When I drive to the Post Office on Nevada Street or pick up a few plants at Eisley’s Nursery, I’m reminded how fast time flies. I always smile when I see the ten tall trees in a row like brave sentinels guarding the Domes on the corner of Fulweiler Avenue and Nevada Street.

Twelve years ago on Arbor Day, volunteers, including my Dad and me, helped plant those trees. A family with two small boys asked us to help dig a couple of holes and shovel in the life-giving soil around the young trees. After we helped plant them, my Dad and I walked the undulating hills and twisting roads of Auburn talking to residents about the future of our town. Three days later, residents elected me to serve my first term on the Auburn City Council.

Over the last twelve years, I’ve had the honor to work with seven Councilmembers, three City Managers, two City Attorneys, three Police Chiefs, four Public Works Directors, one Fire Chief and many dedicated employees at the city. This dynamic team worked with service clubs, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, business associations and volunteers who linked arms to improve the quality of life in Auburn.

We built the Central Square streetscape project, which expanded outdoor dining and shopping and shows off our unique history. We built the Conheim Train and Bus Station, 4.3 acre School Park Preserve and installed 300 solar panels at our wastewater treatment plant to save ratepayers $1.3 million in energy costs. New sidewalks provide safe routes for young students to Alta Vista, Skyridge and E.V. Cain schools.

We restored our historic firehouses, constructed rows of hangers at Auburn Municipal Airport, expanded our green waste program and the display of public art. Helping to fund the 1930s-style marque for the State Theater provided a big boost to the amazing volunteers who have brought this wonderful entertainment venue to life.

In Project Auburn, we painted houses and planted trees throughout our town. We beat out eight other cities to locate the Sierra Nevada Conservancy headquarters in Auburn. We won a Clean Air Award for the Sacramento region, hosted the Amgen bike race start, and won two consecutive awards for superb management of our wastewater treatment plant. Co-founding the Think Auburn First marketing campaign has helped our small businesses.

We crafted ordinances that preserves our historic buildings in Old Town and Downtown, native trees in new developments, protect residents from dangerous dogs, keeps pot shops out of town, eliminates abandoned vehicles and trash and protects homeowners and small business owners from potential eminent domain abuse. Ordinances to allow for short term rentals and B & B’s will boost tourism.

Spearheading the Performance-Based Budget and Transparency in Bargaining policy gives resident the power to watch with an eagle eye how our taxpayer dollars are being spent. The Auburn 2020 Plan that I put forward last week is key to helping the city adequately pay for road repair, maintain our 30% General Fund Reserve, expand the streetscape program and economic development.

My greatest sense of accomplishment has been to co-creating the Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council and working closely with our Fire Chief to remove dangerous wood fuel from hundreds of acres along the 11-mile Shaded Fuel Break and the interior sections of town. While leading work parties of hundreds of residents in dragging wood branches in the hot sun on forty-five degree slopes to a wood chipper while dodging poison oak may not seem like fun, the camaraderie among neighbors in this good work cannot be measured. Our Shaded Fuel Break project was named by Pepperdine University as one of the best California public-private partnerships.

As I retire from the Auburn City Council on December 2, I will certainly miss it. But I believe as our country’s founders did that we can only have a citizen-led government if we have “rotation in office.” A politician who believes he or she is indispensable is a danger to our freedom. In our Republic, a private citizen can be just as effective as elected officials in pressing for good public policy. That’s what I intend to do.

As an elected official, my wife Hattie and I got a chance to meet so many wonderful people. The 18th century poet Thomas Gray best expresses my gratitude:

[blockQuote position=”center”]Sweet is the breath of vernal shower,
The bee’s collected treasures sweet,
Sweet music’s melting fall, but sweeter yet
The still small voice of gratitude.[/blockQuote]

Kevin Hanley is the CEO of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce. His views are his own.