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Being one of the most desirable places to live and visit in Northern California, Healdsburg is a city seeking balance — balance in its mix of jobs, balance in meeting the needs of residents versus the interests of tourists and, most of all, balance in housing. Recent surges in prices and rents have made it difficult for some longtime residents to stay in town.

These issues are at the heart of this year’s election, in which Healdsburg residents will be voting on signficant changes to the city’s growth management ordinance in hopes of kick-starting housing construction in town. These issues also are at the core of this year’s City Council race which features six candidates competing for three seats.

In this election, our support goes to incumbents Gary Plass and Shaun McCaffery and to newcomer David Hagele.

A lifelong resident, Plass has an uncommon understanding of the workings of the community through his 12 years as an elected leader and his nearly 28 years working for the Healdsburg Police Department. Plass, who earned his first seat on the council in 2004 shortly after retiring from the police force, has been a strong advocate for maintaining city roads and other infrastructure, keeping reserves healthy and taking steps to lessen the city’s unfunded pension liabilities.In particular, he’s respected for his expertise and leadership as a commissioner for the Northern California Power Agency, a joint action agency established in 1968 to generate, transmit, and distribute electric power to Healdsburg and 14 other agencies. The city’s foresight in creating its own utility is the reason why the community’s power rates are the envy of the North Coast.

McCaffrey, who studied mechanical engineering at UC Davis and has lived in Healdsburg since 2005, has been on the council for four years including serving as mayor in 2015. His reputation for community service began with his involvement as the house manager of the Raven Theater in 2003, and he’s continued with his help in such causes as the Healdsburg Water Carnival and the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. While on the council, he has shown himself to be a thoughtful steward of the community’s interests with a focus on protecting the quality of life in neighborhoods. He says he’s committed to addressing downtown’s parking issues without building an expensive garage.

David Hagele, founder and CEO of DLH Realty Capital, is making his first run for the City Council. He’s known for his involvement with a number of nonprofits including the 20-30 Club of Santa Rosa. It was with that group in 2009 that he played a key role in saving the Red, White and Boom July 4th celebration at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. As the father of two young children, he says he’s concerned about the ability of families to afford to stay in Healdsburg. His expertise in property financing would be an asset as the city pursues creative ways to build low-income and market-rate residential units. As with Plass and McCaffery, he supports Measure R.

The three remaining candidates, Mel Amato, Tim Meinken and Joe Naujokas, all offer skills and experience that voters should find appealing as well. Amato would provide the clear-eyed perspective of a retired engineer, a skill that already has served the city well through his work to save the historic Memorial Bridge.

Meinken, owner of Gordian Knot winery, has run for the council twice before without success. He opposes Measure R and believes Healdsburg should use city-owned sites to help subsidize the development of affordable housing units.

A software development engineer, Naujokas says he wants to preserve the “small-town soul” of Healdsburg, where he has lived since 1993. Naujokas is a bright young businessman, but he lacks the direct community involvement as others in this race.

Given the caliber of these candidates, voters are likely to find themselves wishing more seats were available. Unfortunately, only three are open this time around. As a result, The Press Democrat recommends Shaun McCaffery, Gary Plass and David Hagele for Healdsburg City Council.

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