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Former City Manager Staying Here After Retiring From Walnut Creek

After 36 years in public service in four cities, Gary Pokorny finds El Cerrito "a very attractive place to live."

El Cerrito may be seeing more of its former city manager, Gary Pokorny, after November when he retires from being the city manager in Walnut Creek.

Pokorny, 68, kept his residence in El Cerrito but was working in Walnut Creek the last 10 years, the past four as city manager.

He plans to continue living here as before, but with one big difference.  He told El Cerrito Patch he doesn't plan to be commuting out of town for another day job any time soon.

"At the moment I plan to do a good bit of travelling in the new year, with a trip to New Zealand with friends and other trips in the offing," he said. "Beyond that, I plan to take the advice of a good friend, who retired a few years ago, who encourages me to not make too many commitments until I have a chance to travel and relax a bit. He says that he made too many too quickly and grew to regret that after a few months."

Pokorny, who's in his 36th year of public management in four cities in three states, said the timing is right for taking a break.

"I am retiring because it is a good time to do so," he said by email. "We recently opened our new downtown Walnut Creek library on time, below budget with a beautiful building that is embraced by the community. The Council recently adopted a balanced two-year budget in Walnut Creek. We completed all of our labor negotiations for the coming year. The staff team in place is strong and capable. It is a good time for a new manager to come on board."

Walnut Creek announced Sept. 17 that its new city manager will be Ken Nordhoff, who's been the city manager of San Rafael since 2005.  Nordhoff takes over Pokorny's job Dec. 1.

"It's very sad to be saying good-bye to Gary," Walnut Creek Mayor Sue Rainey said in a statement.

El Cerrito, on the other hand, doesn't have to worry about saying good-bye.

"I do intend to continue living in El Cerrito for the forseeable future," Pokorny said. "I find it a very attractive place to live. Our family, friends and associates from the last 21 years are mostly here in the Bay area.

"El Cerrito itself enjoys a good location, great views of the Bay, convenient access to Berkeley and BART, lots of nice open space, good streets since the passage of the 2008 street improvement measure, access to the Regional Parks, etc.

How about playing any civic role in El Cerrito?

"I do not intend to play any overt political role in El Cerrito," he said. "Years ago in another state I had a former city manager on a City Council for whom I worked and I resolved then to never put myself in that position. It was not a good experience for him or for me at the time."

Pokorny was El Cerrito's city manager in 1989-2000, a job he took after serving as city manager of Corvallis, Oregon from 1978 to 1988. Before that, according to his entry in the Complete Marquis Who's Who, he was city manager in Sioux City, Iowa, from 1975 to 1978.

A native of Howells, Nebraska, he earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Nebraska and did additional graduate work in government and public administration at Cornell University. He served in the Peace Corps in Malaysia from 1965 to 1968.

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