After a year of new faces in top management, City Manager James Keene opted for stability and familiarity Thursday when he named Michael Sartor to lead Palo Alto's Public Works Department.
Sartor, who joined the city in 2002, has been serving as the interim director of the department for more than a year, having replaced Glenn Roberts in November 2010. Before that, he served as the assistant director of engineering.
"I am excited to have been chosen to lead the Public Works Department as we move forward to repair our aging infrastructure, strive to achieve our zero waste and sustainability goals, and shape the department into one focused on service to the Palo Alto community," Sartor said in a statement.
Keene's appointment of Sartor caps a year of dramatic turnover at top levels of City Hall. Newcomers to top management include City Attorney Molly Stump, City Auditor James Pelletier, Chief Information Officer Jonathan Reichental and Library Director Monique le Conge. The council had also recently appointed Palo Alto Police Department veteran Kenneth Dueker to head the city's newly created Office of Emergency Services
Sartor is charged with leading the Public Works Department at a time when the department is grappling with some of the city's most critical, complex and controversial projects. These include a community push to build a waste-to-energy facility in the Baylands, an overhaul of the city's cash-strapped refuse operation, construction of Mitchell Park Library, an effort to repair the city's infrastructure and regular maintenance of street trees -- a particularly sensitive subject in Palo Alto. The department also underwent an internal transformation earlier this year when its number of divisions was reduced from six to three.
Sartor had overseen the restructuring of the department and worked with the council-appointed Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission throughout the year to develop a plan to fill the infrastructure backlog. In a statement, Keene pointed to Sartor's experience as a major reason for his appointment.
"Mike has demonstrated a commitment to better integrate the Public Works Department within the City organization as well as engage the community on major initiatives," Keene said in a statement. "His experience with Palo Alto distinguished him from our field of candidates as well as his enthusiasm for working with the community to make public works responsive and forward looking."
Keene said Sartor was chosen after a lengthy recruitment process that featured 50 candidates, seven of whom were invited for interviews. The candidates were interviewed by two panels, featuring former elected officials, members of the Public Works department and other department heads.
Before he joined Palo Alto, he worked in Mountain View for six years as capital improvement manager. He had also spent 10 years in Woodward Clyde Consultants as an environmental and wate remediation program director. He has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from San Jose State and a masters of science in management from College of Notre Dame in Belmont.
Sartor's contract will go to the City Council for approval in January 2012.