Deanna J. Santana made her speaking debut as Santa Clara’s newly-appointed City Manager at the weekly lunch meeting of the Rotary Club of Santa Clara on Oct. 5—just her fourth day on the job.
“I take this [job] seriously and with great honor. I have deep roots here, and I’m proud to be able to raise my children in this area,” said Santana, who lives in Sunnyvale with her husband and two children and has relatives, including a 95-year-old great aunt, in Santa Clara.
Santana’s family moved to Mountain View after WWII and started concrete and asphalt companies that laid roads that still exist today.
“My family has a lot of sweat equity here,” said Santana, a third-generation Mountain View native and graduate of Los Altos High School.
She has worked for San Jose, Oakland and Sunnyvale, where she served as City Manager from 2014 – 2017. She earned a Master’s Degree at MIT’s School of Architecture & City Planning and two Bachelor’s Degrees at UC Berkeley in rhetoric and ethnic studies.
The “San Francisco Business Times” recognized Santana with a 2012 Most Influential Women in Business award. Also that year, Congresswoman Barbara Lee honored her with a Powerful Women of the Bay Area Award.
Santana’s 30-minute talk touched on three areas: fiscal issues, community engagement and the city workforce. She favors taking the long view in fiscal planning—making ten-year projections.
“Plan for the first five years then allow for the ship to turn the right way,” she said. She pointed out that whatever happens with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), Santa Clara isn’t in it alone. It is in partnership with other cities.
Santana plans to make City Hall more open and increase resident engagement, including through social media. She has already published her first blog post on the online social platform Nextdoor (www.nextdoor.com)—and recieved a number of responses. She wants to establish a Customer Relationship Management system that allows residents to receive responses to inquiries from City staff within 72 hours.
“The city workforce is our strongest asset. They must have the tools to succeed,” said Santana, intending to implement a strategic training development plan for employees.
Santana’s plate will be full with the many on-going issues that she inherited. Under the guidance of her bosses—the City Council—she must oversee Levi’s Stadium, City utilities, housing and traffic issues, on-going litigation and polarized positions within the City government, which, she said, is common in City governments.
“I have a proven track record of working collaboratively to resolve very complex issues,” concluded Santana. “I ask for patience and the benefit of doubt. Let’s work collaboratively.”
“I’m looking forward to [Deanna Santana’s] leadership and impact creating a world-class, customer service-focused organization,” said Rotarian Arlyne Diamond. “She’s dynamite!”
“We work hard to get a diverse group of speakers who have influence on our daily lives in Santa Clara,” said Rotarian Andrew Ratermann, speaker coordinator for the Rotary’s weekly 12:15 p.m. lunch meetings at Mariani’s Inn & Restaurant in Santa Clara.
The Rotary Club of Santa Clara was established in 1936 and has a membership of close to 100 business and community leaders who put “Service above Self.” For information, including future speakers, visit www.santaclararotary.org.