Valerie Brown will not seek re-election
Published: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 10:10 a.m.
Valerie Brown, the only two-term member of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and one of the few county leaders with experience on the local, state and national levels, will not seek re-election next year.
Brown, 65, made the announcement Tuesday morning at the beginning of the Board of Supervisors regular meeting. She said her decision, made over the last three months, was an “incredibly painful” one based in part on the demands of campaigning.
After nearly two decades in politics, the prospect of participating in debates and precinct walking this year and next held less appeal than ever, she said.
At the same time, she looked back warmly on her time as a supervisor, thanking colleagues.
“You taught me how to be a good public official. You taught me how to be a good public servant,” she said. “This experience wouldn't have been the same without you.”
Fellow supervisors and the audience gave her a standing ovation.
Her First District included all of Sonoma Valley and extends north to include portions of east Santa Rosa.
Brown had been rumored to be on the fence about a re-election bid since late last year. When pressed, she insisted she would not make a final decision until this month.
Campaign finance reports released last week showed she had raised no money this year for her next campaign, though her paperwork for the 2012 election is current. Political observers and some of those angling to replace Brown as the 1st District supervisor said her decision came as little surprise.
Still, when Brown steps down at the end of 2012 it will mark another step in the four-year-long shakeup at the top of Sonoma County government.
It started in 2008, when Efren Carrillo was elected to replace the retiring Mike Reilly and Shirlee Zane won election to succeed the retiring Tim Smith. In June 2009, County Administrator Bob Deis stepped down as well. His replacement, Veronica Ferguson has served 18 months in the position.
This year, superviors Paul Kelley and Mike Kerns retired, making way for Mike McGuire and David Rabbitt. Sheriff Steve Freitas, District Attorney Jill Ravitch and County Counsel Bruce Goldstein also all took office this year.
Brown was the new face among veterans when she was appointed to the Board of Supervisors in August 2002 by Gov. Gray Davis. She filled the seat vacated by 1st District Supervisor Mike Cale, who stepped down for health reasons. She was elected the following November to fill the remainder of the term and won re-election in 2004 and 2008.
She represents a district that stretches from eastern Santa Rosa into the Sonoma Valley and includes the city of Sonoma.
Before her county service, Brown represented eastern Sonoma County in the state Assembly from 1992 to 1998. She was also elected to the Sonoma City Council in 1990 and served as mayor in 1991. Prior to her appointment as a supervisor she worked as executive director for California Cities for Self-Reliance, a group of Southern California cities opposed to tribal casinos.
As a county supervisor, Brown has gained recognition as a leader on health care, energy efficiency, climate protection and social welfare programs.
She also has been singled out as a strong voice for the county at the state and national level, tracking both state efforts to shift more services to counties and lobbying against state and federal cuts to health and human service programs, among others.
She served as president of the National Association of Counties in 2009-10 and was appointed this year by President Barack Obama to a 25-member national public health advisory group for a White House council overseeing health promotion and disease prevention. She also is the current chairwoman of SMART, the Sonoma-Marin commuter rail agency.
In an interview late Tuesday, Brown said those various roles and commitments, like the steps of her political career, have been serendipitous.
“There are lots of things I'm interested in that I never thought that's where I'd be,” she said. “I've always loved school and always felt that I could be educated. I love that opportunity to look at something new and see it blossom into something useful.”
Brown's critics have quietly suggested that some of her side roles, including with the national counties association, have taken her away from the business of representing her district, an allegation she has brushed off.
She also has also drawn criticism recently over her vote last year to approve the Roblar Road rock quarry west of Cotati, a move that swung the board in favor of the controversial project.
At the time Brown said the project provided a much-needed source of local construction material and jobs and that it would not harm the environment.
Quarry opponents and some conservation supporters in her district disagreed, with some saying they would take their support elsewhere in the 2012 election should she run.
In the interview, Brown cited a list of accomplishments that she said speak to what will be a more than 10-year tenure as supervisor. They include:
-- Support for creation and renewal of the county's Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.
-- Creation of a Network of Care website that tracks health information and serves as a resource for patients, including veterans.
-- Redevelopment of the Highway 12 corridor through Sonoma Valley for improved pedestrian access.
-- Creation of a groundwater management plan for Sonoma Valley.
-- Formation of a county-financed energy retrofit program for homes and businesses.
In her announcement at the board meeting, Brown joked that she would not be counting the days left in her term or reminding colleagues about her short-timer status.
“You'll never hear me say I only have 17 months left, 10 months left,” she said to laughter at the meeting.
In the interview, she added: “I want every day to feel like I've done something for this county. They're going to go like lighting.”
She said she has no plans for what she will do after she steps down, although she mentioned interest in policy development work on climate protection, health care and local government.
“I don't see myself as not working,” she said. “I don't know what will come up, though if nothing does, I can certainly stand to rest a while.”
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