Infrastructure, Sales Tax are Top Priorities of Orinda’s New Mayor

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(David Dierks, photographer)
Orinda’s City Council recognized the work of outgoing mayor Inga Miller as she handed the reins to fellow City Council member Darlene Gee Dec. 3. (L-R) Dennis Fay, Amy Worth, Gee, Miller and Nick Kosla.

    A civil engineer for more than three decades, Darlene Gee is naturally focused on infrastructure, drainage issues and long-term maintenance – issues which promise to be on her agenda this year as Orinda’s new mayor
    The Community Park, at the Brookwood Road and Camino Pablo intersection, is now visible and accessible. Gee wants plans in place for “an improved gateway to the Village.” She says she knows the project won’t be completed during her tenure as mayor, but construction should be underway this year.
    Other agenda items include asking voters this year to renew the half-cent sales tax increase, which was approved in 2012.
    Gee says another priority is to undertake the “updated developmental standards and general plan for downtown.”
    Keeping development near the BART station under local, rather than state control, is also on her radar.
    Gee said “exploring the possibility of becoming a charter city is going to be under consideration.” There are pros and cons. On the plus side, it would give Orinda more control in an era where the state is trying to take that away from local governments, and being able to invoke greater penalties when city ordinances are violated.
    Some notable charter cities include Oakland, Alameda, Palo Alto, San Francisco and Sacramento. El Cerrito voters approved the move to become a charter city in November 2018.
    “The charter city possibility needs to be seriously explored,” said Gee. It would require voter approval.
    Gee, who was sworn in as mayor Dec. 3, is not new to public service. She spent four years as a member of the Orinda Citizens’ Infrastructure Oversight Commission and has been on the City Council since 2015.
    “Darlene brings tremendous perspective and experience and will be a superb mayor,” said Vice Mayor Amy Worth.
    “As a councilmember, Gee focused on providing extensive and ongoing leadership planning for fixing Orinda roads and drains in addition to helping maintain a fiscally responsible approach to local operations and capital programs,” Worth said.
    “I care about balance and giving a voice to all in our community,” said Gee. “I am sensitive to listening to all issues and to be the best community we can.”
    Gee said she excelled in math and science throughout her education and won scholarships. One was for engineering. Another took her to the University of Illinois where she was one of six women in a class of 600 engineering students. There, she received a degree in civil engineering followed by a Masters of Business Administration and Management from UC Berkeley.
    Moving to Orinda in 1989, Gee and her husband Dennis raised their two sons, Brian and Eric, here. “This is a community with family focus and great schools,” she says.
    Gee is a senior vice president and part of national sales for HNTB, an engineering consulting firm. She has worked on major projects around the Bay Area, including Levi’s Stadium, the air traffic control tower at the San Francisco International Airport, the Golden Gate Bridge seismic retrofit and the recent Richmond/San Rafael Access Mobility for bicycles and pedestrians. Her firm has contracts with Caltrans and BART, but does not conduct business with Orinda, according to Gee.

City Reorganization
On Dec. 3, the City Council reorganized as follows:

     Darlene Gee, mayor. Council and mayor term expires in December.
     Amy Worth, vice mayor. Council and vice mayor term expires in December
     Dennis Fay, councilmember. Term expires December 2022.
     Inga Miller, councilmember. Term expires in December.
     Nick Kosla, councilmember. Term expires December 2022.

City Council meetings are 7 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of each month in the Library Auditorium, 26 Orinda Way. City Hall is at 22 Orinda Way.

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