Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey announced Tuesday he will not seek a second term on the City Council this fall, but hinted that he’s not yet finished with public service.
The former newspaper columnist, who was the face of the city during the devastating October wildfires and subsequent recovery efforts, gave few clues about what he might do next, saying he wanted to focus on his remaining time in office.
“It’s a strange job where you have to give five months’ notice,” Coursey said after the meeting. “I don’t like being a lame duck, and I don’t plan to act like one.”
Council colleagues said they had been wondering whether Coursey would run this fall for the newly formed District 4 seat, which represents much of central and north Santa Rosa, including the Fountaingrove neighborhood.
Vice Mayor Chris Rogers said Coursey took most of his colleagues by surprise with the announcement. Coursey has been working incredibly hard, and the workload and general demands of the position must have played a role in his decision, Rogers said.
“He was the face of the city and he was out there every day working for his constituents, and that’s got to be draining for him,” Rogers said.
Coursey, 63, is an avid skier and bicyclist. He said he is in good health.
Councilman John Sawyer said few mayors have faced such a confluence of challenges as Coursey did during his term, including the fires, the homeless crisis and the housing crisis.
“It’s been a really difficult couple of years in the mayor’s office,” Sawyer said.
Coursey made the announcement during the council meeting, making only a vague reference to “looking for other ways to contribute to the community when next year comes around.”
He steadfastly declined to share what some of those contributions might be. He would neither comment on nor rule out running for higher office.
“I have no idea what I’m going to be doing. I know what I’m not going to be doing,” he said.
He said the only reason he made the announcement now was so people who might be considering running for office could make an informed decision about whether they wanted to run.
The deadline for candidates to file paperwork to qualify for the ballot is Aug. 10. Sawyer and Councilman Tom Schwedhelm have already filed paperwork indicating their intention to run again, Sawyer for the new District 2 seat in Bennett Valley and Schwedhelm for the new District 6 seat in Coffey Park.
Coursey filed no such paperwork, a fact that had not gone unnoticed at City Hall. Coursey, a longtime columnist at The Press Democrat and brief spokesman for the SMART commuter rail system, was the top vote getter in 2014 when he ran and it’s widely believed that he’d be a shoo-in if he ran again.
At least one person has expressed an interest in the job. Victoria Fleming, a member of the city’s Community Advisory Board and Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women, filed a form in January indicating an interest in running for council.
Fleming, a social worker, was in the audience during the Tuesday City Council meeting. Fleming confirmed she is running for the seat.