Photo by city of Austin
Zoning chief Rusthoven retiring from city
Wednesday, December 7, 2022 by Jo Clifton
Jerry Rusthoven, the city’s chief zoning officer, has told the city he intends to retire at the end of the month. Rusthoven, who has been with the city for 29 years, is arguably the city’s most knowledgeable person when it comes to the intricacies of zoning and how those rules relate to other land use regulations. He put in his retirement documents after last week’s marathon hearing and approval of the Statesman planned unit development, which concluded at the end of a two-day City Council meeting.
A city spokesperson said the city clerk’s office expects Rusthoven to receive the city’s Distinguished Service Award at Thursday’s Council meeting during proclamations at noon. This week’s meeting is the last one of the year – unless Council decides to have a special called meeting over utility rates.
The Austin Monitor talked to a number of people familiar with Rusthoven’s work with the city over the years.
Attorney Richard Suttle of Armbrust and Brown, who was the lead lobbyist for the developer of the Statesman PUD, has worked with Rusthoven over the years on many challenging cases. He told the Monitor, “I’m happy for whatever is next in Jerry’s life, but I’m sad that our city is losing such a vast, deep well of knowledge in our planning and zoning department. Jerry developed a unique ability to both know the zoning code and planning principles backwards and forwards but also to talk to a broad range of people about them.”
Former Council Member Jackie Goodman fondly recalled Rusthoven as her aide during the late 1990s, saying he had a phenomenal memory. He started with the city in transportation planning before Goodman asked him to be her aide. Then he was a temporary aide to Council Member Jennifer Kim before returning to land use planning.
Former Austin City Manager Toby Futrell called Rusthoven “the salt of the earth.”
“He learned his job and he learned it in detail and he worked very hard with both sides of the aisle. If it was a neighbor-developer issue, I always found him to be even-handed and thoughtful. Jerry was a workhorse,” she said. “The city would probably have to hire two people to replace what Jerry has done.”
She added, “In every development services arena, it doesn’t matter what city you’re in, but it’s particularly tough in the city of Austin … I think the city owes him a great deal of gratitude that he hung in there and tried for so long to do his job.”
After Rusthoven left City Hall, he joined Alice Glasco’s staff in the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department. Glasco expressed surprise to learn that Rusthoven was retiring. She praised him for his even temperament and positive attitude. Glasco, of course, retired from the city and continues to represent clients with zoning cases before the city.
Greg Guernsey, who became director of planning and zoning, is close friends with Rusthoven and expressed his admiration for Rusthoven’s hard work and knowledge of city regulations. “He is a great guy. He was my right hand for many years,” said Guernsey, who retired in 2019.
After Guernsey’s retirement, Rusthoven was interim director for a while. When planning was merged with the housing department, Rusthoven was named chief zoning officer.
The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here. This story has been changed since publication. A previous version of the story said that the proclamation would take place at 5:30, not noon.
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