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Santa Rosa hopes it has finally found the right leader for its gang prevention program.
The city on Monday announced it had hired Santa Rosa native Jason Carter to manage the city’s anti-gang efforts.
He’ll be the sixth person to hold the position since voters in 2004 approved Measure O, the public safety sales tax that funds the program.
Carter, 38, was raised in the city’s low-income Apple Valley neighborhood. He said he dropped out of high school as he struggled with addiction and disillusionment. Now the father of a 10-year-old son, he has worked for several years running programs aimed at-risk youth in Sonoma County.
“Growing up in Santa Rosa and struggling through all the barriers these youth are facing I think helps me really understand what it means to feel disconnected, to feel lost, to feel hopeless,” Carter said.
Carter was most recently a program director at Community Action Partnership, a nonprofit social services organization that strives to eliminate poverty through a variety of early education, health, housing and financial assistance programs.
Beginning in 2007, he worked for Youth Build, which taught at-risk young people construction skills while completing high school.
When that program lost federal funding in 2012, Community Action Partnership helped Carter establish Youth Connections, a series of educational programs for 16- to 24-year-olds.
His community involvement and experience with at-risk youth make him a great fit for the position, said Gloria Hurtado, deputy city manager.
“I’m excited that Jason’s joining the team,” Hurtado said. “He understands collaboration and team-building.”
The city has struggled to find the right person to lead its gang prevention efforts, which are funded largely by 20 percent of the $9 million the city receives annually from the quarter-cent Measure O sales tax.
The first program manager, a university administrator from Michigan hired in 2005 with no experience in gang prevention, quit after less than a year. She was replaced by Ernesto Olivares, a Santa Rosa police lieutenant who ran the program for two years before running for City Council in 2008. Ellen Bailey headed the effort on an interim basis before being named manager in 2010. She retired in 2011.
Then the city hired Bethany Facendini, a naturalist with the East Bay Regional Park District, who quit after five months.
Khaalid Muttaqi was hired in 2013, but moved back to Sacramento last October to direct that city’s gang prevention task force
Carter said he is impressed with the way Santa Rosa’s program recognizes that keeping at risk-youth out of gangs is a communitywide effort.
“I’m a big believer in partnerships and enhancing relationship with other community organizations,” he said.
In addition to volunteering on the boards of several education programs for at-risk youth, such as Restorative Resources and Sonoma County Probation’s Keeping Kids in School, Carter is running for the Sonoma County Board of Education representing Sonoma Valley.
Carter lives in Sonoma and is engaged. He starts Thursday with a salary of $97,991.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 707-521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @srcitybeat.