After being a part of the Berkeley community for 16 years working for the city and the campus, Caleb Dardick, UC Berkeley director of local government and community relations, is returning to his river roots to take up a new position at home in Nevada County.
Dardick — who has been instrumental to town-gown relations since immersing himself in Berkeley politics as former Mayor Shirley Dean’s legislative aid — will be moving to Nevada City to serve as executive director for the South Yuba River Citizens League. In June, Dardick applied for the position and was chosen earlier after a nationwide search.
“He brings incredibly strong communication skills, expertise in strategic planning — certainly in coalition building and program management,” said Kim Milligan, interim executive director for SYRCL.
In his new position, Dardick will lead the organization in its mission to protect the Yuba River and Watershed while working on statewide issues, such as the recovery of salmon in the Yuba River — named one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers in May by the conservation group American Rivers.
“We went to the Yuba River all the time … the older kids who could drive would drive through the neighborhood, honk the horn and all the little kids would come running out and jump in the back of the truck, and we’d go to the river for the day,” Dardick said. “We just grew up … lounging on the rocks and swimming in the beautiful clear water … it’s part of my DNA.”
After managing his father’s campaign for county supervisor in 1994 — his first foray into politics — Dardick worked on several more campaigns, including Dean’s run-off campaign in December 1994, and then served as Dean’s legislative aid for four years.
“I became immersed in Berkeley politics, and I loved it. It was the most interesting and exciting job I ever had,” Dardick said. “You could be dealing with potholes in the morning and the city’s position on divestment in Nigeria in the afternoon.”
In 1998, Dardick was hired by UC Berkeley’s department of community relations as interim director of the Berkeley Alliance — a collaboration between UC Berkeley and Berkeley Unified School District that still exists today, which aims to build community partnerships to effect change on critical social and economic equity issues in Berkeley.
Two years later, he decided to work for himself as a community relations consultant, working on projects like the Ed Roberts Campus at the Ashby BART station and the David Brower Center.
When Ed Roberts, a UC Berkeley alum and leader in the local disabilities rights movement, passed away in 1995, Dardick — under the direction of Dean — put together a task force of local activists, disability rights leaders and campus community members, to honor Roberts’ memory.
“Mayor Dean asked me to represent the office at his memorial, and I was honored to do that … because I grew up in the disability rights movement … my father was a person with a disability,” he said.
After 10 years of working for himself, Dardick returned to the campus’ community relations office where he continued to work on projects to connect the campus and city communities through community service projects and partnerships, like the Joint Southside Safety Patrol program.
“He knew the community. He knew the various stakeholders and he had a manner, or an ability, to bring people to the table and work out solutions,” said Councilmember Laurie Capitelli. “They’ll be big shoes to fill.”
Stephanie Baer is the city news editor.