Smart, savvy and full of enthusiasm, Mason is dialed in to Oakley's needs and unabashedly optimistic about the future of this growing Delta community.
"I remember when I used to drive through Oakley before I had this job, and I would think to myself, 'If they only knew what they had here,'" she said. "And now I get to be a part of it all every day. It's very exciting."
Oakley City Manager Bryan Montgomery said what Mason brings to the job is an unparallel level of energy and expertise. "I like to call Barbara our resident cheerleader," said Montgomery. "She's always upbeat and positive and brings to the job so much knowledge. She has a way of explaining things that can be very complicated, and making them very simple. She's wonderful. We couldn't do what we do without her."
Mason, a Brentwood resident for the past 11 years, came to Oakley government with a vast background in the revitalization of historic downtowns, and has been instrumental in steering the development of communities large and small, from Eureka to San Diego.
Despite Mason's long title, her job, she says, is clear cut: striking an even balance between progress and history. She's responsible for the creation and healthy development of jobs and retail businesses in town. And she guides the integration of old and new buildings.
"There are really two components to the redevelopment end," said Mason. "The first are the areas in Oakley started around (the year) 2000, and dealing with some of those that might have some blight or need some help. And the other part is the historic structures, and figuring out what can be reused and what can't. Some places are just old and not historic. We have to figure out what is still viable and worth saving, and what isn't."
Tangible evidence of Oakley's ongoing growth and success are shown in the face of the city's new Starbucks coffee house, the soon-to-be-opened Black Bear Diner, the 22 new city parks in and around town, and of course the city's new civic center and police station.
And yet, for all of Oakley's abundance, there remains real concern among some residents that their city is in danger of losing its small-town appeal. Mason said she understands that concern, and specifically the battle some feel exists between the big-box stores and the smaller mom-and-pop shops struggling to survive.
A case in point is the controversy surrounding the possibility of a Wal-Mart Supercenter going up in town. Were its application approved by the City Council, what could Wal-Mart bring to Oakley?
"Well, 600 jobs, sales tax revenue and a plug for the leak," said Mason. Plugging the leak refers to the loss of roughly $185 million dollars in annual taxable sales caused by Oakley residents shopping in Antioch and Brentwood.
Providing basic goods, services and specialty items that other towns don't - such as the new Black Bear Diner - will help Oakley develop viable sales tax revenue, said Mason. And those dollars would go toward maintaining things such as city parks, Freedom High School's pool and additional police protection. Taxable sales dollars would also allow for additional monies to go toward the development, or redevelopment, of the Main Street area.
But you can't, says Mason, have one without the other. "It's a constant education process, but sales tax dollars pay for and will pay for, future projects," she said. "And we're getting there. Oakley has a lot going on."
The married mom of two young boys, Nicholas and Jonathan, is able to look at the needs of Oakley from the all-important parental viewpoint. "I'm very proud of the new play structure and climbing area McDonald's has just put in," said Mason.
"I remember going there not long ago and the stuff was just all worn out and faded from the sun. And so I wrote a letter to the company, and now they've just completed putting the stuff in place. My kids love it. Whenever I say we're going to McDonald's, they ask if we can go to the one in Oakley. It makes me proud."