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Longtime Santa Rosa official David Guhin to take leadership role with Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria

A top Santa Rosa official who has risen through the city’s ranks for nearly two decades is abruptly changing careers, taking over a newly created leadership role with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria next month.

David Guhin, an assistant city manager who oversees planning and economic development efforts, plans to end 17 years of service with the city of Santa Rosa on Sept. 4 after giving notice Thursday. He’ll become the first executive director for the Graton tribe starting Sept. 14.

His week off in between jobs, far from a vacation, will be a learning opportunity for Guhin, a 45-year-old Santa Rosa resident who grew up in Davis and is not a member of the tribe.

“I have a lot to learn, and I think that’s going to be a focus of mine: to really understand and really learn as much as I possibly can about the history and the culture,” Guhin said Monday.

Guhin started his city tenure as an assistant engineer in the early 2000s. He rose through leadership ranks to become director of the water department and most recently assistant city manager and director of the planning and economic development department.

A top focus for Guhin over the past several years has been refining the city’s housing rules, aiming to make it easier for developers to build new homes, particularly in the downtown core and in other priority development areas. He’s also directed his attention to the city’s economic development, community engagement and recreation programs.

City Manager Sean McGlynn praised Guhin for “tremendous work” and called him “the consummate colleague.”

“I am beyond thankful for his service to the City of Santa Rosa and am thrilled for him and the opportunity he has moving forward in his new endeavor,” McGlynn said in a statement.

McGlynn also said he was evaluating staffing options ahead of Guhin’s departure and expected to have a transition plan in place by late August.

Guhin’s most recent total compensation, including salary, paid time-off, and overtime accrued during emergencies, comes to $239,130.16, according to the city.

Based on Guhin’s trajectory, he seemed destined for a city management role, possibly even in Santa Rosa. But when a recruiter working for the Graton tribe approached him about the executive director, Guhin developed an interest.

“When they talked to me, I realize what they were looking for was very unique and something that I hadn’t even thought was a potential option,” Guhin said, noting that his new job will involve oversight and potentially expansion of a range of tribal programs ranging from rental assistance to wetland protection.

“Instead of how do we get something built, it’s more about building programs and social services to serve the community,” Guhin said.

Guhin will report to the Graton tribal council, long chaired by Greg Sarris, who could not be reached for comment Monday about the new hire.

The tribe’s most visible presence in Sonoma County is its Graton Resort & Casino just west of Rohnert Park. But Guhin said his role is focused on tribal government, not the casino part of the tribe’s operation.

Guhin didn’t rule out an eventual return to local government, acknowledging that he’s heard a lot of surprise over the past few days as people start to learn that he’s leaving Santa Rosa’s ranks.

“It’s always tough to leave something you’ve put so much into,” he said. “I’ve put a lot of my life into the city, and I love this city.”

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @wsreports.

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