Two relative newcomers to Santa Rosa's political scene have announced plans to run for city council next November.
Attorney Erin Carlstrom, 28, and neighborhood activist Julie Combs, 55, have filed campaign finance paperwork but are officially kicking off their campaigns with local fund-raisers early next month.
Four of the seven council seats are on the ballot in November 2012. How many incumbents will run again is unclear. John Sawyer is a candidate for county supervisor. Gary Wysocky and Mayor Ernesto Olivares will presumably run again but Marsha Vas Dupre said Friday said she's finished with city politics.
"Oh God, no!" said Vas Dupre, 70, when asked if she would seek reelection.
While relatively new to the area, Combs and Carlstrom have been gaining experience on city boards and commissions in recent years.
Combs and her husband, Allan, moved to Santa Rosa from Ohio in 2007 after he accepted a teaching job in San Francisco. She quickly became involved with plans to turn the 50-acre stretch of Highway 12 right-of-way into a proposed Southeast Greenway.
She was appointed by Gary Wysocky to the city's Community Advisory Board in 2009.
A founder of the Bennett Valley neighborhood group called 95405.org, Combs says she's entering the race because she didn't see anyone stepping forward and thinks the city needs to be more responsive to issues important to neighborhoods.
"I'm concerned that we have a council majority that is not listening to all the city," Combs said.
Combs has a diverse work experience that includes engineering, working with people with disabilities, historic preservation and neighborhood activism. She has two daughters in their 20s.
Carlstrom, a San Bernardino County native, came to Santa Rosa in 2008 after graduating from law school to open her law practice. Her firm, Le+Pelletier LLP, specializes in business law, she said.
She was appointed by former councilwoman Veronica Jacobi to replace Nick Caston on the Planning Commission in 2010. She and Caston, a campaign consultant and Democratic operative, married in August and live downtown.
When Jacobi lost her reelection bid, Carlstrom was not reappointed to the Planning Commission. Wysocky later appointed her to the Measure O Oversight Committee that monitors spending from the voter-approved sales tax fund earmarked for public safety and related programs.
She quickly jumped into the fray over public safety salaries and benefits, writing an op-ed piece in the Press Democrat that sharply criticized the council majority's budget priorities. She said the decision to shield public safety from spending cuts would "gut the quality of life in Santa Rosa."
Carlstrom said she stands by that assessment and believes the city must do a better job of balancing public safety with other needs.
"We all need to be sharing the burden," she said. "Public safety services are important, but community services are very important as well."
Both candidates are drawing support from those allied with environmental, neighborhood and labor groups, but Carlstrom said she doesn't like labels, or the pattern of polarization and "pot shots" she said the council has fallen into.
"I actually believe that we can have a more nuanced approach. It doesn't have to be progressive versus business," she said.
While the timing of their campaigns is similar, Carlstrom said she and Combs are not coordinating their efforts.