In the latest Around Town column, state Assemblyman Marc Berman announces his district’s woman of the year, Palo Alto hires consultants to help implement organizational change and a local man wins an award for his voyages around the world.

STANDING TALL … Palo Alto resident Christine Blasey Ford, who has become known for going public with her sexual-assault allegations against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, has been selected as the 24th Assembly District’s Woman of the Year, state Assemblyman Marc Berman‘s office announced on Monday. Ford, 52, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University, was picked for her “remarkable act of courage” in testifying about her claims before the Senate Judiciary Committee in late September. “Dr. Ford exhibited strength and dignity under the most extraordinary conditions, and in telling her truth, she paved the way for countless other survivors to tell their own,” Berman said in a statement. Ford is currently not teaching classes at the university, but is continuing to conduct biostatistics research and work with doctoral students. “I’m very grateful to Assemblymember Berman for this recognition, particularly his understanding that fulfilling my civic duty came at a personal cost to my family,” Ford said in a statement provided by Berman’s office. She will receive the award at a private event later this month, according to the assemblyman.

CONSULTATIONS … It’s no secret that Palo Alto is struggling to fill the gaping holes in its leadership ranks, with the current list of vacancies including fire chief, chief financial officer, assistant city manager and chief transportation official. Some of these positions are now filled on an interim basis; others aren’t filled at all. This week, the City Council took a step to address the leadership challenges at City Hall when it approved $450,000 in contracts with four different consulting firms: BluePoint Planning, Bovo-Tighe, Management Partners and Municipal Resource Group (MRG). Under the three-year contracts, the consultants will be charged with helping the city implement organizational change, provide leadership training and help develop a performance-management system at City Hall. A report from the Utilities Department cites retiring baby boomers and a “highly competitive job market” as reasons for the multitude of vacancies, both in Palo Alto and in other cities. The City Council approved the contracts on its consent calendar, with no discussion or dissent. But Councilman Greg Tanaka, who was absent, registered his concerns in a letter to City Manager Ed Shikada, in which he questioned the need for the consultants. In his response, Shikada wrote that the city’s 18 departments “are in need of organizational development professional services to maintain and enhance service deliveries, implement continuous improvement programs and operate effective work teams.” In addition to these four contracts, the council approved adding $100,000 to the city’s separate $300,000 contract with MRG to help Human Resources manage “highly sensitive and complex personnel matters.” And the March 4 approvals came just one week after the City Council agreed to hand over management of the Office of the City Auditor to the consulting firm, Management Partners, while the city weighs long-term organizational changes to the small office.

BORN TO SAIL … Stan Honey of Palo Alto has gained recognition for his accomplished journeys as the Cruising Club of America’s 2018 Far Horizons Award recipient. The prize is given to a member or members of the organization for “a particularly meritorious voyage or series of voyages that exemplify the objectives of the Club,” the organization announced on Wednesday. Honey has 22 sailing records under his belt as either a navigator or single-handed skipper. In 2010, he was a navigator on the trimaran Groupama 3 that set a record for the world’s fastest global circumnavigation at 48 days, seven days and 45 minutes. Honey also holds 30 patents in navigation and graphics and has won an Emmy for technology that was used in the 2013 America’s Cup.

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