A former congresswoman from Sonoma County and three veterans of a previous local pension reform group are among the seven people nominated to a new county advisory panel that will inform efforts to reduce the rising costs of government employee pensions.
The nominations will be considered Sept. 12 by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, which voted in April to establish a permanent citizens advisory committee to provide ongoing public oversight of its one of its most complicated policy goals: reining in its rising employee pension costs, previously estimated at about $112.3 million this fiscal year.
Supervisors David Rabbitt and Shirlee Zane selected the seven nominees from a pool of 22 applicants, 14 of whom they interviewed at the end of July. The county previously said 21 people applied, but one application was accepted late.
“It was really about getting a group of people together that I thought would fulfill all of the wide range of opinions that are out there,” Rabbitt said of the nominees. “And to provide some continuity by including those that have served prior (and) mixing it up a little bit with some fresh blood.”
Committee nominees include former Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a Petaluma Democrat who represented much of Sonoma County in Congress for 20 years, during which time she served as chair and later ranking member of the House’s subcommittee on workforce protections.
Also included are three members of the earlier temporary citizens panel that submitted recommendations in 2016: Jack Atkin, the former president of the Sonoma County Taxpayers’ Association; Martin Jones, a business management consultant, and Rebecca Jones, a retired controller, consultant and financial operations manager.
The nominees also include two people with backgrounds in organized labor: John Hadzess, a housing compliance officer who worked for the Carpenters Union for 20 years, and Anthony Withington, a retiree who was once president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1575. Additionally, nominee Sandra Coyle was previously assistant executive officer of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
The committee is charged with reviewing an annual county report on the state of its retirement system, analyzing other published reports relevant to county pensions and presenting annual updates to the Board of Supervisors that will include discussion of innovative pension reform strategies being pursued by other jurisdictions. Recommendations from the committee will be strictly advisory, and the group will have no authority over the county’s union contract negotiations.
Once appointed, committee members can serve an unlimited number of two-year terms, although Coyle, Hadzess and Martin Jones will serve for three years at first. The committee is expected to hold six to nine meetings annually, the first of which is planned for sometime in October.
You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.