Bates to leave Public Works Department
MILENKA BATES has been with Sonoma’s Public Works Department for 10 years, and has headed the department for the past five.
After 10 years with Sonoma’s Public Works Department, the last five of which she served as director, Milenka Bates is returning to rainier pastures in Washington state, closer to her family.
She’ll wrap up her commitment to the city on Dec. 7. She has accepted a position as the administrative division manager for public works for the City of Bremerton, Wash.
“Milenka’s skills, abilities and initiative have been key to managing the diverse range of services provided by public works day in and day out, including parks, streets, water and cemeteries,” said City Manager Linda Kelly, who is herself leaving Sonoma. “Her commitment to serving our community has been outstanding and she will be sorely missed. We wish her well and know she will be an asset to her new city,” Kelly added.Kelly will also be leaving her post next month to take the job of Windsor town manager.
Bates said she has valued her time in Sonoma, but the draw of family was too strong. Her eldest daughter, grandson, mother, brothers, nieces and nephews all live near the city on the banks of the Puget Sound.
“I’ll be working 30 minutes away from everybody,” she said. “I’m going home. But how do you leave Sonoma?”
She said she is sad to say goodbye to her colleagues on the city’s staff, who have grown close “as a family” dealing with a rough few years. The workers were tasked with finding a way to keep city services functioning after losing all funding from the now defunct redevelopment agency.
“It aged me a bit,” she laughed, saying that it took creative solutions to keep everyone employed. “When the new construction was way down, instead of laying off a building inspector, we absorbed her into public works.”
She said she is most proud of the collaborations she oversaw as the public works director, including working with the Sonoma Ecology Center on preserving Nathanson Creek and helping the Sonoma Community Center build its water-wise demonstration garden and rain water catchment system.
“I just feel that we have integrated really well with the community,” she said.
When asked what she’ll miss most about Sonoma, she said, “The sun, I don’t know what I’ll do without it.”
While the City of Sonoma is losing its public works director and city manager within a week of each other, Mayor Pro Tem Ken Brown said he’s confident the transition of leadership will be smooth.
“We’ve lost two extremely valuable city employees,” he said. “There are, gratefully, a lot of people who work for the city with an institutional memory. They know their jobs and are capable and willing to grow.”
He added that the council had already met in closed session twice to develop a strategy to replace Bates and Kelly, but no concrete decisions have been made as of yet.
“That’s still one of the things we’re talking about,” Brown said.