TRPA’s Singlaub reflects on career; he resigned Friday | SierraSun.com

TRPA’s Singlaub reflects on career; he resigned Friday

Adam Jensen
Sun News Service

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. ” Sitting on a black leather couch in his soon-to-be former office on Thursday afternoon, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Executive Director John Singlaub seemed unusually relaxed.

Gone was the furrowed brow and clenched teeth that characterized his demeanor during a seemingly endless succession of tense debates at TRPA meetings over the past five years.

Gone, too, were the hordes of South Shore residents who blamed Singlaub and the TRPA’s policies for the devastating effects of the Angora fire in June 2007.

Singlaub announced his resignation in January; today will be his last day on the job.

“It feels good,” Singlaub said, adding that his departure has caused him both relief and uncertainty.

Initially surprised by the outpouring of anger following the fire, Singlaub said he considers the reaction to be primarily a result of people’s need to place blame for the blaze.

He contends the anger was largely misdirected, but acknowledges the TRPA could have done a better job to inform homeowners about the agency’s erosion control regulations.

Getting wildfire prevention guides into the hands of homeowners and assisting in the creation of the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team are measures the TRPA has taken that Singlaub hopes will help prevent a similar communication breakdown in the future.

The team has created an unprecedented level of coordination between basin fire chiefs and the TRPA, Singlaub said.

Despite the communication gap with residents ahead of the fire, Singlaub counts improvements in customer service and streamlined permitting processes among the successes during his tenure at the helm of the TRPA.

“People bring cookies to the people at the front counter now,” Singlaub said. “That was unheard of before.”

He said he will miss a staff he described as “wonderful” and “dedicated.”

Singlaub recognized he’s leaving the agency at a time when it still faces significant challenges, including passing a regional plan update that will spell out the nature of development at Lake Tahoe during the next 20 years, and implementing shorezone ordinances facing legal challenges from both sides of the debate. But the nature of the agency means there really is no good time to leave, he said.

Although Singlaub cited the “relentlessly grinding” nature of the executive director position in his resignation letter, he couldn’t say if the job contributed to his divorce ” which was finalized in December 2007.

He said he had always prided himself on keeping his personal and professional lives separate and recommended anyone who takes the position to keep that “life-work balance.”

At 58, Singlaub said he isn’t ready to fully retire and will likely work part- time while continuing to live in Zephyr Cove.

He said he is unlikely to join TRPA ex-patriots who have gone on to help others weave their way through the agency’s regulations.

Going to Colorado to ski and visit his mother, through-hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail and circumnavigating the lake with a kayak are among his first priorities after leaving the public eye, Singlaub said.

Although he is just one of many who bear responsibility for the future of Lake Tahoe, Singlaub said he thinks his legacy will ultimately be a positive one.

“I truly believe that we are on the right path,” Singlaub said. “My hope is ” in time ” that will be proven.”