The newest team member at City Hall has a background in transportation and economic development, a keen interest in local government, and aspirations of becoming a city manager someday.

Jessica Deakyne (her last name rhymes with “be kind”) is assistant to the city manager, a new position the city created to provide administrative support and oversee projects in various departments.

Deakyne anticipates that youth and housing will be among her primary responsibilities, at least at first. Enhancing youth services and developing a comprehensive housing strategy are among the City Council’s top priorities.

“I have a strong slant toward community engagement, so I think I’ll probably be given a lot of those tasks as well,” Deakyne said.

One of her first tasks was preparing for “Re-Imagining Civic St. Helena” on Thursday and Friday, in coordination with Noll & Tam Architects and WRT Town Planners. The event will kick off a new visioning process related to City Hall, the St. Helena Public Library, and recreational facilities.

She’s also rounding out the project’s steering committee to make sure it reflects the community in terms of gender balance, Spanish-speakers, people with kids in town, and newcomers/old-timers.

Deakyne has a degree in social ecology with a minor in digital media from UC-Irvine, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Cal State Fullerton.

“I’ve always been interested in the public sector,” Deakyne said. “My whole career has been either nonprofits or transportation districts or cities.”

She described herself as “a true generalist,” with experience in human resources, transportation and economic development. She spent the last five years in the city of Novato, where she worked with the Downtown Novato Business Association and the Economic Development Advisory Commission, coordinated with brokers and found tenants for commercial spaces, and oversaw community engagement leading up to the redevelopment of a historic train depot, which is still in progress.

Deakyne is also vice president of the Municipal Management Association of Northern California (MMANC), a group of more than 600 young local government professionals who want to move up in the field. Deakyne would like to become a city manager someday.

A native of Orange County, Deakyne has prepared for the St. Helena job by reading reports – including Erica Sklar’s white paper on housing and the SHAPE Committee’s full report – introducing herself to people around town, and connecting with city and county employees she already knew through her work with the MMANC.

“St. Helena is a beautiful town,” she said. “They’re so much already here to celebrate, and you have an amazing staff… These types of jobs don’t come up very often.”

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