By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa City Manager Kathy Millison announced her retirement Monday after 3 1/2 years at the helm of Sonoma County’s largest city.
Millison, 62, informed the City Council of her decision during her performance review earlier this month and issued a press release Monday afternoon.
“City management is a very challenging yet rewarding profession,” Millison said in a statement. She added that it had been “an honor to be of service to the community.”
Millison agreed to remain on the job until September to give the council time to hire a replacement.
Her announcement comes just two weeks after the City Council announced it had completed accelerated performance evaluations of both Millison and City Attorney Caroline Fowler. The results of those reviews are confidential.
Mayor Scott Bartley praised Millison for her intelligence, work ethic and commitment to stabilizing the city’s finances following a painful period of cutbacks following the recession.
“She’s done an amazing job,” Bartley said. “She got us on stable financial footing, which I think is a huge accomplishment.”
Millison could not be immediately reached for comment Monday.
The long-time city manager of Clovis, Millison was hired in the summer of 2010 by a City Council sharply divided over whether she was the right leader for the job. The left-leaning council majority headed by then Mayor Susan Gorin backed Millison on a 4-3 vote. The three nay votes came from council members who expressed concern that the candidate pool from which Millison was selected was too small. Some walked out of council meetings on the hiring process.
Millison has since won praise from Bartley as an experienced professional who made wise hires and helped guide the city through turbulent times. These included protests of City Hall by the Occupy movement and the ouster of the top managers in the Parks and Recreation Department.
“Some may not agree with what she did, but she didn’t shy away from those things,” Bartley said. “She dealt with them, and that’s commendable.”
One criticism of Millison, however, was her handling of the city’s response to the Andy Lopez shooting in which she instructed city council members to say nothing about the incident.
Another criticism has been that she hasn’t fully engaged with the community since she was hired. She never sold her home in Clovis and often returned there on weekends. She told the council two weeks ago she was stepping down in part because her husband, Richard, was in poor health.
Millison has been in public service for 37 years. She worked in Clovis for 27 years, 19 as its city manager and eight years as assistant city manager. Before that she had numerous local government positions in Washington and Oregon.
With approximately 30 years of service by the time she leaves Santa Rosa, Millison likely will earn a state pension equal to 90 percent of her salary, or about $190,000 per year.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @citybeater.