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John Doughty heads for California

by Christy Chalmers

Douglas County’s planning and economic development manager is leaving for California and a good career opportunity.

John Doughty, who has worked for Douglas since January 1994, announced this week he will be leaving Sept. 10 to become the community development director for the city of Watsonville, Calif.

“This was the most difficult decision of my life, and it had everything to do with career opportunities and nothing to do with the community itself,” he said Friday. “I’ll miss this community.”

Doughty, 35, has overseen Douglas County’s redevelopment efforts and managed the planning division of the community development department. Before coming to Douglas County, he worked in Southern California and Florida.

His wife, Tara Hullinger, works for Carson City’s community development department but has secured a job with the city of Salinas, Calif.

Doughty said Tara’s parents live in the Watsonville area, which influenced their decision to move. So did the birth of their new baby, Shane.

“It kind of all tied together,” said Doughty. “It wasn’t an issue of California or not. It was simply, for me, a career opportunity, a great location and being with some family.”

Doughty will oversee a staff of 12. Watsonville, located in Santa Cruz County, has a population of about 35,000 and the city provides police, fire protection, trash pickup, utilities, sewer and water services.

He said the area has strict growth rules, and planning issues focus more on redevelopment than new projects. The growth limits also conflict with a need for more housing.

Those issues are similar to some of Douglas County’s dilemmas. Doughty said he’s pleased with the projects he helped complete during his tenure, including an update of the county master plan and an accompanying development code.

“Those are significant accomplishments that will pave the way for the work to continue,” he said. “I think the thing I’m most proud of is working with Bob (Nunes, community development director) and Dan (Holler, county manager), the ability to create a staff that’s second to none in the state, working with the community and the boards and protecting the interests of the community as a whole.”

A decision on who will replace Doughty as the planning and economic development chief has not been made.

“I hate to lose John. He’s been an absolute asset,” said Nunes. “I’m going to step back and examine the planning department, look at the organization and the structure and see what it is we need. The scope has really grown.”

Doughty’s departure means he will miss the final work on a development plan for Lake Tahoe, as well as plans for preserving open space and agricultural land. He regrets leaving before the work is completed, but is confident both projects will succeed.

“Your plate is never empty and there’s no way to finish all the things you want to finish,” he said. “I have regrets to not be able to see those things finished. But my hope is to have a long career with the city.”