By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The son of Rohnert Park’s first mayor and longest serving city manager will take the City Council’s helm next year.
Councilman Joe Callinan was chosen last week as the 2014 mayor on his father Pete Callinan’s 83rd birthday.
“Dad, happy birthday,” Callinan said to applause. He is to be installed as mayor Dec. 10.
“Next year is going to be a great year for the city of Rohnert Park and I’m excited to be mayor for it,” Callinan said Thursday.
He said his priorities are cutting the deficit and helping boost the city’s economy by advancing long-stalled housing developments and helping the city capitalize on the Green Music Center and the newly-opened Graton Resort & Casino.
Now vice-mayor, Callinan takes over as the council’s leader at a time when the city’s finances are more stable and its politics less contentious than they have been in years.
When he was elected to the council in 2008 — he and Gina Belforte unseated incumbents — the city was facing a $6.4 million budget deficit. Today, that deficit is $1.85 million.
In one of his first votes, Callinan, as part of a new council majority, voted down the nomination of fellow Councilwoman Pam Stafford for mayor. This year, Stafford, who has been mayor twice since 2006, nominated Callinan for mayor and Councilman Amy Ahanotu for vice-mayor, and both were approved unanimously within seconds.
“As probably everyone does, you think you’re going to come in and instantly make change. But government doesn’t work like that,” Callinan said.
“When I first got elected there might have been a lot of headbutting with different councilmembers, but I have learned to work with other councilmembers more and I think they have done the same,” he said. “We have a great working relationship now.”
Rohnert Park mayors have little prescribed authority. But they set the agenda and direct the meeting and have the last word — and vote — on issues before the council. They also are called upon more by the public, Stafford said.
“You have to be more visible and out there and be responsive. You get more phone calls, you get more requests to be at events, you have to represent the city,” she said.
“Joe grew up here and he just loves it and he brings that to everything he does,” Stafford said, adding that Callinan, after running as a critic of city government, has become well-versed in governing.
“He’s learned there is a process in government that, as cumbersome as it is sometimes and as annoying as it is sometimes, you have to do whether you want to or not,” she said.
Jake Mackenzie, the longest serving member of the current council, said Callinan has become an effective advocate for priorities he campaigned on.
“In 2009, it was the new brooms are here and we’re going to sweep everything away, and I think he has learned a lot about the complexities of city government,” Mackenzie said.
“But he stuck to his guns on things that were key to him: that the city was presentable; that attention was paid to landscaping and maintenance; that full attention was paid to the fiscal condition of the city,” Mackenzie said.
(You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or email@example.com.)