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Sonoma County clerk-recorder-assessor Bill Rousseau says he will not run for re-election

Bill Rousseau, Sonoma County’s clerk-recorder-assessor and elections chief for the past five years, has announced he will not run for office next year, making him the third elected county official in recent months to opt for retirement over re-election.

Rousseau, 60, who began working for the county in 1983 as an appraiser said he plans to serve the rest of his term, forgoing any need for the Board of Supervisors to appoint an interim successor, as was the case this year for both the top job at the Sheriff’s Office and the Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector post.

“That’s the most important thing for us,” said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Shirlee Zane. “We don’t want to be appointing anybody else mid term.”

Rousseau was the county’s longtime chief deputy assessor when the Board of Supervisors appointed him to the elected post in 2012 to fill a vacancy opened by the retirement of his predecessor, Janice Atkinson. He ran for election unopposed in 2014, receiving nearly ?70,000 votes.

With a $19.8 million budget and about 108 jobs, the office is responsible for property assessments, recording real estate transaction documents, issuing marriage licenses, administering elections and other county duties.

“Even though I know the office pretty well and we’ve done a lot of improvements, it’s time for me to go and bring in new ideas, and time for someone to take over the office and lead it into the future,” Rousseau said. “I’ve been really blessed with the county of Sonoma, but I think it’s time for a change.”

Rousseau said he believed the office had “some good internal people that will step up and run” for the job next year. He mentioned by name Deva Proto, the chief deputy clerk recorder, who he said has “done an excellent job with everything she’s handled.”

Proto, who has served in her current position about 4½ years and has been a county employee for about a decade, said Friday she was “very interested in the position” and “definitely considering it.” She planned to discuss the prospect of a campaign with her family and friends and hoped to make a final decision sometime in the next few weeks.

Another employee of the office, Rod Marusic, an assessment process specialist who has also been with the county for about 10 years, said he plans to run in the hopes that he could better educate taxpayers about the services available to them and improve the way the office is managed.

Ray Leonard, the office’s administrative services officer, who supervisors considered for the post at the same time they appointed Rousseau, said he does not plan to run at this time.

During his time at the helm of the office, Rousseau said he was proud to have brought the Clerk-Recorder-Assessor’s office to one physical location - the Registrar of Voters headquarters is still separate - and to have led the office through the 2016 election year, which produced some “high public scrutiny” in both the primary and general elections.

In his remaining time in office, Rousseau said he was looking forward to acquiring new, more modern voting and ballot counting technology. By replacing the current technology, which is more than 30 years old, Rousseau hoped to help the county be more efficient in the way it runs elections. That includes faster processing of ballots, though much of those chronic delays, Rousseau said, have been the result of voters dropping off their mail-in ballots too close to Election Day.

Zane credited Rousseau, with helping steer his office through the economic downturn, when numerous homes had to be reassessed, and the subsequent recovery, among other accomplishments.

“I’ve been very pleased with the work that he’s done,” Zane said. “I think he’s got a lot of integrity and experience and I’m sorry to see him retire.”

You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or jd.morris@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @thejdmorris.

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