Nick Caston has resigned from the Santa Rosa Planning Commission, but he's leaving his seat in good hands -- his girlfriend's.

Erin Carlstrom, a local attorney, was appointed Tuesday night by Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Veronica Jacobi to replace Caston, whose new job and school leaves him less time to devote to the post.

Caston, 28, and Carlstrom, 27, have been an item for about a year. They are actively involved in the local Democratic political scene. He's the first vice chairman of the Sonoma County Democratic Party; she's the chairwoman of the Sonoma County Young Democrats, where Caston is listed as policy director.

Caston was the youngest member ever to serve on the Planning Commission when Jacobi appointed him in 2006. He has worked on several political campaigns, including as an aide to Assemblywoman Noreen Evans and as the campaign manager working on ballot measures in Sonoma and Santa Barbara, he said.

Unlike his former Planning Commission colleagues Michael Allen and Scott Bartley, however, Caston is not resigning to run for office. The demands of his new job at a San Francisco lobbying firm, Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter & Partners, and his decision to get a bachelor's degree in applied economics at San Francisco State University both left him with less time to devote to the commission, he said.

"I never rule anything out, but I'm definitely not looking at anything near-term," he said.

The time was also right for him to move on, he said, because the commission has recently completed work on several major projects he's been heavily involved in, such as the Downtown Station Area Specific Plan, which sets the long-range transit and planning goals for the commuter rail station site in Railroad Square.

This is the first public appointment for Carlstrom, managing partner and owner of Santa Rosa law firm Le + Pelletier. She said she is honored to be selected and plans to work hard at it.

"I really believe in the work of the city, so I definitely plan to make it a high priority for myself," she said.

Jacobi said she was pleased to be appointing someone to the post who is both a small-business owner and shares her commitment to environmental issues.

-- Kevin McCallum

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