Richard James, director of Palo Alto's Community Services Department, is back at work full-time, but only for six months.
On Monday, James announced his plans to retire in June. He broke three vertebrae in a dune buggy accident in October and has been recovering slowly, but said the injury didn't affect his decision to retire after he turns 58.
He has been a city employee for 29 years, beginning as a technical theater supervisor and working his way up to department director.
"Every five years or so I got to change jobs. I was always doing something new," James said. "It's been such a great career."
After retiring, James said he plans to spend time caring for his and his wife's elderly parents; coordinating the San Jose Jazz Festival, which he helped start; playing the drums; and golfing.
"I live in San Jose and I want to give back to that community because it's been very good to me," James said.
There have been no decisions about his successor, James said.
The accident occurred on his first dune buggy trip, when the vehicle he was riding in plunged 20 feet. Neither his son, Colin, nor his son's friend who were riding in the front seat was seriously injured, James said.
And at first, James didn't realize he broke his back. The trio rode back, and James even fixed a barbecue dinner before going to bed and breaking out in a cold sweat.
James' wife, Peggy, took him to the hospital, where he spent four days unable to move at all. James said he had to wear a brace for more than a month and still has trouble lying down, but he's expected to recover fully.
"It's just like having a toothache in your back," James said.
James said he received an outpouring of support from the community.
"I have a stack of cards at least two inches high," he said. "It really was a marvelous thing."