In 2013, Los Altos resident Stacey Chaney retired from a long career of what she described as “high-stress” management positions and embarked on a new path – serving her city.
Five years and more than 1,000 hours later, Chaney has transitioned from dedicated volunteer to part-time staff member with the Los Altos Recreation & Community Services department.
“It was good for what I needed at the time,” the longtime resident said of volunteering, “but I kind of outgrew that, and I wanted something more stable, something more day-by-day.”
She applied in the spring for an opening as the department’s front office assistant and was hired in May.
“She had a lot of understanding of the community, which is very big for recreation in general, because what we do is service the community of Los Altos,” Recreation Manager Jaime Chew said. “It really was that combination with her varied experience and past (volunteer) work that made her kind of an ideal candidate for us.”
Chaney’s job requires her to be “the first line of customer service,” according to Brandon Council, the department’s volunteer specialist.
Council first became familiar with Chaney, who lives within walking distance of her job, when he started working for the city last year.
“She kind of exemplifies the best of what volunteerism should look like in the city and the ideal person that I would be looking for, for someone to come in and volunteer with us – someone who is very committed and very interested,” Council said.
When Chaney stepped down from her job after approximately 35 years in high-tech, she wanted to help her city and its residents.
“Rather than complain about how things aren’t done fast enough in the city of Los Altos – to start to turn into that grumpy old lady – by volunteering, I became part of the solution rather than just someone who gripes all the time,” she said.
Chaney, who began doing lunch relief at city hall, brought her repertoire of skills, including tricks in Microsoft Excel she taught her new colleagues.
“Because I was coming from the outside with my own set of skills, I was able to see where things could be improved, and usually they were very open and receptive,” she said.
Chaney was involved with an array of city projects, including the native plant garden at the Woodland Branch Library, Halloween store-window painting and the Community Picnic.
Her time volunteering gave her a level of familiarity with the people and system, she noted, and she often recognizes friends and neighbors who enter the recreation building.