Former 1st District supervisorial candidate Mark Bramfitt on Wednesday took over as executive officer of the Local Agency Formation Commission, a little known but influential county agency that determines the boundaries and approves the annexations of political entities including cities and special districts.
An energy consultant, Bramfitt, 52, stepped into a job that pays $101,920 a year and places him at the center of two hotly politicized issues: the annexation of Roseland by Santa Rosa, and the prospect of consolidating some volunteer fire departments with neighboring districts.
"A certain efficiency and political acumen, those were the two biggest characteristics," Jean Kapolchok, a Santa Rosa land use consultant who is chairwoman of the seven-member commission, said of the traits LAFCO looked for in its new chief.
Bramfitt takes over for Richard Bottarini, 63, the former LAFCO executive officer who retired after six years in the position.
A Sonoma resident, Bramfitt was previously chairman of LAFCO's policy committee, spent a decade on the board of the Valley of the Moon Water District and a year as its interim general manager in 2012. He also served on committees focused on affordable housing and groundwater issues in the Sonoma Valley.
He will head an agency possessing a sway larger than its relatively small annual budget of $593,000.
This year, for example, LAFCO elicited a concession from Santa Rosa officials, who agreed to examine adding two non-contiguous areas totaling 46 acres to the Roseland annexation effort, which was spurred anew by the 2013 shooting of a 13-year-old boy by a sheriff's deputy.
The agency is no longer pushing for immediate annexation of the Moorland Avenue neighborhood just south of Santa Rosa, where the boy, Andy Lopez, was shot. The idea is to allow Santa Rosa to complete the Roseland annexation first and eventually move on to Moorland and other southwest islands.
A report the agency is due to release about fire services in northern Sonoma County will more than likely shape the discussion about how those services ought to be reorganized.
"LAFCO is one of the most esoteric government agencies there is, yet it's doing exactly the kind of work citizens would like to see," Bramfitt said. "That work of finding efficiencies between agencies, not just within an agency or city. It's, 'Let's take a big picture look.' "
Bramfitt's experience in governmental agencies, managing both finances and public information, and his ability to navigate competing interests, made him the right fit, said Ray Brunton of Sonoma, who with 18 years at LAFCO is its longest-serving board member.
"He has to be knowledgeable of city and county regulations and rules, engineering, types of entities, cities, counties, districts," said Brunton, who owns a swimming pool company and a culinary store.
"He has to be a referee and able to find the right situation with islands (of property) and boundaries,"Brunton said of the executive officer's task. "It's an ongoing situation. You have to referee them, get the proper information and make a judgement."
Before embarking on his consulting career, Bramfitt was a PG&E executive. In the 2012 primary, he came in fifth in the race to represent the 1st District. Susan Gorin won the elected seat that November.
(You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)