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March 24, 2023

Scotts Valley gets refresh as new staffers come on board

While Scotts Valley’s civic calendar has been relatively light so far this year, behind the scenes there’s been plenty of activity.

Hot on the heels of hiring 19 people to work for the municipality in 2022, as the community began to recover from the darkest days of the pandemic, the City has continued its recruitment push—including, most recently, adding an urban planner and a financial manager.

Sarah Wikle, a former associate planner at the City of Watsonville, was named Scotts Valley’s new senior planner in the Community Development Department, while Stephanie Hill, who worked for the San Lorenzo Valley Water District before taking a job with the County of Santa Clara, will fill the space left vacant when Casey Estorga—Scotts Valley’s former administrative services director—resigned last year.

Wikle’s wealth of experience managing a wide range of projects, from development reviews to permitting, will be a boon to Scotts Valley, says City Manager Mali LaGoe.

“Additionally, she has experience providing technical assistance with municipal code amendments to implement state housing laws like Senate Bill 9 on two-lot subdivisions and AB 68 on accessory dwelling units (ADUs),” LaGoe said. “Sarah also supported advanced planning work through staffing of advisory committee meetings for the Watsonville Downtown Specific Plan and assisted in creation of a youth outreach and engagement plan for the City’s 2050 General Plan update.”

That could be particularly helpful, given that Scotts Valley has been making strides to excite youth about local government and is in the process of updating the 1994 General Plan that controls how the City functions.

LaGoe says Wikle has also participated in emergency response operations, such as providing mutual aid to the County during the CZU Lighting Complex Fire and acting as a liaison for Watsonville during the recent winter storms.

“These experiences give Sarah the foundation to provide assistance and expertise on a wide variety of planning challenges in Scotts Valley around housing, environmental resource management, and economic development,” she said, adding that to help get Wikle up to speed, she was assigned to the planning counter to assist members of the public with their inquiries. “She has also been attending meetings with City consultants, staff members, residents and business owners to learn about the City’s Housing Element update process and ongoing Planning projects.”

The news was shared in a Feb. 2 post on Scotts Valley’s Facebook page. Then, on Monday, Hill came on board.

Hill will be key to keeping City Hall ticking, as she’ll be expected to provide support to a wide range of team members, particularly when it comes to matters of finance, human resources, information technology and risk management.

“Stephanie will be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations in these areas,” LaGoe said, adding she’ll personally be working closely with Hill on the budget, pension planning, investment strategy and software solutions.

It’s a lot to handle, since Scotts Valley is a smaller municipality with an all-hands-on-deck mentality, but LaGoe says Hill has developed a skill set that’s uniquely suited to the Silicon Valley and Santa Cruz bedroom community.

“Stephanie brings a balanced perspective with her combined experience working for a small, local agency (SLVWD), as well as her time in the Santa Clara County Auditor Controller office,” she said. “She knows Scotts Valley and is comfortable working in a small team that wears many hats, but also has exposure to best practices in municipal finance from her time in a leadership role in a much larger county organization and participation in regional professional associations. I have no doubt that Stephanie will hit the ground running and will add tremendous value to the City organization, and the Scotts Valley community, in this role.”

Meanwhile, the Scotts Valley Police Department recently promoted two employees and hired a reserve officer.

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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