By Damin Esper
Bay Area News Group
ALBANY -- Beth Pollard has announced she will retire in August after 12 years as city manager.
"I just think it's time," Pollard said. "I've been a city manager for 20 years and in local government for 32. It just feels like time for a change and a chance to see what else is out there."
Pollard, 56, said she plans to spend time with loved ones but otherwise has no specific plans.
"My plan is to take the remainder of the year off to catch up on all the time I spent -- nights and weekends -- on the job and take a chance to think about what comes next," she said before adding, "I have always wanted to take a train across the county."
The loss of Pollard's presence will leave a void at City Hall, according to City Clerk Nicole Almaguer.
"I have had the fortunate opportunity to work closely with Beth over the last couple of years, and have learned a tremendous amount," Almaguer said. "Beth is a mentor and role model. Her can-do attitude is energizing, and makes you aim to consistently deliver at the highest caliber."
Almaguer added that, "When Beth announced her retirement to the city's management team the room literally fell silent," because of the respect the staffers have for her.
Pollard grew up in Massachusetts, with some time spent in Houston. She majored in Asian studies and minored in government at Connecticut College in New London, Conn. before moving to the Bay Area.
"I actually was always interested in government," she said. "I was in first grade when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I was always intrigued with his, 'Ask not what your country can do for you,' quote and then the impact of his death."
She lived in San Francisco and then Marin and worked as a newspaper reporter covering local government.
"I was curious to know more about what's going on behind the scenes," she said. "An entry-level job opened up in Fairfax and I thought, 'That seems like a good way to see what goes on behind the scenes in local government, see what residents and officials can do to make things better."
That was in 1981. Pollard immediate took to being on the inside and being part of the process.
"It just caught me kind of like a fish on a hook," she said.
Pollard went back to school and earned a master's degree in public administration from what is now known as California State University-East Bay.
She eventually moved on to San Anselmo, where she worked for 15 years -- the last seven as city manager. In 2001, the city manager's job in Albany opened up and Pollard, who was looking for a new challenge, applied.
"I always liked Albany," she said. "It reminded me of San Anselmo in the small town connectedness but it also had urban issues -- freeways and BART."
When she landed the Albany job it was a pivotal moment for local governments in California. The next decade would see fundamental changes in how taxpayers fund government services. State aid would be dramatically cut and sources for funds would disappear.
"I think one of the biggest impacts when the state eliminated redevelopment overnight, the fact that something so secure that cities relied on could go away with one stroke of the pen, was a game-changer for cities," Pollard said.
The result is that cities all over California have to get by with less, even as residents want their local governments to provide an ever-increasing level of services.
"We're starting to get out of the woods but we'll never get back to where we were, I think," Pollard said. "Right now, we're stretched more than we ever had been before with reduced revenues and increased expectations. We have a lot of great ideas for what local government can do, but the resources are more stretched so we have to get more creative."
Pollard said she's most proud of the staff the city has attracted during her tenure.
"The role they played in managing through the recession is noteworthy," she said.
She said Albany managed to survive the recession in better shape than many cities because all of the stakeholders worked toward that goal -- city staff, the City Council and the taxpayers, who approved a sales tax increase.