When Scott Bartley was a young boy, his father often took him to the construction site of the future home of the family business, Bartley Pump, just south of Santa Rosa.
His dad, Bob Bartley, may have hoped the visits would instill in his son an interest in well and irrigation pumps that would one day lead him to join the growing enterprise.
Instead, the young Bartley became fascinated by how all those lines on the blueprints, if followed correctly, could become a real, living structure.
Now a successful architect and the new mayor of Santa Rosa, Bartley believes the best way for the city to strengthen its economy is to have a clear set of plans, and for city leaders to have the courage to follow them.
"We've got to do what we can to grow our way out of this thing," Bartley said last week from the Larkfield office he shares with Andy Hall, his partner in the firm Hall & Bartley Architects.
The City Council's elevation of Bartley to the post of mayor last week represents the pinnacle of his long career of community service, including a decade on the city's Design Review Board and six years on the Planning Commission, twice as chairman.
As he begins his two-year term, Bartley rejected suggestions that the lingering resentments from the election portend continued trouble for the ideologically divided council.
He's hopeful the economy will continue to improve, the council will work more collaboratively, and long-planned city projects such as the Museum on the Square and the reunification of Old Courthouse Square will find ways to move forward.
"This is not going to be a miserable two years," he said.
One of Bartley's top priorities will be to continue to streamline the land-use review process he knows so well. As an architect specializing in winery construction and development, Bartley said he knows firsthand how important it is for businesses thinking of locating or expanding in the city to know what to expect from the planning process.
He believes providing clarity and consistency in the land-use entitlement process will make it easier and faster for new businesses and development projects to move forward, which in turn will strengthen the city's property tax base and increase sales tax revenue.
"Without those two things, we won't have any of the money to do any of the fun stuff we want to do," he said.
Supporters say Bartley's history of city service, professional experience, and attention to detail leave him well-positioned to lead the city as it struggles to regain its footing following a bruising recession.
He knows the land-use rules inside and out, works well with city staff, and understands how to move a discussion forward, said former Mayor Jane Bender, who appointed Bartley to the Planning Commission in 2003.
"You've got seven strong people with seven agendas and seven groups of constituencies backing them, and you've got to be able to bang the gavel down and say we're moving forward," Bender said. "That's a good thing."
But critics say that Bartley, in his zeal to support development projects, has shown little patience for the concerns of neighborhoods and can come across as condescending toward project opponents.
"Scott has tried to label himself as the city official who listens to the voice of the neighborhoods, but my experience over 10 years has been the opposite," said Jack Swearengen, former head of the Northwest Santa Rosa Neighborhood Association.