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Santa Rosa promotes Sue Gallagher to city attorney post

Santa Rosa is promoting one of its own assistant city attorneys to lead its legal team.

Sue Gallagher, a veteran government attorney who spent most of her career working for Sonoma County, was tapped by the City Council at a closed session meeting Tuesday.

Mayor Chris Coursey announced the council’s decision following what he said was a lengthy search that attracted “a great field of applicants.”

“After we looked all over the country for this person, we found her right here at City Hall,” Coursey said.

The seven-member City Council is responsible for hiring only two people - the city manager and city attorney. The city attorney provides legal advice to the council, supervises seven assistant city attorneys and manages a budget of $2.4 million.

The department has been run on an interim basis - at a rate of $296 per hour - by Teresa Stricker, of the San Francisco-based law firm Renee Sloan Holtzman & Sakai, since the departure of former city attorney Caroline Fowler in May 2016.

Fowler was a pugnacious litigator but also clashed with some members of the council and presided over some high-profile legal losses. She joined the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office as a deputy district attorney prosecuting environmental crime and consumer fraud cases.

Gallagher, 62, has worked for the city for a little over a year, focusing on issues such as housing, homelessness and cannabis regulations.

Before that, she had a 24-year-career in the Sonoma County Counsel’s Office, first as a deputy county counsel and more recently as the chief deputy overseeing infrastructure and public resources.

That division handles a diverse array of legal issues involving the Water Agency, county airport, public open space, the Registrar of Voters, public transit including the SMART train and emergency services. As chief deputy she managed a team of 12 attorneys.

Gallagher received a warm round of applause at the council chambers Tuesday.

“We have a wonderful team and I’m really grateful for the opportunity and look forward to assisting the city as we move forward,” Gallagher said Wednesday.

Gallagher has a master’s degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Chicago and a law degree from UC Berkeley. Details of her contract have yet to be worked out, but she expects to transition into the job around early May, she said. Fowler’s annual salary at the time of her departure was $202,380.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. ?On Twitter @srcitybeat.

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