Creating a City, Building Community

Rancho Cordova, CA  |  Story by Shaunna Boyd
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Curt Haven was one of the individuals who spearheaded the incorporation of Rancho Cordova, and as he prepared for retirement from the public sector he looked back on nearly 25 years of serving this community. Photo provided by the City of Rancho Cordova.

Reflecting on the Distinguished Career of Curt Haven

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) - “How many times do you get to create a city in your life?” Curt Haven was one of the individuals who spearheaded the incorporation of Rancho Cordova, and as he prepared for retirement from the public sector he looked back on nearly 25 years of serving this community. “Rancho Cordova means a lot to me,” he said.

Haven was hired as the executive director of the Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce in 1995 and started working on the incorporation effort in 1997, assisting Bob McGarvey (current mayor of Rancho Cordova) on the incorporation committee. Haven chaired the incorporation campaign committee from 2001 – 2002. “We were a committee of citizens,” he said. “It was a very grassroots effort…The community really got behind it, and the majority voted for cityhood.”

After the vote for incorporation passed in November 2002, Haven said, “I thought I was done.” But the city’s first mayor, Dave Roberts, and the members of the first City Council—Linda Budge, Bob McGarvey, David Sander, and Ken Cooley (now an Assemblymember representing California’s 8th district)—asked him to stay. The newly elected Council wouldn’t have any real power until cityhood officially went into effect in July 2003, and Haven acted as chair of the Council until that time.

Haven spoke wistfully of the early days of cityhood. The City had a small office—“We were just a desk, basically”—tucked away in a corner of the office of the Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce. He joked that his wife’s credit card financed the start of the city, as he charged the cost of paper and pens and other necessities to keep their small office operating.

The first Council meetings had a certain electric excitement, and Haven remembers many meetings that went from 5:30 PM until 1:00 AM, discussing options for land use and planning new communities such as Anatolia and Kavala Ranch: “I’ll never forget that. It was really exciting.”

They spent a lot of time interviewing City managers and attorneys, creating the team of people who would shape the City. Haven said, “We just grew the department, and grew the City from there…That was 16 years ago, and it’s been a fabulous ride since then.”

Haven was the first official employee hired by the City of Rancho Cordova. He took on a leadership role as the director of economic development—overseeing redevelopment, housing, and neighborhood services. Haven explained that because they were creating a brand new City government, they could be creative: “When you’re new, you can be different…Financially the City is so strong because we do it differently and more efficiently.” 

Haven is proud of the city’s strong economy: “Rancho Cordova is the second-largest job center in the region. We’ve been able to maintain and grow that. We’ve brought in hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs. We’re really known as an economic powerhouse in the region.”

By cleaning up blight, eliminating hundreds of substandard housing units, and removing corrupt landlords, Haven was able to improve the standard of living for many people. “We strengthened the existing community in many ways,” he said, and those efforts brought thousands of new families to the city.

Haven said he feels comfortable retiring from public service now “because I’ve accomplished what I set out to do…I stood in front of this community as a resident, as a citizen…and I said ‘Cityhood will improve Rancho Cordova. Local control is the answer.’ And because I pushed for it, I wanted to ensure that promise was kept…And we’ve done it. So I can go do something else now.”

For more than 40 years, Haven has lived in Rancho Cordova, building the community and raising his family. And quality time with his family is at the top of Haven’s to-do list after retirement. He wants to spend more time with his wife Marjorie and their three grown children and four grandchildren. He also wants to spend more time with his parents. “I want to be there for all of them. But we’ve always been active in the Rancho Cordova community, and we always will be. It’s our home.”

Haven views his retirement as “a new beginning.” He said, “I’d like to do some consulting and work with non-profits and government agencies that strengthen communities. I want to give to the community and give to the region. It’s a big world out there. There is lots to do.”

On January 22, Mayor McGarvey presented Haven with a proclamation honoring his loyalty and commitment to Rancho Cordova. It was a bittersweet goodbye, with many in attendance moved to tears—including Haven himself, who said, “This is where my heart is.”

Councilmember Linda Budge said, “None of us have adequate words…We wouldn’t be where we are without you.” Vice Mayor David Sander echoed that sentiment: “This City would not exist without Curt Haven …And the tens of thousands of people who live in this City and have a better quality of life because of it have you to thank.”

At the annual Business Outlook and Economic Forecast on January 31, the Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce honored Haven for his dedicated service to the community. Haven officially retired on February 1, concluding a distinguished public service career and embarking on the next chapter of his life.