LAFAYETTE (CBS SF) – Lafayette Mayor Don Tatzin will not seek another term in November’s election, ending a 33-year City Council run.
“It seems like the right time; I’ve been on the council literally for half my life, and for 90 percent of my marriage,” said Tatzin, 66, whose term also encompasses two-thirds of the history of his community as an incorporated city, which is preparing for its 50th anniversary celebration on July 29.
A longtime corporate and management consultant, Tatzin credits that work for helping prepare him for a world in which cooperation, analysis, firm opinions and knowing your stuff make all the difference.
“It was a long career in which I influenced people but had little actual power,” Tatzin said Sunday. “And you’ve got to be flexible. Everything we do is a work in progress.”
Steven Falk, who has been Lafayette’s city manager for 22 years, said Tatzin’s value goes far beyond being flexible and a good listener.
“He’s brilliant, and in 1/8his 3/8 business, he’s traveled in rarified air,” Falk said. “He’s got two master’s degrees from MIT, he’s been a CEO, and he’s widely traveled. And he’s brought that experience to Lafayette’s council.”
He’s also brought those qualities to regional councils and boards. State Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, a former Orinda councilman, worked with Tatzin on local Lamorinda issues years ago, and on more regional concerns recently.
“He brings serious objectivity to any problem at hand, and he’s brought his sage wisdom to every issue facing Lafayette for 30 years,” Glazer said.
Falk called Tatzin an “efficient networker” who knows the state’s elected officials and staffers who help get issues resolved. “That is only gained by doing this work for a long time,” Falk said.
State Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, said she was witness to several instances in which Tatzin’s persistence and communication skills helped move legislative solutions move forward.
His clear numbers and persistence, Baker said, helped ensure that Lafayette residents better understood the Association of Bay Area Governments’ affordable-housing planning requirements, and also showed ABAG their initial numbers for building affordable homes in Lafayette were too high.
People in many East Bay cities, Baker noted, came to such meetings “with pitchforks and torches,” but Lafayette residents had a better grasp on the situation than most and less unabashed anger, Baker said.
Tatzin has also earned praise as a local leader who listens to and respects everyone who steps up the council chamber microphone. And the needs of the people don’t escape him, Falk said.
“He has a pet peeve, and that is disabled people not getting a fair shake,” said Falk, adding that Tatzin took him to more than one street corner curb to point out that a wheelchair couldn’t get over them.
Tatzin keeps city staff on its toes because he has high expectations, but that only makes the city work better, Falk said.
“His moral leadership … his unwavering championing of transparency … I can’t say how many times I or others have said, ‘This fellow is as good a public servant as we’ve seen at any level of politics,'” he said.
The relatively low-key Tatzin said he’s never had a low moment on the council so frustrating “that I wanted to leave,” and there are some regrets — including that he won’t be on the council long enough to see resolution of the long-running controversial saga of the proposed Deer Hill housing plans.
First up after stepping down, Tatzin said, will be heart valve replacement surgery. Then, he said, reading some of the dusty books on his home shelves.
He said he is most proud of improvements to Lafayette’s downtown and to its streets in recent years, and of the city’s relatively new library and library spending priorities.
But Tatzin said he’s especially proud of his city’s fiscal responsibility, and its financial health in an era when many California cities are struggling to cope with unfunded pension liabilities.
“We’ve continued to be a place people want to move to and want to continue to live, and I’m proud of that.”
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