The Elk Grove City Council on Oct. 14 named Sergio Robles as the city’s new planning commissioner.
Robles, 27, filled the vacancy left by Frank Maita, who resigned on Aug. 28, after serving in that position for 14 years.
As an active member of the community, Robles has worked in the office of U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, and assisted various nonprofits in Elk Grove and Sacramento. He is also a foundation board member of the Florin Road Partnership and a member of the City of Refuge Sacramento board, and he has assisted the Sacramento Tree Foundation.
Council Member Darren Suen spoke in support of Robles, who has lived in Elk Grove for the past 11 years.
“His passion and his experience at the state, federal and local level, I think will bring a lot to our city,” he said.
Vice Mayor Steve Detrick mentioned that in addition to his qualifications, Robles also fills a void in the commission.
“With the new district voting, one of the (council’s) goals is to try to have a balance with our appointments, by district,” he said.
Under the council’s new “by-district” election system, residents can only vote for Elk Grove City Council candidates who are running in their local council district. Council members were previously elected by voters across the city.
Detrick noted that his District 3 was the only district that was not represented by a planning commissioner. Robles lives within that district, which covers the Camden area and north Elk Grove’s Power Inn Road area, as well as part of eastern Laguna.
Robles, who was selected from an applicant pool of 16 candidates, said that he is passionate about providing service in his community.
“I’ve always wanted to work locally,” he said. “I think the local work is the best kind of rewarding (service) that one could have.”
Robles told the Citizen that he became inspired to apply to become a planning commissioner after speaking to Maita about the growth of the city and helping to meet its demands through the Planning Commission.
He noted that among the local issues that most interest him is job creation, so people can “stay here locally.”
While addressing the council prior to his appointment, Robles spoke about the city’s growth and a need for the city to be “good stewards of our land.”
“This includes understanding conditional-use permits, staying up to date with the development that is occurring on the Southeast Policy Area, focusing on the rural-residential areas, and understanding the transit development that is occurring and is taking place along Kammerer Road,” he said.
The Texas-born Robles lived in Minnesota before spending his formative years in the Sacramento-Elk Grove area.
His educational background includes graduating from Hiram Johnson High School and earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from California State University, Northridge.
Robles said that he is looking forward to his service on the commission.
“I’m excited for this opportunity and I’m going to do my very best to represent District 3,” he said. “And I’m going to be doing a lot of learning and asking a lot of questions, ensuring that the people of Elk Grove are represented.”
Marie Jachino executive director of Elk Grove Food Bank Services, said that the food bank staff recommended Robles to fill the vacancy left by Maita’s departure.
“We always maintain an apolitical stance and I can’t ever recommend anybody, but I had to with Sergio,” she said. “I think he’s just a wonderful young man. One of the things that I like about him is he’s truly grounded and humble. He’s not self-serving and I find him (to be) honest, with a lot of integrity. I think he’s dedicated and will do an excellent job.”
In replacing Maita on the Planning Commission, Robles said that he has “some big shoes to fill.”
“He’s a fountain of knowledge, just the way (he served) with integrity and honor,” he said.
Maita speaks about his longtime service as a planning commissioner
Maita told the Citizen last week that there was no single reason why he decided to resign from the Elk Grove Planning Commission.
“I look at it kind of like a scale and you’re probably at your lightest weight when you’re first appointed,” he said. “After that first day, pebbles start dropping on the other side of that scale. So, over time, (the scale) is past the balance. I think that’s what happened to me in a sense. Over the years, no one big thing precipitated a resignation. But just a lot of small things over time.”
Maita said that he was originally appointed to the commission in 2006 by then-City Council Member Sophia Scherman. He was the longest-serving commissioner among the five commissioners. George Murphey was also appointed in 2006, but after Maita joined the commission.
Maita noted that in working with other commissioners he tried to have them understand Elk Grove’s past as a tool for progressing into the future.
He also mentioned that he held an interest in protecting the business community and using as little regulation as possible when it came to issues that would interfere with people’s lives.
“Certainly, you need some (regulation),” he added.
Maita additionally recalled keeping an open door to applicants.
“I always made myself accessible,” he said. “I think it’s important to make yourself available.”
Since stepping down, Maita has received various expressions of gratitude for his service from people who he respects, he noted.
Maita also recognized his relationship with city staff, as well as the value of his longtime experience as a commissioner.
“(Knowledge) is one of the benefits of the longevity of being there,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of gratitude for the experience. It was a unique experience and a unique responsibility. Had I said, no, I wouldn’t have experienced any of that.”