Santa Rosa City Council rookie holds key vote Tuesday, when panel picks one of own for post

The official election results are in, but who'll be the next mayor of Santa Rosa remains anyone's guess.

Once new City Council members Erin Carlstrom and Julie Combs are sworn in Tuesday, the new council's first order of business will be to select a mayor from their ranks.

It's usually a predictable decision, with the gavel (and an extra $400 per month) passing to the most experienced member in the majority who has not yet held the post.

But this year all bets are off.

The election of attorney Erin Carlstrom has upended the city's political apple cart, making the 29-year-old political newcomer the swing vote on the issue and leading to intense speculation about whom she'll support.

Carlstrom says she's taking the decision seriously and has been listening closely to a variety of viewpoints.

"I've just been in a mode of listening and trying to craft a decision — which I've not yet made — on how we can put together a productive council," Carlstrom said late last week from Salt Lake City, where she is attending a conference of the Young Democrats of America.

Supporters who have spoken to Carlstrom since she returned from a post-election Mexican vacation say she's not tipping her hand.

Stephen Gale, head of the Sonoma County Democratic Party, had lunch with Carlstrom and a handful of other supporters to congratulate her on her win and discuss the upcoming mayor decision, among other issues.

A number of scenarios for the mayor's post were discussed during their lunch, including whether the gavel should pass to Gary Wysocky, Scott Bartley, Jake Ours or Julie Combs, Gale said.

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