Imagine if you could win a seat on the Santa Rosa City Council without enduring an election.
No fundraising. No campaigning. No walking precincts. No groveling for endorsements from special interest groups.
Just fill out an application, answer a few questions, and if four of the six council members like what they hear, you get to join them in directing public policy for the next two years.
That possibility is proving attractive to 17 people who hope to be appointed to serve the remaining two years of the second term of Susan Gorin, who won election to the Board of Supervisors in November.
While several applicants have run unsuccessfully for council, most have demonstrated little if any political aspirations before now.
"I cannot imagine myself campaigning, raising money and doing all the other things that would be required to be elected," admitted Roy Sprague, a retired Cal Fire firefighter who has lived in the city 23 years.
Sprague suggests that not standing for election makes him a better choice because he will not be beholden to special interest groups.
"To get elected, you have to do some things that obligate you to people, so my strength right now is that I'm not obligated to anybody," Sprague said. "I will be guided only by what is best for the citizens of Santa Rosa."
Jeffrey Owen also acknowledges that he has "never had an interest to run in an election." But the executive at Exchange Bank said he "saw this as an opportunity to provide community service where I believe I can contribute to the betterment of Santa Rosa."
Unemployed lumber salesman Douglas Krikac offers a similar assessment. "This position intrigues me," Krikac wrote in his application. "I doubt that I could be elected to the office, so want to give appointment a try."
The comments underscore a key challenge facing the council as it seeks to fill the vacant seat.
Should it select someone who has never shown an interest in running for public office, and if so how can that be justified? Why should it give the job to someone unwilling to ask voters for it?
Or should the council tap one of those who has stood for election, albeit unsuccessfully? Shouldn't their willingness to seek election and the support they received count for something?
Applicants like Don Taylor, Caroline Banuelos, Hans Dippel and Mike Cook, all of whom were on the ballot in November but were not elected, argue that their prior campaigns demonstrate their desire to serve.
Even Cook, who dropped out of the race, claims his aborted campaign "proves that I am a dedicated resident."
There is value, they and others argue, in candidates who have subjected themselves to the rigors of a political campaign. It forces them to get to know their constituents, understand their concerns and gain at least a familiarity with the policy issues facing the city.
"I knocked on doors for a year," wrote Hans Dippel, a wine industry executive who finished eighth in the November race that put the top four vote-getters in office.
There is a sense among some that the council, since it decided to open the process to all residents, is looking for someone voters haven't seen before, Dippel said.