Efren Carrillo was busy when his office phone rang late Thursday morning. Told it was the governor, calling from Monte Rio, the west Sonoma County supervisor got unbusy.
The call came from Gov. Jerry Brown, who has visited the lower Russian River through much of his life and honeymooned there five years ago. On Thursday he popped into a cafe while walking with a friend and a dog along River Road.
He chatted inside the Rio Bridge Cafe & Flea Market with its stunned owner, Jo Ann Wilson.
"Oh, it was fun. He was delightful," Wilson said. She said Brown, in the area for a brief vacation, seemed genuinely interested in Monte Rio, asking how its businesses are faring and what the area's future plans are.
Wilson said she told him him about the river town's successes and struggles, then mentioned that she wants to grow her business but has run into county obstacles.
Wilson operates a collectibles shop alongside the cafe but aspires to run a flea market with vendors in the backyard, and a produce stand. County officials have told her she's limited by her current use permit.
Wilson mentioned to Brown — who said he wasn't hungry but accepted a glass of water — that Supervisor Carrillo has worked with her but to this point she's still not permitted to operate a flea market.
She said the governor told her "it was a great idea to have it (the flea market). He said, 'Call him, call Efren.' "
It's a call likely to bring a smile to Susan Upchurch, the supervisor's district director, for years to come. She asked if the guy on the phone really was Gov. Brown.
"He said, 'It really is, and I want to know why we can't have a flea market in Monte Rio.' " Upchurch said she replied, "And I want to know why we can't have access to redevelopment?"
Upchurch said he replied, "Well, that's a boondoggle."
Carrillo was at that moment in County Administrator Veronica Ferguson's office. She carried the phone to him and suggested he might want to take the call.
"I was very surprised," the supervisor said. He said he and Brown chatted about jobs and economic development and he, too, tweaked the governor about the demise of local redevelopment agencies.
"I definitely took the opportunity to have a little fun with him," Carrillo said. "But the boat's left the dock on that one."
He complimented the governor's good taste for vacationing on the Russian River and vowed "to do my very best to see that Jo Ann can fulfill her dream out there."
Back in Monte Rio later Thursday, Wilson was still shaking her head and smiling about the surprise visit.
"It was funny," said the restaurateur who aspires to open a flea market. "It was a wonderful day."
(Contact columnist Chris Smith at 521-5211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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