After a varied three-decade career that took him from a teenaged volunteer at Palo Alto's animal shelter to the director of the city's Community Services Department, Greg Betts is preparing for the next phase.
Betts, long known around City Hall for his genial manner and passion for enhancing the city's recreational programs and open-space preserves, earned a standing ovation and a resolution of appreciation from the City Council on Monday night after he concluded a 31-year career in city government.
The resolution, which was passed unanimously, lauds Betts for his service as an "innovative, compassionate and customer-focused leader who has developed successful programs, fostered strategic partnerships, enhanced community assets and achieved measurable customer satisfaction."
Betts began volunteering at the animal shelter in 1972 and became a part-time employee there as a high school and college student. In 1983, he became Superintendent of Animal Services, a position he held for the next 13 years. The council's resolution credits him with developing pet-adoption counseling and screening protocols, expanding animal control-service contracts with neighboring cities and implementing the microchip program for pet recovery.
In 1996, he joined the Community Services Department and after a few years as interim director he was hired for the permanent position in 2009. He has championed and overseen numerous park-improvement projects, including the renovation of Lytton Plaza, creation of the Heritage Park playground and the soon-to-be-completed completion of the Magical Bridge playground at Mitchell Park.
During Monday's ceremony, Betts was lauded by numerous colleagues who had worked with him over the years. Khashayar Alaee, who worked with Betts for nearly a decade, credited his Palo Alto upbringing for fostering his "innate love for the city and a keen sense of community values."
He recalled a time when Betts returned from a vacation in which he reported receiving "the best customer service he's seen his whole life." Betts returned with the name of the management firm that helped train the people who provided the service and asked Alaee to get an estimate from the firm so that it could train Palo Alto employees to provide a similar level.
City Manager James Keene praised Betts for his contributions to the city's executive team, a group of department heads that meets regularly.
"Greg has been a pioneer in building bridges across the organization, whether it's with public safety, Public Works staff, our office or whatever," Keene said. "He made a lot of contributions outside the realm of being a CSD director."
After receiving several plaques of appreciations and a huge round of applause, Betts thanked staff and the council for the opportunity to serve and said he felt extremely grateful for his career in public service.
When asked what he plans to do next, Betts indicated that he plans to remain heavily involved in community events, though now once again as a volunteer.
"I'm definitely looking forward to retreating to my volunteer roots," Betts told the Weekly. "Whether it's at the Palo Alto Art Center or the Nature Interpretive Center, I haven't yet decided. But I'll definitely be a judge at the chili cook-off."