were present to support the recruits tonight, they will need to continue to be a support system for both the officers and dispatchers.
“As family is here tonight to support those who are sworn in, your job is not done. This is an extremely difficult profession and these people who you have supported through the academy and field training academy are going to need your support in the future,” Masterson said.