In an unexpected development, Rohnert Park City Manager Gabe Gonzalez is leaving to take a post in Kansas after slightly more than three years with the city.
Gonzalez, whose departure comes roughly 6 weeks before the opening of the $800 million Graton Resort & Casino, told Rohnert Park Mayor Pam Stafford on Thursday night he was resigning to take over as the city manager of Augusta, Kan., a city of about 9,300 people east of Wichita.
Gonzalez was not available for comment Saturday, but Stafford said Gonzalez wanted to be nearer to his daughter, who lives in Kansas.
“It's a move for family,” she said. “He has been a real asset, and I think we are going to miss him.”
Councilman Jake Mackenzie said Gonzalez guided the city through tough financial times.
“As far as I'm concerned it's a sad day,” said Mackenzie, who like his colleagues on the dais has credited Gonzalez with firmly steering Rohnert Park through a fiscal cliff that at one point had people saying the city was a candidate for municipal bankruptcy.
“He has done yeoman's work; he has guided us through some very real fiscal crises and set us on a good direction for the future,” Mackenzie said.
When Gonzalez, whose salary was $165,000 a year, was hired in 2010, he was the city's sixth city manager in five years. During his three years, he led the city to financial stability, Stafford said.
“He came in at a time when we knew that what we needed to do is get financial stability, and we're well on our way to that,” she said. “He did a great job.”
Stafford said Gonzalez's last day in his current job is Nov. 7, just two days after after the Graton Resort & Casino, Rohnert Park's biggest project, is set to open.
Stafford said that Assistant City Manager Darrin Jenkins, who was promoted to his current position early this year, has experience dealing with the casino project and will be well-placed to handle any issues that may arise after the Nov. 5 opening.
Gonzalez, who begins work in Augusta on Nov. 15, will be paid a base salary of $100,000 a year in his new position, according to the City of Augusta's website.
His departure follows the exit earlier this month of the city's finance director, Cathy Orme. She left for a similar position in Larkspur.
(You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org and Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or email@example.com.)