Voters in Sonoma County's 1st Supervisorial District have their work cut out for them in the June 5 election.
Voters in this district, which stretches from Sonoma Valley through Rincon and Bennett valleys and other parts of east Santa Rosa, must name a successor for Valerie Brown, who is stepping from the Board of Supervisors after 10 years in office. In our view, they have five very capable and accomplished candidates from whom to choose.
The two most promising are Gina Cuclis and Mark Bramfitt, the two candidates who, as long-time residents of the unincorporated Sonoma Valley, have the best grasp on the issues confronting the district as well as the county as a whole. Of these two, our endorsement goes to Bramfitt.
A resident of the valley for 23 years, Mark Bramfitt, an energy consultant, is well versed on 1st District needs having served on LAFCO, the Valley of the Moon Water District and the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Basin Advisory Board. His background in engineering and his experience as an energy efficiency specialist for PG&E make him ideally suited to confront challenges such as ground water and whether to create a local "green energy" power agency.
Most of all, Bramfitt offers practical, no-nonsense approaches to addressing the county's financial challenges, including balancing the budget, stepping up road repairs and reining in runaway salary and pension costs.
Similarly, Cuclis, a Boyes Hot Springs communications consultant, is familiar with the district's issues having lived in the valley for 25 years and served on multiple governing boards and campaigns, including those for SMART. As a founder and president of the Verano Springs Association, she led the campaign to encourage the county to build sidewalks and rejuvenate the area. That led to what remains one of the most successful, if not completed, redevelopment projects in the county.
Three other candidates are attractive in that they all come with extensive experience in elected office. John Sawyer and Susan Gorin are both members of the Santa Rosa City Council. Both have shown themselves to be thoughtful, articulate public servants although they have been on opposite sides of a council that at times has been deeply divided. Sawyer's close ties to public safety unions and Gorin's strong connections with SEIU and other public employee groups give us concern about their independence and resolve to confront the salary and pension challenges that threaten to consume the county.
Sonoma Mayor Joanne Sanders, who owns a Sonoma-based employment agency, has a deep understanding of Sonoma and a broad knowledge of hiring practices and salaries in the private sector that would be helpful in bringing the county's payroll in line. But she lacks the depth of understanding of her competitors on a number of the larger issues facing the region.
A sixth candidate is Glen Ellen special education teacher Michael McClure who filed just before deadline is running a low-key campaign.
We're confident that any of the primary candidates — Cuclis, Gorin, Sawyer, Sanders or Bramfitt — would represent the district well. But in this race, we believe only one person comes with the right combination of professional experience, community service and local knowledge to represent the 1st District. The Press Democrat recommends Mark Bramfitt for the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.