Tell us about yourself, Cathy. Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised north of here in Willows, California. I ended up at the University of California, Davis in 1982 where I majored in and received a communications management degree, which at the time was a mix of economics, marketing, organizational development and applied behavioral sciences. I’ve always had an interest in public service and participated in student government at UC Davis. After graduation I spent nine months in a public affairs fellowship program focused on creating vibrant government and non-profit sectors that contribute benefits to a community.
And how long have you lived in Sonoma?
My husband and I lived in Granite Bay near Sacramento. We transitioned to Sonoma when I began working in Novato seven years ago; I was the Assistant City Manager there for six years and Interim City Manager for a year. My brother has lived in Sonoma for twenty-plus years, though, and before we lived here every time we’d visit I’d think to myself what a lovely town Sonoma is.
Did you ever imagine you’d end up Sonoma’s City Manager?
You have kids in school here, right?
Yes, three. One is a sophomore in high school, one in eighth grade and the third in fourth grade. I’ve been involved in school-related activities like PTO and the Red and white Ball.
What do you see as the major differences between Sonoma and Novato?
Well, I’ve only been working here for six weeks and am still meeting with community members, different folks, and doing a lot of listening and learning. In Sonoma its obvious that housing, tourism and traffic are major issues. In Novato housing has been an issue, but SMART train quiet zones, impacts of Highway 101, and sustaining adequate city finances were also major issues. People care passionately about their community in both cities, and I’ve found the level of civil discourse in both communities to be respectful, which is very valuable.
Have you established any priorities as City Manager yet?
It’s still early in the job. I am very interested in improving public communication – making an investment in technology like our website, social media and public engagement platforms. Not everyone can make the time to come to meetings, but there are now technological ways to give the public excellent access to archives and information using intuitive and easy-to-use, cost-effective tools. In Novato, we actually created a Public Information staff position. Such improvements cannot be accomplished overnight, but we need to do the public’s business well.
You must be enjoying your new commute to work.
Yes, but honestly it’s also meant I need to figure out a new way to have time to listen to NPR and Books on Tape. Sometimes I find myself just sitting in my parked car listening, since I no longer spend as much time driving.
And how do you like your new job so far?
In local government, you can easily see your impact on building community and all the connections that fit things together. For me, a job does not get any better than that.
— Interview by Larry Barnett