Regardless of who wins the two seats Tuesday on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, the election will complete the reinvention of the board in just two years.
It's the second chapter in a saga that began in 2008, when long-term incumbents Tim Smith and Mike Reilly chose not to seek re-election and were replaced by newcomers.
Now, longtime north county Supervisor Paul Kelley, the board's most conservative voice, has decided to call it quits after 16 years. Vying for his 4th District spot are two relatively liberal candidates, Windsor Town Councilwoman Debora Fudge and Healdsburg City Councilman Mike McGuire, with similar stances on environmental and labor issues.
The other open seat is in the 2nd District, stretching from Cotati to Marin County, where longtime Supervisor Mike Kerns chose not pursue a fourth four-year term.
In that contest, three Petaluma council members are seeking the supervisorial job, which pays $134,500. They are Mayor Pam Torliatt and councilmen Mike Healy and David Rabbitt. The fourth candidate is John King, a Penngrove rancher and accountant whose campaign slogan "Had Enough?" could resonate with voters fed up with the status quo.
Most analysts anticipate that no one candidate in the south county race will get more than 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday's primary. That would mean the two top vote-getters advance to the November general election.
The election sets the stage for a new dynamic on the board, a changing of the guard.
"We are going to lose a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge, not only Paul Kelley but Mike Kerns, and having lost former Supervisor Tim Smith," said Rob Muelrath, a Santa Rosa political consultant.
He said he hopes the newcomers will confer with the outgoing and former supervisors. "They better understand the budget, the different contracts with labor (groups), contracts with public safety, health and human services. They have a lot of homework," Muelrath said. "It will take them a while to get grounded and understand how county government works."
<NO1><NO>Voters go to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in a number of high-profile races. Close to home, voters will choose a district attorney for Sonoma County, elect three judges and decide the fate of a sales tax hike in Rohnert Park. Also on the ballot, voters must evaluate five state ballot measures and pick Democrat and Republican nominees for the Legislature, Congress and state offices, including a new governor.
But the twin county supervisor races promise to complete the biggest shake-up of county government in three decades.
<NO1><NO>Bob Anderson, whose job as executive director of United Winegrowers has entailed sitting through countless board meetings since 1987, said it's been 30 years at least since there have been so many new faces at once on the board.
"It drives home the point (that) we're headed into very uncharted waters in terms of having four members, all relatively new," he said.
"Each board member will have to step right up," Anderson said. "Anyone who is taking the job in these times has to be prepared and ready to deal with the big issues."
Eric Koenigshofer, a Santa Rosa attorney who held the west county supervisorial seat from 1976-80, said there was even greater turnover when he was on the board, but he acknowledged that the current situation is out of the norm. "In a two-year cycle, to see four board members leaving through retirement is fairly unusual."