Rising to the challenge is in our DNA - A Leadership Profile with Mayor Susan Rohan

Picture of Mayor Susan Rohan, Roseville, CA
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Jodi Mulligan

Welcome to another in a series of profiles of emerging and established leaders in our community.  Our featured leader for July is Roseville Mayor Susan Rohan.  Mayor Rohan has been a native of Roseville since 1988 and has served on the city council for four years, serving the last two as mayor.  She is a community-minded leader who was recently honored by Assemblywoman Beth Gaines as Woman of the Year.  Read on as Mayor Rohan discusses her views on leadership, civic engagement, water and how she can’t just pick one “all-time favorite book”…

Q. Valley Vision believes in leadership development as a necessary ingredient for building a successful region. As a leader yourself, having recently won 2014 Woman of the Year, what is the one thing you have found most valuable in effective leadership?

Knowing when to apply the right leadership skillset is critical. In business decisions, a CEO must take in all the information, weigh the options, and make a decision.  In civic matters, it is often necessary to lead others in developing consensus and deciding direction.  An elected body is a composite of the electorate, and the highest respect you can give to the electorate is to be open-minded and listen to the perspectives of others whom the voters have chosen to represent their interests.

Q. A burning issue for California is a record low voter turnout for the primary election this year. How do we get more people to be civically engaged? 

I’ve worked on issues decided in the public arena for thirty years, and watched the public become increasingly more frustrated.  Civic affairs are decided by complex processes, shaped by legislation and the courts, and often leave the public confounded or disenchanted in their ability to impact outcomes.

The answer is to engage citizens and invite them into the discussion by communicating early and in clear language what is being considered and how to weigh in.

Websites and social media hold great promise to invite an informed public to participate.  Good old-fashioned town hall meetings and community coffees and talking to constituents are proven ways to engage the public.  I also make an effort to personally call stakeholders whom I think might want to add to the discussion before a decision is made. 

Q. We know you are an advocate for a unified approach to tackle some of the most challenging water issues. What is your city doing to encourage your city's residents to take responsible steps at water conservation and making sure Roseville's voice is being heard?

City staff has done extensive outreach using a variety of communication tools to inform the public of the necessity to conserve water.  Additionally, the City has a designated hotline number for members of the public to call when water waste is observed. Staff pursues those incidents, and also works with property owners to remediate broken lines and reset irrigation sprinklers.  The City also offers a very popular cash for grass program, and will provide assistance to people who want advice to convert to drought tolerant material.  The Council and staff are also actively engaged in state and regional advocacy efforts with other water suppliers in our region to advance our water reliability interests and protect our local water supplies.  We also work with our state and federal elected officials on our state, regional and local water issues.

Q. On the subject of water, tell us a little about the North State Water Alliance and why local water agencies, jurisdictions and regional stakeholders should adopt and support those principals? 

I have advocated for some time that water purveyors in our region must find our regional message on water supply issues and effectively voice our concerns as decisions with impact on us are being made at the state level. The principles of the North State Water Alliance will assure statewide decision-makers that we support statewide water reliability and identify and inform them on how that can be achieved in our region. In an arena of competing interests, it is critical that we layout our bottom lines.

Change is clearly on the horizon.  And it will create new demands on the Sacramento region to increase our own water reliability.  I am optimistic that we are up to the challenge. It’s in our DNA.  Through the Water Forum, regional water interests have successfully worked together to create balanced decisions for multiple stakeholders that allowed us to accommodate the economic growth we’ve enjoyed the past 20 years. The North State Water Alliance principles provide the vision for local interests to make and implement the plans for water reliability to support continued economic growth.

Q. On a personal note, I understand that you visit the library as well as being a Friend of the Roseville Public Library. As a fellow book lover, I would love to know what your all-time favorite book is and why.

Naming an “all time favorite book” is impossible.  There are way too many to list. But I can describe the criteria, and offer examples. 

I want a novelist to artfully construct a story and to take me back in time or to another culture and to offer me an opportunity to understand people’s value systems and to learn how the characters were challenged by historical or political events.  I loved Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

Jodi Mulligan facilitated this profile and is a Project Associate for Valley Vision.