Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Tomorrow, June 3rd 2011 will be my last day officially working for the City of East Palo Alto. While the day will carry itself with a lot of sadness, it will also be a joyful day for several reasons: one of course is that it will provide me as well maybe you, an occasion to reflect on the work that we have done together, or the experiences that we have shared for the twenty-five years or so that I have been associated with the city, neighboring communities, other cities and counties, the state, local universities, non profits throughout the state, the nation and indeed the world; two, the day will represent the proverbial closing of one door and the opening of several other doors, doors that will most inevitably lead to opportunities to continue our work to make the world a better place for every child, woman, man, family and community.
The City, not unlike other public agencies across the county and indeed the nation is grappling with fiscal challenges, challenges that have forced it to revisit how it does business. Not unlike other agencies it has been forced to restructure its organization and in the process it found it necessary to eliminate in some cases and consolidate into other existing departments in others. My department as well as two others were the most impacted.
Cities/Public Agencies are facing enormous challenges. It was therefore of little surprise that early this year, the State of the Silicon Valley Conference dedicated its entire discourse on the choices that cities/public agencies are faced with in this new world where previous strategies of raising revenue through taxes and fees or cutting back expenses through the elimination of programs etc have become less and less viable options, because quality of life in the valley would be seriously compromised. In the short term however those seem to be, for certain mindsets, the only options. The conference reminded all of us that we are the Silicon Valley, the place that is known for having the most creative minds, minds that over the years zeroed in on problems and created solutions that have dramatically transformed the wellbeing of practically every human being on this earth. The call was for the same innovative light to be shown on the problems faced by cities such that solutions are created that lead to an enhancement of services provided to the public in entirely unique ways without compromising residents quality of life.
We live in exciting and challenging times. The question however, is, will we rise to the challenge? I think we will.
In the meantime, to the questions: What will you do now, Meda? The answer is real simple, not “Go to Disneyland,” as oft is the answer in certain circles, but something similar. Go to Malindi and lie on its sandy beaches for a while, and let the ocean waves help calm my spirit and prepare me for the next chapter in OUR lives.
Thank you for the support that you have provided me over the years, the challenges you have put on my path, the accolades that have helped fuel my determination, and the well wishes that you have already showered me with (and those yet to come).
Meda O. Okelo
Community Services Director
2277 University Avenue
East Palo Alto, CA 94303
To see a January 2010 video interview with Meda Okelo, on the Talking with Henrietta show, click here.