Palo Alto didn't have to look long or far to find a new leader for its busy Community Services Department.
Rob de Geus -- a 15-year department veteran and a familiar presence to residents who play golf, visit Lucie Stern Community Center, get jazzed about park improvements, partake in the city's recreation classes, attend Parks and Recreation Commission meetings or are involved in Palo Alto's push to promote youth well-being -- was tapped this week to take the helm of the department.
Hired in 2000, De Geus has spent the past few weeks as acting director of the department, following the retirement of Greg Betts last month. On Thursday, City Manager James Keene announced that the Melbourne, Australia, native will take over the position on a permanent basis, pending the City Council's approval on Feb. 9. He will earn a salary of $185,000.
Keene said in a statement that the appointment was made after a "national search" and "extensive input" from the community, including a panel that included parks commissioners, neighborhood leaders and other department heads. Ultimately, the stakeholders "all agreed that Rob was the top candidate. He called de Geus the "right person at the right time" to lead the department.
"He is well-respected and valued in our community and will continue to build on the strong relationships and programs that he has developed since he joined Palo Alto," Keene said in a statement.
A longtime manager in the department, de Geus headed the division overseeing the golf course and recreation services before becoming assistant director and ultimately, acting director. He has also overseen special events, the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo, community centers, aquatic and teen programs and other services. He has been the staff liaison to the Parks and Recreation Commission, one of the organizers of Project Safety Net (the community collaboration to promote youth well-being) and serves on the board of the Palo Alto Family YMCA.
In a statement, de Geus called Palo Alto an "exceptional city" and called it an "honor and privilege to service the residents and the community."
"I look forward to working with citizens and staff on a wide variety of programs, services and park projects to continue improving the quality of life in Palo Alto," de Geus said.