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May 26, 2022

Female leaders Ready to Guide Scotts Valley’s 2022 Rebound

On Tuesday, new Scotts Valley City Manager Mali LaGoe went for a tour of the library building currently undergoing a full renovation and was greeted by a familiar face.

Yolande Wilburn, who just succeeded Susan Nemitz as director of Santa Cruz Public Libraries after overseeing the six-library Torrance City library system, had worked alongside LaGoe back when, prior to her work in Southern California, she was the head Nevada County librarian.

“She’s just brilliant,” said LaGoe, heaping praise on Wilburn, and reflecting on how helpful it was to visit the construction zone. “It was good just to get a tour of the space.”

LaGoe, previously Nevada County’s assistant CEO, started work on Jan. 10 and joined a City leadership team with women in a number of top positions, including City Attorney Kirstin Powell and Donna Lind, who is serving as mayor for the third time.

“It feels good for me to see females rising in all areas,” Lind said. “The last three city managers have all been women.”

Lind says there was a similar situation when she was mayor in 2016, since Powell was attorney at that time, and Jenny Haruyama was the first female city manager.

But now, two of five sergeants in the Scotts Valley Police Department are women, which Lind says is significant, as she can remember what it was like to be the first female cop in Scotts Valley.

Lind, now 71, got her first job in local government when she was a high school senior, taking the minutes for City Council.

Scotts Valley only had four people on staff back then, a city administrator, the planning director, the finance director—who was a woman, and Lind.

Lind remembers having to fill in for one of the two public works employees one day to help with oil-and-screening work on Scotts Valley Drive.

She took a job as a police secretary and dispatcher, and within about a year had become the dispatch supervisor.

Soon, she was being asked to help with sensitive assignments, like interviewing children and sexual assault victims.

Eventually, she was recruited for undercover work.

Lind recalled one time when she went on a drugs and guns investigation wearing a tank top, with a gun tucked into her waist.

Even today she remembers the nerves involved when the gun started to slip. She says she remained calm in the moment, and stayed focused on getting the intel—and getting out.

“There definitely were some times when it was an adrenaline rush,” she said. “I realized I could do it.”

In 1977 she went to the police academy at Gavilan College, and eventually became a detective and a hostage negotiator.

“I still remember the first call I went to in uniform with a police car,” she said, recalling the man’s reaction when she arrived. “The guy goes, ‘Oh, I called for a police officer.’”

Lind says she was understanding, because she was small and young, and at the time people weren’t used to seeing women officers. The call had a positive outcome, she says, and it kicked off a long career of successful police work.

Lind worked on a trade secrets case involving Borland International Inc., and investigated the Hell’s Angels.

She says there are plenty of similarities between her first stint as mayor in 2012 to her current term.

“We were just coming out of the great recession and trying to recover,” she said. “This is what we’re doing now after the pandemic.”

To some extent, Scotts Valley never fully recovered from the economic downturn of 2008. A police community service position that was eliminated during the recession was never filled again afterward, Lind notes.

It will be great to rely on the expertise of City Attorney Powell, Lind says, adding Powell has assisted in negotiations, as well as with HR and planning matters.

“She knows this city extremely well,” Lind said. “I just think this is an exciting time that we can work together. The two of us can be valuable to Mali in the transition.”

City employees held a welcome lunch for LaGoe, who, Lind notes, had clearly done her homework.

“I’m amazed that she’s gotten up to speed identifying issues,” Lind said.

LaGoe says economic vitality is going to be top of mind.

“I really want to be focused on economic development and economic recovery,” LaGoe said. “The health of our local businesses really translates to the health of our city.”

But she knows that she—and the City—can’t do it alone.

“It’s going to be all about partnerships and meeting as many people as I can,” she said. “Our city government is small, so we really do need those partnerships to be successful.”

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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