Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo has joined the board overseeing Sonoma Clean Power, a shakeup that could give additional momentum to the supervisor's bid to regain his political portfolio even while he remains under a legal cloud from his July arrest.
The move, unforeseen until this week and the cause of some minor conflict at county headquarters, was one of several leadership changes that headlined business for the new public power agency at its monthly meeting Thursday.
Carrillo, who was highly involved in the venture's early rollout, leading a county committee that pushed the program forward, said he was pleased to be officially rejoining Sonoma Clean Power.
"I'm just as excited about this initiative today as I was three to four years ago when I learned about it," he said.
The program, touted as a greener, competitively priced alternative to PG&E, is set to begin service in May to its first wave of 20,000 customers, most of which will be commercial accounts.
But Thursday was also likely a bittersweet moment for Carrillo.
Last year, the two-term 5th District supervisor was widely expected to earn one of the county's two seats on the power agency's eight-member board. Supervisor Shirlee Zane was the lock and eventual nominee for the other.
But Carrillo's July 13 predawn arrest outside a Santa Rosa woman's home, his subsequent five-week seclusion from public life — reportedly for treatment of alcohol addiction — and ongoing criminal case prompted him to be passed over for the post in favor of Supervisor Susan Gorin, now Sonoma Clean Power's chairwoman.
The snub was one of several county and statewide leadership posts Carrillo missed out on or gave up in the aftermath of his arrest.
He has reclaimed some of those roles and earned new ones, even with his misdemeanor peeking case still in plea bargain talks. But his board seat on the power agency — a high-profile countywide venture — is likely the strongest signal yet of his attempt to regain his political footing as his sharpest critics continue to call for his resignation.
In an interview Thursday, Carrillo brushed off the suggestion of politics playing into the move, saying his interest in the power agency stemmed from his longtime involvement in energy, climate change and natural resource issues.
"This is just an opportunity to work with my colleagues in the cities and the public to fulfill the vision that we have for this program," he said.
Carrillo replaces Zane, who voiced some displeasure with the move Thursday.
"Initially, I have to tell you, I wasn't happy about it," she said in an interview.
The selection, which Carrillo requested, came Tuesday from Board of Supervisors Chairman David Rabbitt, who assigns supervisors roles on three dozen county, regional and state boards or bodies.
Zane added, however, that she agreed with Rabbitt's ultimate intent, to rebalance the supervisors' assignments, which gave twice as many roles last year to her as to Carrillo and Gorin.
"The truth is, in hindsight, this is a good thing," Zane said. "And I think if there's anyone who deserves a seat on that board, it's Efren."
In the other leadership changes, Santa Rosa City Council members Julie Combs and Gary Wysocky took their seats Thursday as new appointees to the power board.