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Walnut Creek Magazine

Dynamic Forces: Gayle Vassar

Dec 12, 2017 04:23PM ● By Cale Finta

Dynamic Forces: Gayle Vassar

By Rob Stankus




It was supposed to be a one to two-year career stop, a stepping stone on the way to her “next great job.” Now 18 years later, as she approaches retirement from her position as the City of Walnut Creek, Communications & Outreach Manager, Gayle Vassar readily admits to her shortsightedness – this was that great job.

Vassar came from the Contra Costa Times, where she covered local news from almost every angle—as a reporter, editor, and manager for 11 years. When approached by then Public Information Officer Brad Rovanpera for a newly-created Assistant Public Information Officer position with the City of Walnut Creek, the job description included “a little bit of everything” including website management, so Vassar didn’t apply. Rovanpera pursued and soon Vassar was writing scripts for a new monthly TV show, growing youth programs, and supporting a range of communication initiatives.

She quickly realized that civic communication has the power to do more than just inform, it has the power to connect local government with its citizens and creating bonds for an even better community. While rightfully called “Walnut Creek’s head cheerleader,” Vassar considers the two programs she has nurtured and grown over the years – the Citizen’s Institute and CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) – to be her proudest accomplishments.

Citizens completing the Institute get a rare look behind the curtain and see how city departments operate, connect first-hand with city employees, and form a much-need pool of volunteers. The other jewel in her crown, CERT, was started by Vassar in 2004 as the first of its kind in Central Contra Costa County. Organizing and training over 2000 citizen first-responders since its inception, CERT exemplifies her unwavering commitment to solid city and citizen relationships.

Other noteworthy notches? The Centennial Celebration, the Heather Farm Dog Park, the most-watched government YouTube channel in the state, and the first-rate WCTV channel.   
After 18 years of constant planning, organizing, and scheduling around endless deadlines, Vassar’s retirement plans are mostly un-planned. More hours volunteering at ARF, more travel, more time with her two cats and two dogs, more cooking at home. And time to reflect on an experience, and career, for which she is thankful every day. 
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