Palo Alto hires new chief transportation official, taps new fire chief | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto hires new chief transportation official, taps new fire chief

Philip Kamhi will return to City Hall to lead transportation operations; Geoffrey 'Geo' Blackshire to serve as fire chief on permanent basis

Palo Alto City Manager Ed Shikada announced Thursday that he has filled two critical leadership positions at City Hall, tapping interim Fire Chief Geoffrey "Geo" Blackshire for the permanent fire chief's job and selecting Philip Kamhi to serve as the chief transportation official.

Neither of the two newly appointed department leaders will need much of an orientation. Blackshire, a former middle school teacher, has been in the department since 1997 and has gradually worked his way up the ranks to become deputy chief of operations and support services. Kamhi had previously served as Palo Alto's transportation planning manager, a senior position in the Department of Planning and Community Environment that oversees residential parking programs and transportation-demand-management efforts.

Blackshire's appointment was widely expected. He has been leading the Fire Department since his predecessor, Eric Nickel, departed in January to accept the fire chief position in Santa Barbara. As the department's leading logistics specialist, Blackshire has managed the department's strategic plan, overseen the reconstruction of the Embarcadero Road fire station and developed multiple emergency-response deployment models, according to the city's announcement.

Once his appointment is confirmed by the City Council on Aug. 5, he will become the city's first African American fire chief. He will oversee a department of 104 personnel and a $32 million budget, according to a city news release.

In the announcement, Shikada lauded Blackshire for demonstrating a "particular commitment to workforce safety and wellness, diversity and inclusion, service and responsibility." He will receive a salary of $258,000, according to the city.

"The Palo Alto Fire Department is a world-class fire department verified by national accreditation and confirmed by the community's acknowledgment of the excellent customer service provided by the firefighters," Blackshire said in the statement. "My goal is to continue this tradition by being a collaborative partner with City leadership and the community."

Kamhi's return to City Hall follows a lengthy recruitment process that began shortly after Palo Alto's last chief transportation official, Joshuah Mello, resigned in August 2018. Even though Kamhi has been away from City Hall for only 15 months, he will be returning to a very different environment, with a new city manager in place and a larger and more robust transportation operation.

Over the past year, the city has established a new Office of Transportation with a staff of 13.5 positions (before, the transportation division was nestled within the planning department). The city plans to add two more positions to the office this year, a transportation engineer and a parking manager who will help administer the city's patchwork of residential parking programs. As the head of the new office, Kamhi will help lead the City Council's pending effort to simplify and reform, a task for which he will likely benefit from his experiences in his first stint at City Hall.

He will also be charged with steering the long-planned expansion of Palo Alto's shuttle program; the implementation of the city's bicycle and pedestrian master plan; and the council's plan to redesign the city's four rail crossings.

Kamhi left the city in spring 2018 to take a job at the Bay Area Rapid Transit, where he is currently managing fleet decommissioning, according to the city. Prior to coming to his initial stint in Palo Alto, Kamhi had managed transportation programs for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Riverside Transit Agency. He has also served in Solano County and the city of Fairfield. He is set to begin in his new position on Aug. 19, according to the news release, and will receive a salary of $190,000.

Kamhi said in a statement that he is "honored to take on this leadership role and to return to Palo Alto with an excellent team of staff that is dedicated to improving transportation."

"The Palo Alto community appreciates the impact transportation decisions have on the quality of their lives and I look forward to working with them and the Palo Alto City Council to achieve solutions to bring positive change," Kamhi said.


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59 people like this
Posted by Gnar
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jul 18, 2019 at 1:13 pm

Hopefully they stop screwing up our roads by eliminating all but one lane and forcing a bike utopia on us that no one asked for. Looking at you Ross Road and Charleston. Roads should not be "creative"., and the majority of us can't just bike our way to work and back.

58 people like this
Posted by Tired of This
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2019 at 1:51 pm

Because Kahmi did such a great job managing Palo Alto's parking programs? When is Palo Alto going to start hiring people to just make the city run efficiently instead of to use the city as a test-bed for some sort of bizarre social engineering experiment?

18 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2019 at 2:31 pm

Too much speeding and other dangerous driving on our streets right now. We need to reclaim our street safety.

3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2019 at 2:34 pm

Gnar, roadway capacity is often limited by the capacity of intersections. Arastradero and Foothill is a good example. It isn't as simple.

>> Hopefully they stop screwing up our roads by eliminating all but one lane

Web Link

44 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 18, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Since PA's press release praised Kahmi for his expertise in "decommissioning" old rr cars, maybe he could start "decommissioning" some of his predecessor's more egregious "improvements" such as road furniture, bollards, giant Botts dots, roundabouts etc. that impede through traffic. Decommissioning many of those "improvements" would also restore some the much-needed parking spots and get his new and improved parking program off to a stellar start.

12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2019 at 4:17 pm

I send best of luck message to the traffic management. Start with helping those who need to park to find parking, rather than making it more difficult. We have been told about electronic signage at garages and yet none have appeared. We need to have phone parking apps to help find parking and pay for parking. We need meters and we need 30 minute spots. We need off ramp parking with dedicated shuttles. This is silicon valley and we need to use more technology to aid infrastructure work, not road blocks and confusing zones.

13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 18, 2019 at 5:40 pm

The "impediments" people are complaining about in these comments are meant TO SLOW DOWN TRAFFIC in the interest of SAFETY for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians, which means for you and your kids. They actually make sense. Now, if folks could learn not to speed through roundabouts and to yield properly, things would go more smoothly.

29 people like this
Posted by merry
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 18, 2019 at 6:47 pm

merry is a registered user.

Good luck! Whatta mess.
Perhaps we have identity crisis.
Trying to be a bicycle town
In a city that needs a car and PARKING!

18 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 18, 2019 at 8:35 pm

Why is it always necessary to tag people ‘African American’ - can’t Geoffrey just be a person. Phillip isn’t tagged. When do we get to a place where people aren’t labeled for their race or ethnicity. I thought the goal was people are people and we don’t treat people differently because of the color of their skin.
I find it offensive and unfair to Geoffrey. If we want to welcome Geoffrey, let’s not tag him. If Geoffrey were your guest for dinner, I don’t think you would introduce him as our African American dinner guest, Geoffrey. At least I hope not.
Let’s try to make some progress with this racism thing.

10 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 18, 2019 at 9:41 pm

My complaint is about the rise of rideshare drivers, many of whom drive terribly here, likely are not from the local area, and stop suddenly at corners while closely looking at their phones in hand. They have no concern whatsoever for the wellbeingnof Palo Alto, it’s residents, drivers, pedestrians, cyclists. They need strict oversight - somehow.

10 people like this
Posted by Rolling Eyes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2019 at 11:54 pm

@George: The article states, "he will become the city's first African American fire chief." This is not a racist comment, it's supposed to be a compliment to him. I'm so tired of everyone pulling the race card.

With The Squad in office now, it's no longer offensive to call someone a racist because it's so irresponsibly overused. It was the ultimate insult but now we are immune to it. And Jussie Smullett did such a disservice to the blacks; now, we all question.

I hope Shikada made some good hires. Time will tell.

18 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2019 at 7:05 am

To label is to define a separate and special class - this is what most people fail to understand. Non-whites and whites, for example. Tagging’ of people assigns them to groups. It’s an act of separation - or segregation, inherently racist. These days, it’s used by so-called social activists for particular effect or advantage.
Here’s the definition of segregation: the action or state of setting someone or something apart from other people or things or being set apart, the enforced separation of different racial groups in a country, community, or establishment.

People have been using artful tagging so much these days that the country is at each other’s throats. In most cases, it’s done for political, social, and/or financial advantage and this creates disunity and a fragmenting society.

You are right, #rolling eyes, we’re all sick of people charging racism. That’s my point.

17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2019 at 7:22 am

I agree with George. Tribalism and identity politics is getting tiresome.

The fire chief has two eyes, two ears, two arms, two legs, hey he is just like me.

9 people like this
Posted by PAFD Firefighter
a resident of Mayfield
on Jul 19, 2019 at 7:59 am

Congratulations to Blackshire! A great choice. He will do a great job. He's a firefighters' fire chief. Retired Deputy Chief Capriles was all set to be the anointed one but the fire truck scandal a year or so back put and end to that. Ultimately the community is getting a much better chief in the end and a department free of some of the politics and nonsense from before.

8 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 19, 2019 at 10:51 am

And speaking of the Embarcadero fire station project, what's the status of that? It started out quickly and looked like it was going well, but for the past few months it appears to be frozen in place. What's going on? Is it on schedule? On budget? And when will it be done? And congratulations to both the new Chief and our new Transportation Director. I wish them well in their new positions. This can be a tough town to work in/for! High expectations; strong opinions!

6 people like this
Posted by Welcome, Philip Kamhi.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2019 at 12:26 pm

It's nice to see Philip Kamhi returning. He was a dedicated, thoughtful manager in his previous role.

14 people like this
Posted by Yep
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 22, 2019 at 3:24 pm

The mass exodus of qualified, professional, and community minded city employees who resigned or retired under the reins of former city managers Bennest and Keene are long gone and are happily retired or serving other communities. What a waste of institutional knowledge. The new city manager Shikada is only following in their footsteps with appointing unqualified managers who will only create the unfortunate same results. Oh well....

2 people like this
Posted by bike lanes
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 23, 2019 at 2:19 am

I would like to see bike lanes on Embarcadero. I live very close and its a main road for bicyclists/pedestrians which connects our neighborhoods to schools, grocery stores, and so many of our city's amenities, but have to bike on narrow sidewalks and encounter so many blind corners, in addition to speeding and turning cars. University Ave already has bike lanes, why hasn't Embarcadero gotten them yet?

14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 23, 2019 at 9:43 am

@Bike lanes, why isn't Embarcadero a bike lane?

Maybe because it's already gridlocked for most of the day, with backups extending for many blocks -- a situation that will only get worse if Casti and Stanford are allowed to expand.

Maybe because parents and teachers have spent many years and many $$$$$ trying to route kids AWAY from the busiest, most dangerous streets?

Maybe because it's also one of only 3 -- THREE -- access roads to 101 at a time when we're already over-run by commuters and this this area is supposed to absorb many more commuters due to the never-ending office construction?

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