By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The longest-serving member of Rohnert Park’s City Council is the city’s new mayor.
Councilman Jake Mackenzie, vice mayor for the last year, first joined the council in 1996 and was mayor in 2001, 2005 and 2008. He will assume leadership of the council at a time when the city is far more fiscally constrained but also in far better financial shape than when he was last its top politician.
Then, with the national economy in recession, Rohnert Park had a $30 million general fund budget and a $4 million deficit.
Now after years of budget cuts, the city has a $25.2 million budget and a deficit of $445,000, according to a review of the city’s fiscal condition presented by staff on Tuesday.
Asked on Tuesday what his priorities as mayor would be, Mackenzie, 72, brandished a copy of the budget presentation.
“The budget,” he said, adding that after years of cutting expenditures, “We have to show we’re increasingly serious about increasing revenues.”
Mackenzie takes over from Councilwoman Gina Belforte, who nominated him for vice mayor a year ago. He was nominated Tuesday by Councilwoman Pam Stafford, who he in turn nominated to replace him as vice mayor.
Both Mackenzie and Stafford were confirmed unanimously; Councilman Joe Callinan was absent.
While the mayor, who serves a one-year term, has little prescribed authority in Rohnert Park, Mackenzie has leeway in steering the council’s agendas and discussions. As the last councilmember to speak, Mackenzie will also have the last word — and vote — on issues before the council.
As mayor, Belforte encouraged economic development initiatives and mentioned the need for fiscal restraint at every turn.
Mackenzie said he will follow that route, reaching out to businesses, Sonoma State University and the nearby Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster, a business incubator, for help boosting the city economy.
But the former manager with the federal Environmental Protection Agency is also likely to be a more vocal advocate for environmentally-friendly policies.
Mackenzie has been a champion of mass transit and environmentally-aware development. In Rohnert Park for example, he has supported — sometimes in losing efforts — contracts that require developers to take steps to reduce carbon emissions and install energy efficient devices.
“We need to be a sustainable city,” he said Tuesday.