Cherise Brandell, a 19-year employee of Battle Creek, Michigan, has been hired as Menlo Park's "community engagement" director -- a new full-time position formed to make the city's decision-making process more inclusive.
Ms. Brandell, 50, currently has a similar job in Battle Creek, serving as the director of the city's Neighborhood Services Department since 2003. She's worked in the areas of public information and community engagement for the city of 55,000 residents since 1989.
Ms. Brandell will start in the new Menlo Park position on May 12, according to Menlo Park Personnel Director Glen Kramer. She will be paid about $101,000 per year -- an increase from the $75,000 a year she made in Battle Creek.
The Menlo Park City Council earmarked funds for the community engagement post during its 2007-08 budget discussions last June as part of a larger effort to improve government transparency.
"Clearly, there's a lot of interest [in Menlo Park about government and people having a say, and that's really exciting," Ms. Brandell told The Almanac, noting that she attended the city's March 6 El Camino Real community workshop, and was "wowed" by the some 100 people that attended the meeting.
In Battle Creek, residents regularly meet with neighborhood services staff to raise any issues and concerns, and the department ensures the issues get proper attention from the city, Ms. Brandell said.
She said besides improving the relationship between neighbors and local government, the department has worked with residents to design new recreation facilities, prioritize street repairs and other infrastructure improvements, and increase accountability around rental properties.