Santa Rosa Assistant City Manager Jennifer Phillips announced Monday she has accepted the job as city manager of St. Helena.
Phillips came to Santa Rosa in 2011 from Orange County, where she led an initiative to provide child care services to county employees. Prior to that, she had been the assistant city manager for Santa Monica.
During her tenure in Santa Rosa, Phillips managed a variety of complex administrative projects, including negotiating new operating agreements with the Community Media Center and Bennett Valley Golf Club, developing the city’s first long-range financial plan, and serving on the committee that restructured the joint powers agreement for the Sonoma County library system.
She also helped establish the city’s Community Engagement Program and Local Leaders Academy of Sonoma County, which provides leadership and technical development for government employees.
“I truly enjoyed my time in Santa Rosa and I will miss my dedicated colleagues and the community,” Phillips said in an statement.
Phillips, who declined to be interviewed, was twice called in to lead city departments in transition. She acted as interim director of parks and recreation after a department shake-up led to the retirements of two top officials. She also took the helm of the finance department after the departure of the city’s former CFO, winning praise for managing a clear budget process that focused on the council’s goals.
She served as acting city manager during some turbulent times, as well. She was on the front lines when protesters from the Occupy movement camped out on the City Hall lawn. She also was in charge as the city braced — some said unnecessarily — for protests in the wake of the shooting by a sheriff’s deputy of 13-year-old Andy Lopez.
Phillips clashed with Councilman Gary Wysocky over her plan to lock the doors at City Hall in response to an Oct. 28 march. She has said her goal was to keep city employees safe, but Wysocky criticized the decision to hold a finance committee meeting behind locked doors as counter to state open meeting laws.
Phillips, 46, did not apply for the city manager opening in Santa Rosa, according to sources. The City Council is getting close to selecting a replacement for City Manager Kathy Millison, who is retiring in September.
In a release, Millison called Phillips “one of the most talented professionals I have had the pleasure of working with” during her 37-year career.