Tom Roth, a former aide to Rep. Lynn Woolsey, had a bridge named after him this week, beating his former boss to geographical honors in her North Bay area.
“It's very cool,” Roth said, regarding his name on the bridge leading to Skaggs Island north of Highway 37 and south of Sonoma. “I'm not dead yet.”
Roth, who went to work as chief of staff for state Sen. Noreen Evans in January, was with Woolsey at Tuesday's ceremony hailing the transfer of Skaggs Island, a 3,300-acre former Navy base, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
For 13 years as a Woolsey staffer, Roth had worked on the transfer, which adds Skaggs Island to the surrounding 13,190-acre San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
For years, Roth said, the transfer was stalled by the wildlife agency's reluctance to take over the island, a diked wetlands, until the site was cleared by the Navy.
The base, once a secretive Navy communications facility, closed in 1993 and the idea behind the transfer was to ultimately restore part of Skaggs Island to tidal marshland.
Woolsey's bill in 2008 broke the logjam by requiring the two agencies to negotiate the transfer and enabling the Navy to spend $8 million in state funds to tear down the dilapidated base buildings.
In most cases, Roth said, a member of Congress will “take all the credit” for such an accomplishment, but “that's not the case with Lynn.”
At the ceremony, Woolsey said that Roth, 65, a former West County journalist and elementary school teacher, had “dedicated his career to environmental stewardship across the North Bay.”
Roth's expertise and dedication “are an example of the difference a single person can make when they devote themselves to a worthy cause,” Woolsey said.
House rules forbid the naming of any public works project or structure after a sitting member of Congress, a Woolsey aide said. If Roth were still a congressional staffer, that would likely apply to him as well, the aide said.
On Monday, Roth attended Woolsey's formal announcement of her retirement next year at the end of her 20th year in Congress.
For now, former North Coast Rep. Don Clausen of Santa Rosa holds the lock on landmarks with his name on a Highway 101 overpass in Rohnert Park, the Redwood National Park bypass on 101 in Humboldt and Del Norte counties and the fish hatchery at Warm Springs Dam.
Tom Roth's bridge is not quite as visible, located about a quarter-mile off Highway 37 on the entrance road to Skaggs Island.
But there is another connection between Roth, a longtime Cazadero resident, and named bridges. The house he is renting as a second home in Santa Rosa is owned by the daughter of Don Head, the late Sonoma County public works director whose name is on the Occidental Road bridge over the Laguna de Santa Rosa.