Say this for Cloverdale, there’s no shortage of civic engagement.
Cloverdale, a town with a little more than 8,800 residents, has eight candidates for two City Council seats on Tuesday’s ballot, the largest field in any of the eight cities and 16 school districts holding elections in Sonoma County next week.
Quantity doesn’t guarantee quality.
In this contest, however, Cloverdale voters can choose from an impressive mix of skilled City Hall veterans and energetic newcomers, all of them focused on bolstering the local economy and improving basic public services.
The Press Democrat recommends incumbents Mary Ann Brigham and Bob Cox for re-election. But it’s too bad there aren’t seats for some of the other candidates, especially Planning Commissioner Melanie Bagby.
Brigham, 66, was first elected to the council in 1998 and returned in 2012 after a two-year hiatus. She subsequently sold her business, Ruth McGowan’s Brewpub, and signaled that she wouldn’t run for another term. But she says she has too many unfinished projects to step down now. Among them are persuading the county to open a satellite Health and Human Services office in Cloverdale; adding a walkway on the First Street Bridge, a busy pedestrian route for children going back and forth to school; and implementing Cloverdale’s recently enacted marijuana business ordinance.
Cox, 70, is retired from the auto parts business. He was appointed to a council vacancy in 2009 and elected three years later. Before joining the council, he cofounded the Cloverdale Alliance for Financial Education, which provides financial know-how and startup help for small businesses. “We were putting people in business in Cloverdale,” he said, citing examples ranging from a landscape maintenance company to a jewelry designer.
Cloverdale has persevered through the decline of the timber industry, construction of a Highway 101 bypass that routed traffic away from downtown and a painful recession. The city’s coffers are recovering, with help from a resuscitated business district with new restaurants, a theater and popular Friday evening concerts. There are still some vacancies to be filled, and opening City Hall for a fifth day would help. So the next council will need a continued focus on economic development.
That’s a goal shared by incumbents Brigham and Cox as well as the challengers in Tuesday’s election. They are Bagby; freelance writer Paul Wrenn; James Luchini, a Chamber of Commerce board member; Jason Turner, an alternate member of the Planning Commission; Keith King, a retired police officer; and Sandy Crayford, a retired school accounting technician.
Bagby, 38, co-owns an IT consulting business and worked on Cloverdale’s most recent general plan update and its urban growth boundary. She also has been a member of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board and Climate Action 2020. Bagby understands land-use issues and recognizes the potential boost from filling vacant storefronts downtown. We’re confident she would be an outstanding council member and hope she runs again if she isn’t elected.
Luchini, who works for Francis Ford Coppola Winery, and Turner, who works in health care, also should stay involved. Luchini, 40, is a strong advocate for business and says the city should be more welcoming to new ventures, but he is a bit fuzzy about what that entails. Turner, 29, says he wants younger people to get more involved. He sets a good example, but we believe more time on the Planning Commission would better prepare him for elected office.