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Rohnert Park City Manager Darrin Jenkins to step down at end of year

Rohnert Park City Manager Darrin Jenkins is stepping down at the end of the year after nine years leading Sonoma County’s third largest city.

His departure caps a nearly 19-year career with the city that began in the early 2000s. His last day is Dec. 30, according to the city, which announced his retirement on Wednesday.

“It has been an incredible honor and privilege to serve our community,” Jenkins said in a news release. “Rohnert Park is a special place, with an amazing city staff, and a wonderful community.”

Jenkins, 49, was appointed city manager in November 2013 after serving as assistant city manager. He served a short stint as interim manager after then-City Manager Gabe Gonzalez left for a job in Kansas before being appointed.

Leaders at the time said Jenkins had the experience to step into the role and understood the city’s economic development and financial needs.

Elected officials praised Jenkins for ushering in a high level of professionalism and fiscal responsibility as city manager.

Council member Pam Stafford, who was mayor when Jenkins was appointed to the post, said he “will truly be missed.”

“He has been fiscally visionary, thoughtful, incredibly intelligent with development and the ongoing work of our city,” she said.

The City Council is expected to discuss on Tuesday how to fill the role. The city could work with a recruitment firm on the search and have someone in place by the end of the year or appoint someone to fill the role temporarily as they search for the next manager.

Jenkins plans to work through December and will help with the transition, he told The Press Democrat.

Jenkins started as a civil engineer with the city in 2003 and worked his way up, serving as the city’s engineer, public works director and development services director.

He was appointed assistant city manager in 2013, filling a role that had mostly been vacant since 2009 after the position was frozen during the Great Recession.

He was the public works director in the Tulare County city of Dinuba before working in Rohnert Park and worked on the seismic retrofit of the Golden Gate Bridge, according to the city.

As manager, Jenkins oversees a workforce of roughly 230 employees and a budget of $177 million.

His time at the helm of the city has been marked by high points and challenges, though Jenkins is quick to note that any accomplishments were a team effort.

During his tenure, he focused on economic development, landing several hotels and employers, and helped stabilize city finances and reduce retiree pension liabilities.

Most recently, he led efforts to purchase the 30-acre former State Farm site that will become the city’s future downtown.

He’s also prioritized creating affordable housing and steered agreements with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria to mitigate impacts of the tribe’s casino on the city’s western edge on city resources.

One of the highlights as manager was relaunching Leadership Rohnert Park, a program that helps city residents develop or strengthen their skills to become community leaders. The first class of the program yield an elected official, several city commissioners and alumni from the group recently created a new service group that will serve the city, Jenkins said.

“It’s important to develop leaders in Rohnert Park and I think it’s going to be a great benefit for the community,” he said.

The city has also made efforts to become more transparent and improve communication with residents, another step Jenkins is proud of, he said.

Jenkins has a weekly column in the Community Voice local news outlet and Rohnert Park has increased its presence on social media, including translating information to Spanish for residents.

During his tenure as city manager, the Rohnert Park’s Department of Public Safety was hit with a raft of misconduct accusations, including the federal prosecution of a former sergeant and officer teamed up on the city’s controversial drug interdiction program.

The department was forced to restructure, bringing in new leadership, as lawsuits linked to that extortion scandal and a wrongful death suit over the in-custody death of a Forestville man forced the city into multimillion dollar settlements and a broader reexamination of its policing.

Jenkins also led the city through the COVID-19 pandemic, which Jenkins pointed to as one of the most challenging times in his career because of the economic uncertainty for residents and the city.

Jenkins said after 19 years with the city it was time to move on. The issues the city faced when he first came on have been addressed and he leaves knowing the city is in capable hands.

“We have a great foundation and it’s time to hand the baton to the next runner,” he said.

Council member Susan Hollingsworth-Adams met Jenkins on his first day on the job as a newly appointed planning commissioner when Jenkins was an engineer. She’s enjoyed seeing him grow in the organization, she said.

“I’ve enjoyed a front-row seat as he grew into a gifted administrator,” she said. She credited him with balancing the city’s budget, growing the city’s reserves and helping secure the site for the city’s downtown.

“To say he will be missed is the understatement of the year,” she said.

Mayor Jackie Elward said in the announcement, “We have been fortunate to have Darrin at the helm of our city, and we are sorry to see him go, both professionally and personally.”

Jenkins, a Sonoma County native, and his family are planning to stay in Rohnert Park. He doesn’t have immediate plans after retiring and plans to enjoy time off “for a while,” he said.

“It has been a joy to work alongside so many talented, dedicated, caring people,” he said. “I wish everyone all the best as the city enters the next exciting phase of its evolution.”

You can reach Staff Writer Paulina Pineda at 707-521-5268 or paulina.pineda@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @paulinapineda22.

Paulina Pineda

Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park city reporter

Decisions made by local elected officials have some of the biggest day-to-day impacts on residents, from funding investments in roads and water infrastructure to setting policies to address housing needs and homelessness. As a city reporter, I want to track those decisions and how they affect the community while also highlighting areas that are being neglected or can be improved.

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