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Oakley Mayor Randy Pope, talks during the City Council meeting in Oakley, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. Pope, who joined the City Council three years ago, would like to get his colleagues on the council voting on two of his primary goals, restoring the planning commission and turn the city's contract police department into a municipal one.(Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)
Randy Pope
Randy Pope ( Dan Rosenstrauch/Staff))

OAKLEY -- He's demonstrated during his first term in office that he's an independent thinker, and Randy Pope plans to challenge the status quo this year as well.

As Oakley's new mayor, he has two top goals for 2014: Bring back the planning commission and initiate the process of severing ties with the county sheriff's office so the city can form its own police department.

Pope wants to encourage more residents to get involved in local government and he sees a planning commission as one way of doing that.

"I think it's our duty as citizens. (If you don't participate), then you're not an educated voter," he said.

A previous City Council disbanded the original planning commission in 2009, citing the drop in housing starts as one of its reasons. But with developers showing renewed interest in Oakley these days, Pope thinks it makes sense to run proposed projects by a handful of individuals who can advise the council on their merits.

Pope readily acknowledges that he doesn't yet know whether he has enough votes on the council to establish another planning commission, however. And if he tried to leverage his new title to win support -- a notion he rejects -- he doubts it would work.

"Some people have thought that the (mayor's position) is bigger than it actually is in Oakley, that the title gives you some real authority to dictate your wishes and march around City Hall like you're the emperor," Pope said, noting that his role is largely ceremonial.


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The matter is slated for discussion at the City Council's Jan. 28 meeting.

Pope also hopes in 2014 to jump start the long process of transitioning from a contract city of the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office to one that operates its own police department.

Although Pope is quick to compliment the sheriff's deputies who patrol Oakley's streets, he says the problem is that they don't stick around.

They'll become familiar with the community's problems only to leave after a few years either because they're rotating into another position within the sheriff's department or because they received a promotion, he said.

"We lose all that experience," Pope said.

Oakley would save money if it provided police services in-house, in part because it wouldn't have to spend so much on training and also because he says the county builds a lot of overhead costs into its contract that the city might be able to reduce if it controlled the purse strings.

The autonomy also could further Pope's goal of encouraging civic participation: Oakley could set up a reserves program and a citizen police academy offering residents a glimpse of the department's inner workings.

But the transition will take time -- the city must give the county a full year's notice before terminating the contract, Pope said.

He also wants Oakley to have parades once again, this time down Main Street.

The traditional expression of Americana disappeared with the Almond Festival in 2012, but Pope envisions incorporating the event into some other citywide celebration.

When Pope isn't about the people's business or at his full-time job as a sergeant for Oakland Police Department, the 41-year old is busy with his three children, who range in age from 3 to 8.

A beekeeping enthusiast, he maintains about a dozen hives around Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

In addition, Pope enjoys "everything to do with the outdoors" from tooling around on forest service roads or fire trails in his 1976 Jeep to camping, canoeing, trout fishing and scuba diving, including an annual trip to the North Coast in search of abalone.

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.