Pleasanton city attorney, librarian say farewell

Jonathan Lowell, Julie Farnsworth retiring after years of public service

Pleasanton City Attorney Jonathan Lowell and Librarian Julie Farnsworth are retiring this month, leaving the city in better shape as a result of their service.

Farnsworth is the senior of the two, having served here for nearly 13 years. She was deputy county librarian for the Santa Clara County Library System when she was hired in late January 2003 and has seen the Pleasanton Library grow from 979,433 checkouts a year to 1.4 million today -- a 49% increase.

Under her direction, numerous programs and services have also grown, including free career/resume professional advice, daily conversation classes for those learning English, Excel spreadsheet training, Sunday music programs, family programs featuring music from around the world, and multiple programs and tools that teach new parents how to best foster their child's development and learning.

All this and a 20% decrease in staff during the same period.

This year, more than 563,000 people came through the library, compared to 391,000 when Farnsworth started. At times now, the library is filled to capacity, sometimes to the detriment of quiet reading. In response, she has been a strong advocate of building a larger library to serve a population that has increased by 12%.

Because of her efforts and those who also want a larger city hall and civic center, an exploratory Civic Center/Library Committee is now evaluating options for expanding or rebuilding these city facilities. Farnsworth has been a major force on that committee.

Farnsworth is headed off to be an executive coach for other library directors and managers as business manager for her daughter's company, Azalyne Studios, while also volunteering to teach social and emotional intelligence skills to children.

"It has been a privilege to work with my colleagues and staff to provide outstanding customer service to our community," Farnsworth said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to have served."

Lowell is retiring after more than 30 years practicing municipal law, including the last six as Pleasanton's city attorney. He started his local government career in the Tri-Valley as the assistant city attorney in Livermore, taking the Pleasanton post after serving as city attorney in San Luis Obispo. He was also president of the League of California Cities city attorneys' department.

A highlight of his work here was resolving the Urban Habitat lawsuit filed against Pleasanton that scuttled the city's housing cap and led to an agreement to build more affordable and market-rate apartments to meet the state's Regional Housing Needs Assessment requirements. Through his negotiating success, Pleasanton maintained its authority over land-use decisions.

Much of a city attorney's work is done at the negotiating table and behind the scenes in closed-door meetings with the City Council where Lowell provides legal advice in confidence to guide city government decisions. That has kept much of his public exposure to sitting quietly at council meeting after council meeting, with almost no reportable comments.

"For the future, I plan to travel, spend time with family and explore charitable activities that interest me," said Lowell, who leaves office today. "I thank the people of Pleasanton, the City Council and city staff for the opportunity to be of service to them."


5 people like this
Posted by Al
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2015 at 2:39 pm

The Pleasanton Library is just the best. When I've had time, I've been a heavy user, and ALL my interactions there have been so positive and helpful. And the books: it's just wonderland for me.

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