Sat04192014

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Casas, Packard discuss achievements, regrets, future endeavors

For termed-out Los Altos City Councilmen Ron Packard and David Casas, the Dec. 4 council meeting wasn’t the end of the road, but the start of a new phase in their lives.

Prior to Tuesday’s proverbial changing of the guard – with Councilwomen-elect Jeannie Bruins and Jan Pepper taking their seats on the council – Casas and Packard reflected on their accomplishments and council service, which began in 2003.

In terms of achievements, Casas pointed to a time shortly after his election, when contentious labor negotiations occurred between the city and the Los Altos Peace Officers Association.

“I can remember seeing community members picketing in front of city hall,” he said. “For me, it was about restoring strong relations” with the police association and other labor groups that represent city employees.

The city eventually reached contract agreements with the police association in 2003 and again in 2004, which Casas said laid “the groundwork for positive relationships with all of our labor groups.”

He also counted the successful negotiation of a new garbage contract among the council’s achievements during his 2010 tenure as mayor.

Casas said he’s proud of the current state of Los Altos’ public parks, which coincidentally served as a catalyst to his career in public service.

“I joined the (Parks and Recreation) Commission because I was disappointed in the condition of our parks,” he said.

Pointing to Rosita Park, which underwent a $2.2 million upgrade in 2001, Casas added, “Now we have these wonderfully renovated parks that children with disabilities can use and serve as a gathering spot for parents, grandparents and residents.”

Packard, meanwhile, said he’s “pleased” with the city’s efforts to increase transparency, pointing specifically to its webcasting city council and Planning and Transportation Commission meetings, as well as the availability of city reports on the website.

Packard said he was pleased with the council’s rezoning efforts in recent years, specifically the city’s current zoning code that allows 45-foot-tall developments on the edge of the downtown triangle.

“I really think we have far greater transparency about what the council is doing now,” said Packard, who listed the new incoming Safeway store on First Street as another council achievement. “We’ve also been progressive about measured and balanced growth downtown.”

Packard classified the “reshaping and rezoning” in and around the downtown triangle as a regret.

“I really regret the acrimony that has come from some of the (downtown) property owners,” he said. “We didn’t go as far (in rezoning) as they wanted.”

In terms of future aspirations, Packard said he’s currently ruling out another run at a council seat in two years, despite a legal opinion by City Attorney Jolie Houston earlier this year that confirmed termed-out councilmembers may do so following an absence from the council.

As for Casas, he’ll soon embark on a new path professionally as Intero Inc.’s new vice president of community and government relations. Casas also serves as a board member for the company’s charitable foundation.

Casas plans to continue his involvement in the community as a member of the Rotary Club of Los Altos and other endeavors, and will serve as a volunteer with Partners for New Generations, mentoring high school students.

“I’ll still be involved on a number of levels, both in Los Altos and the broader community,” Casas said, adding that he has a “deep sense of appreciation to the community for having the opportunity to serve them over these years.”

Packard expressed support for the council’s newest members and said he firmly believes the city “is in better hands than we found it.”

“It’s been a pleasure to serve with my fellow councilmembers. I’ve enjoyed all of them,” he said. “Los Altos is very blessed to have very intelligent people on its council and commissions. For me, it’s just been a real pleasure.”

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