The City Council played it safe Monday night, choosing a competent, careful insider to join them at the helm of Santa Rosa municipal government.
Robin Swinth was a natural choice for a group of council members who don't trust each other and were bending over backwards to prevent the other side from gaining an advantage. Even as they prepared to vote on the appointment, some council members jockeyed for last-minute position, insisting no votes should be revealed until all members had made their choices secretly.
As it turned out, Swinth was named on all six council members' ballots in each of three rounds of voting. In the end, she was chosen unanimously.
The 45-year-old Santa Rosa native and former Agilent engineer struck all of the right chords in her 15-minute presentation to the council, including:
A nod to the Chamber of Commerce crowd by saying that we need to make it easier to do business in Santa Rosa.
A nod to neighborhood groups by proclaiming that “neighborhoods should always be stakeholders” in council decision-making.
A nod to public employee unions by noting that city employees have “taken a huge hit” for the “benefit of the city,” and that those sacrifices need to be acknowledged.
A nod to progressives by calling out the need for the city to “reach out to working poor families” to better include them in civic life.
A nod to the government wonks, by demonstrating a working knowledge of the city budget, including Measure P and Measure O.
Swinth's appointment is the product of a risk-averse council, whose members chose one of their own — she has served for nine years on the Planning Commission and Board of Public Utilities, the city's two most powerful boards after the council — rather than reaching outside of City Hall.
Several other candidates offered that option, but they quickly fell by the wayside as the council narrowed the choice. Ten of the 17 applicants were eliminated in the first round of voting because they did not receive support from a minimum of two council members.