The city of Portola has a new city manager, Lauren Knox, who has returned to the community she grew up loving.
Knox (then Lauren Barrera) moved to Portola at the age of 4, with parents hoping that a move away from the Bay Area would provide a better childhood. “Growing up, I was very involved in gymnastics, cheerleading and basketball, although I wasn’t very good at that last one thanks to my height,” Knox said with a smile.
Knox attended Portola High School and said that she really enjoyed staying busy through those years, graduating with the Class of 2008 as valedictorian and student body president.
From there, Knox attended college at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, ultimately graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in City and Regional Planning with an Environmental Management minor.
“While in college I found I missed the mountains, and after graduating I ended up in the Reno area,” Knox explained. “I received an opportunity to be an intern in the Planning Division at the city of Reno at a time that we were coming out of the recession.”
Knox went on, “I was really surprised to have an opportunity to work in the field that I had gone to school for, so I felt very fortunate. We were incredibly short staffed there at the time so I was able to do a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t have as an intern elsewhere, and I learned a ton about city planning and also about how city government functions in general.”
Shortly after Knox started working at the city of Reno, she received another internship offer, this time with the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency (TMRPA) doing work with geographic information systems.
Knox worked dual internships until she landed a full-time position with TMRPA as a regional planner. She worked in this capacity for five years, ultimately becoming the senior planner.
“At Regional Planning we had a lot of exposure to various aspects of government service through the coordination with the three local governments, Reno, Sparks and Washoe County, and other entities including the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County and the Western Regional Water Commission,” Knox explained.
Knox and her husband began to discuss a change of scenery after the birth of their son, with a lot of focus on how they wanted him to grow up and the type of community they wanted to live in.
“I have always felt blessed to have grown up in Portola, as it is a community that was close knit and supportive, and I knew I wanted that for my child as well,” Knox said. “Being a part of this community growing up really allowed me to get involved in so many different types of things, that I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to do elsewhere.”
In a serendipitous turn of events, Knox came upon the opening for the position of city manager in Portola not long after, discussions began.
“I always thought that moving back to my hometown meant that I had to either give up my career, or change career paths, considering my education in planning is pretty specific and there aren’t a ton of opportunities in this field,” Knox smiled.
“That’s when I stumbled upon this position and was excited to find an amazing opportunity that would allow me to advance not only my career goals, but my personal goal of moving back to Portola for myself and for my family,” she said.
On top of that, Knox’s husband also received a career advancing opportunity that moved his territory to the Portola area. “It was one of those moments when the stars just seemed to align for us,” Knox went on. “I thought it was a huge long shot, so I was honored to be offered the position.”
With her return to her hometown, Knox hopes to bring the city consistency along with fresh ideas for moving the community forward. Knox also hopes to lead the city in a positive direction and help in maintaining a community that residents are proud and happy to be a part of.
“I think we would all agree that the quality of life for Portola’s residents is of the utmost importance, and I hope to help the city to push the quality of life in a positive way,” Knox said.
“Also, I view my job in government service as just that, service. I hope to serve our residents, the city council, and the city staff as much as I can, and I hope to provide steadfast, honest, and conscientious leadership to the community and to city staff.”
Moving forward, Knox’s top priority is to help the council in implementing its goals and priorities. The health and safety of the community is also a top priority, as it is the fundamental component of government.
Another priority is to work on community engagement and ensuring that community members are heard.
Lastly, a major goal for Knox will be making Portola as resilient as possible to be able to better withstand any setbacks, whether it be fiscal, environmental or anything else that the City may endure in the future.
Knox encouraged the community to get involved, saying, “I am open to new thoughts and ideas that help our community to move forward, and I will gladly have a conversation with anyone that would like to talk.”