A key consultant on Sonoma County's bid to launch a public power agency is now set to lead the venture as its chief executive officer.
Geof Syphers, an adviser under contract with the county Water Agency from the earliest formal stages of the power plan, was selected Tuesday as the CEO on a 5-0 vote of the Sonoma Clean Power board.
"I'm honored to be given the opportunity to deliver this program," Syphers, 42, said in an interview after his appointment.
He assumes a central role as the agency's administrator, lead spokesman and chief negotiator in crucial power supply contracts. That new stage for the startup is set to begin later this month with an aim to begin supplying electricity to homes and businesses Jan. 1.
In the next week, the demands of the new job may be more political. The county is entering a critical period courting its largest potential partner, Santa Rosa, whose participation is seen as key to the political standing if not the business success of the effort.
On Tuesday, the city's path to join appeared to grow more complicated, putting Santa Rosa and county officials back in a standoff before the city's July 9 vote. Syphers and other county officials acknowledged that some last-minute negotiations were ahead.
"We'll do what we can to bring Santa Rosa in," Syphers said. "If the city wants to wait because they still have unanswered questions, then we'll do our best to answer them. If they remain undecided, they can choose to wait."
Syphers was selected over two other final candidates. All three were interviewed for a second time by the power agency board Tuesday afternoon. The screening followed interviews with the mayors of four cities — Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma and Cotati — all of which were still weighing their decision last month.
Syphers' appointment is on an interim basis, a move that allows a larger board including other cities the chance to revisit the selection. Cotati joined the power agency last week while Sebastopol debated its participation late into Tuesday night.
Supervisor David Rabbitt, the board chairman for Sonoma Clean Power, welcomed Syphers as a chief executive familiar with the program who could "hit the ground running."