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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The master planner retires

Robert Martinelli, vice president administrative services, goes back to work in his office after back to back meetings. He retires in July.
Robert Martinelli, vice president administrative services, goes back to work in his office after back to back meetings. He retires in July.

With the academic year winding down, I once again sat across from his desk, reporter’s notebook in hand. Binders filled with years of budgets, proposals, plans and agendas still sat on the built-in shelves surrounding the room. There is something about sitting across from Vice President Administrative Services Robert Martinelli that inclines me to straighten my posture. This time the subject of my report was not about construction timelines or cafeteria contracts—my assignment was about him. After almost 14 years at City College, the master planner was set to retire.

The first question was a simple one: “What did you do before you came to City College?” Always prepared, Martinelli quietly slid me a two-page biography that highlighted a long and decorated Air Force career.

“Today April 30, this was the day I was supposed to retire,” he said after I had a chance to look over the biography. “But they asked me to stay until July.”

If there was one plan he never quite got right—it was his own retirement. When he, then-Colonel Martinelli, came to City College in September 2000, it was at the conclusion of a distinguished career in the Air Force.

“I was actually on terminal leave [equivalent to civilian vacation time],” he recalled. “I technically had two jobs for about six weeks.”

As he was preparing to retire from the military, a posting by the Los Rios Community College District piqued his interest.

“I was surprised at how similar the job description was to a base commander’s,” he said referring to the director of operations position. “It had the different mix of jobs and responsibilities and so forth that I had become familiar with as wing commander, vice commander and base commander.”

Though the management of equipment, personnel and facilities were similar to the duties he excelled at in the Air Force, he acknowledged that there is a difference in managing a civilian organization. According to Martinelli, when military officers are given an objective, the plan is discussed and argued, but when the course of action is decided upon, the discussion ends and the plan is executed. In an educational institution like City College, the plan is often revisited and evaluated to ensure it fits the current needs of the institution and its students.

While explaining the differences between managing and planning in his civilian and military careers, Martinelli related an anecdote he often shared with colleagues.

“I used to kid when I started this job that I was responsible for 25 acres [and] three runways on a military base, and with this job I was responsible for 75 acres and a football stadium—and this job was harder.”

After he assumed the director of operations position at City College, Martinelli said he planned to only work five years.
“After 30 years in the Air Force I thought I was ready to retire,” he said with a chuckle. “I guess, after 14 years here [at City College] that shows how good at planning I really am.”
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In 2005 Martinelli missed his retirement mark again after he applied for and was promoted into the newly created Vice President Administrative Services position at the college. The new responsibilities expanded his oversight at City College. In addition to maintenance, rental activity, risk management, safety and emergency management, he was managing classified employees and serving on the president of the college’s executive staff.

“Bob [Martinelli] has a unique talent for long-term planning,” said Kathryn Jeffrey, president of City College, in an earlier interview. “He is able to look at all the variables and come up with a plan that works, even though the project may be scheduled for completion years in the future.”

While his retirement plans may not have been executed with precision, Martinelli’s military and civilian résumés detail the experience of a veteran leader with strong organizational skills.

Martinelli, who began his military career flying combat missions over Vietnam, later served in various command and administrative postings, including an assignment at the Pentagon. In the ’90s, with the Cold War over and Saddam Hussein defeated for the first time, the military began to downsize. During that time Martinelli oversaw a $200 million expansion of one base to accommodate the relocation of troops and equipment. Locally, he later supervised drawdown and eventual closings of both Mather and McClellan Air Force Bases.

With his years of planning and organizing for the Air Force, the job at City College was a natural fit for Colonel Martinelli, who would play a key role in developing the college’s master plan for renovation and expansion. Projects like the renovation of the Performing Arts Center, the construction of the new Student Services building and the parking garage are all part of the master plan he helped to develop, according to Jeffery.

When I asked what he liked most about his job at City College, Martinelli said it was the planning and completion of a project.

“In the military you were stationed at a base for a year and a half or two years, so you were always planning a project for someone else to complete or completing someone else’s project.”

He quickly followed my question with another statement, “But if you ask what I am most proud of, it is my VPA [vice president of administration] staff. They do their jobs so well that sometimes I just sit around and feel like a potted plant.”

As our interview concluded, I had one final question, “Why retire now?”

Martinelli said he decided that the time was right with the school’s accreditation coming up in 2016. He felt it was an important process for his successor to go through. However, more importantly, he was ready to spend time with his family.
Through Vietnam, numerous transfers and postings, Martinelli said, his wife waited patiently and raised their son during his long absences. Today his son, daughter-in-law and grandson live on the East coast and the twice-a-year visits during academic breaks are too infrequent.

“After 44 years it’s time, time to spend my life with my bride, maybe do some travel, see my grandson and hit a bucket of balls.”

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