Department head changes in San Mateo

The recent retirement announcement from City Attorney Shawn Mason and Public Works Director Brad Underwood, along with the recent departure of Community Development director Kohar Kojayan are prompting some changes to San Mateo’s executive staffing, according to the city.

The city is promoting current Deputy Director Azalea Mitch to fill Underwood’s position as interim Public Works director. The Public Works director is responsible for capital improvements and maintenance of San Mateo’s infrastructure. Mitch has worked for San Mateo since 2018 and currently oversees San Mateo’s data management, Wastewater Treatment Plant divisions and the Clean Water Program. Underwood will retire at the end of the year. He started working for San Mateo in 2014 after previously working as Foster City’s Public Works director.

Christina Horrisberger will replace Kojayan as San Mateo’s new Community Development Director after serving as interim director. She has 15 years of municipal experience in San Mateo and Alameda. Horrisberger will be in charge of the Community Development Department, responsible for reviewing applications for new developments, implementing affordable housing policies, administering civic programs, and updating the San Mateo General Plan.

Mason recently announced he would retire in April of 2021 after 18 years of service to the city, during which he was part of significant changes to city ordinances and long-term planning. Mason stated his decision to retire was because he wants to spend more time with his family and to be able to travel and vacation.

“My wife and I had been thinking about it for a while, and it felt like the right time,” Mason said. “We have really enjoyed the community and enjoyed living here,” he said.

Mason has spent a little more than half his career working for San Mateo. It is the longest job he has had as an attorney. Mason has enjoyed working and living in San Mateo and working for the city. He thanked the people he works with for their time and effort over the years. He also thanked the four different city managers for San Mateo for ensuring their respective offices worked together to get things done for the city.

During his time, the most significant change was the San Mateo Rail Corridor Plan and the Bay Meadows redevelopment. When he arrived in early 2003, the city was in the initial planning effort for the Bay Meadows redevelopment. He was part of the planning, design and construction process over the years. Despite setbacks with the Great Recession, the Bay Meadows redevelopment is now close to being finished. He views the project as a significant accomplishment for the city. He also believes San Mateo’s Clean Water Program to address sewage overflows, aging wastewater collection and improving the wastewater treatment plant was an essential step. He says a lot of effort went into the financial planning and finding bonds for the water improvements.

Mason does not expect any changes to the size of personnel of the City Attorney’s Office when he retires. The office has three assistant attorney positions. He also said because their work is focused around advice, contracts and ordinances, he expects the City Attorney’s Office to run as normal, with outside counsel handling any cases or litigation, as usual.

The City Council is now responsible for fulfilling the position. The recruitment process is likely to involve candidate outreach, candidate assessment, initial screening, selecting finalist candidates, interviews and selection. The city will now form a subcommittee made up of two members of the City Council, the city manager and Human Resources. They will work with a recruiter to finalize a candidate list that will appear before the council. The city said the recruitment process would take about five months to complete.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

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(1) comment


Congratulations to all of you.. I remember Mr. Mason as we had a swim team San Mateo Aquatics working out at Joinville back in the 80's. The small kids hung on the ropes because they couldn't touch the pool bottom..Sue as I am sure you will remember as we all did came on deck and proceeded to yell at our coach telling her she would see to it she never coached in San Mateo county again. Tom Mckenzie future coach and Principal Serra and my husband heard this loud comment from Sue...Both dads were on the SMA board and met with you about Sue. You supported the team hopefully telling Sue some firm words of behavior changing..Thank you so much from the whole team that mergged into Golden Gate at the time I won't forget your support .you gave us all... Good luck to all of you I hated loosing Brad Underwood to San Mateo.. You have all had a good career with future retierement days ahead. Thank you from us all.

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