Meet the Department Directors

Donald Sandor, City Manager

Donald Sandor was appointed the Pleasant Hill City Manager in December of 2007. Prior to joining the City of Pleasant Hill, Sandor served as City Manager for the City of Oskaloosa from 1993 to 2007. During his leadership for the City of Oskaloosa, the City undertook several major construction projects, while lowering the debt percentage and increasing their bond rating.  

Prior to working for the City of Oskaloosa, Sandor served as Borough Manager for Sewickley, Pennsylvania; Vice President of Administration and Finance at the University of Charleston, West Virginia; City Administrator for the City of Waverly, Iowa; City Administrator for the City of Eldridge, Iowa and Village Administrator for the Village of Elburn, Illinois.  

Sandor holds a BS in Political Science with a minor in History and a MA in Public Administration from Northern Illinois University. 

Activities and Service:
  • Des Moines Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority (WRA); Served two years as Chair
  • International City Management Association Member
  • Iowa City/County Management Association Member 


J. Benjamin Champ, Assistant City Manager/Community Development Director 

Champ has served as the City's Community Development Director since 2008. In 2014, the role of Assistant City Manager was added to his duties.  

Prior to his appointment as Community Development Director, he served as the Senior Planner for the City of Fort Dodge. 

Champ holds a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Iowa State University and a Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Iowa. He is also a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute. 

Activities and Service:
In 2007, Champ passed the exam to become a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He has been a board member of the American Planning Association’s 500 member Iowa Chapter since 2008 in many roles including Secretary, Vice-President, and currently serving a second elected term as President. In 2013, Champ obtained certification as an Economic Development Finance Professional through the National Development Council and is a member of the International Economic Development Council and the Professional Developers of Iowa. Champ is also an active supporter of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry’s Leadership Iowa Program as a graduate, past co-chair, current board member and co-chair of the alumni association. 

Champ has served on a number of local boards and commissions including the Des Moines Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority, Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority, and the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Association where he is a past Chair of the Technical Advisory Committee and currently serves as Chair of the Planning Sub-Committee and is also an appointed member of the Tomorrow Plan Implementation Committee. In 2016, he was elected Chair of the Four-Mile Creek Watershed Management Authority and also acts as Vice-Chair of the Council of Watershed Management Authorities for the metropolitan area.


Al Pizzano, Police Chief

Al Pizzano has served as the City’s Police Chief since 2015. Prior to his appointment as Chief, Al served as the Executive Vice President for Homefront Protective Group, specializing in law enforcement training and consulting. 

Prior to his move to Iowa, Pizzano served with the New York City Police Department for 28 years. He retired October 2015, from the department’s Elite Emergency Service Unit (ESU) as the commander of ESU Truck 5 in Staten Island, Truck 6 in Brooklyn, and all ESU Police Canines. During his service as Commanding Officer of Detective Zone 18, he directed detective operations in the Borough of Queens. He created and initiated strategic, operational and financial plans that improved case management, reduced labor costs, maximized personnel usage and increased the case clearance rate. Pizzano honed his investigative skills managing 13,000 criminal cases annually, which included 100 murder cases. He had a 96 percent arrest rate for homicides, 62 percent for other crimes, cutting crime 10 percent over a three-year period.

While Commanding Officer of the 103 Impact Zone, he strengthened relationships between the police department, businesses, political leaders and the community by addressing and resolving their concerns. Pizzano has continued these efforts in Pleasant Hill by creating community programs, which open lines of communication with residents and foster police legitimacy. Cultivating partnerships between police, other service agencies and residents is important to him, while proactively and impartially imposing criminal and traffic laws. During his leadership, staff participation is encouraged to develop departmental goals, while sharing ideas that shape management practices and deliver high performance.

Pizzano holds a BS in Criminal Justice Administration and Planning from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, an MBA in Management and Leadership from Liberty University. He is also a graduate of the NYPD’s Specialized Training School. 

As a former member of the NYPD, he received training in:
  • Command & Advanced Leadership  
  • Criminal & Internal Investigation
  • Hostage Negotiation 
  • Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) 
  • National Incident Management
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) 
Activities and Service:
  • National Tactical Officers Association Member

Tom Solberg, Fire Chief

Tom Solberg has served as the City's Fire Chief since 2014. Prior to his appointment as Chief, Solberg served as Fire Chief in Lee's Summit, Missouri and Peoria, Arizona. He also served as the Director of fire training at Montana State University.

Solberg holds a BS in Business Administration and a MS in Management from Baker University.

Activities and Service:
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs Member 

Dena Spooner, City Clerk/Finance Director 

Dena Spooner has been the City Clerk/Finance Director for the City of Pleasant Hill since 2014.  

Prior to joining the City of Pleasant Hill, Spooner served as a Public Accountant for RSM McGladrey, Controller for County Rescue Services in Wisconsin, and Finance Director for Iowa Chiropractic Society.

Spooner holds a BS in Finance from Iowa State University and a CPA license in the State of Iowa. 

Activities and Service:
  • Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants Member
  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Member 


Gary Patterson, Public Works Director

Gary Patterson has been the Director of Public Works since 1995. 

Prior to serving as the Director, he was a Public Works Supervisor for the City for two years. Prior to his service to the City, he served as a Facility Operator, Cable Foreman and Outside Plant Engineer for Northwestern Bell Telephone Company. Prior to this he operated his own construction company.

Activities and Service:
  • Des Moines Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority Board; Chair
  • Pleasant Hill Cemetery Committee
  • Metro Waste Authority Alternate Board Member (former member)
  • Central Iowa Regional Drinking Water Commission Member (former member)


John Lerdal, Library Director

John Lerdal began serving at the City's Library Director in 1991. 

Prior to joining the City, Lerdal was a housekeeping manager at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. 

Lerdal holds a BS in English and a MLS from University of Iowa. 

Activities and Service:
  • Pleasant Hill Lions Club Member; Past President 
  • Pleasant Hill Chamber of Commerce; Past President and Board Member
  • Iowa Library Association; Past Executive Board Member and Treasurer 
  • Polk County Library Association; Past President