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PD Editorial: Lynda Hopkins has earned a second term on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

Four years ago, no contest on the Sonoma County ballot produced as much conflict and intensity as the west county seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Lynda Hopkins, relatively unknown and largely untested when she entered the race, finished first by a small margin in a five-way primary, then defeated a more experienced rival, former state Sen. Noreen Evans, in the general election.

As a candidate, Hopkins promised a break from the factionalism that defined local politics in Sonoma County for so long. She also promised to create new avenues for 5th District residents to influence county policy.

As a county supervisor, Hopkins has kept her word.

Her politics are unabashedly progressive, but she's a results-oriented elected official. She listens to business and agriculture interests, refuses to sign pledges for any interest group (“I hate litmus tests”) and works to ensure that more of the tax dollars collected in the west county are spent there on road maintenance and other services for her constituents.

Maybe that's why her district is shaping up as the least combative of the three supervisorial contests to be decided on the March 3 ballot, even though the west county has been under one disaster declaration or another for more than 90% of Hopkins' tenure.

“It has been floods, fires, floods, fires,” she told the editorial board, “punctuated by the power shutoffs, smoke in the skies, threats to our local schools.”

And homelessness.

When the tent city popped up on the Joe Rodota Trail this year, Hopkins pressed her board colleagues to find alternatives. On Monday, the supervisors appropriated $11.6 million for housing, drug treatment and the county's first sanctioned encampments.

As a newly elected board member, Hopkins inherited a tumultuous conflict over shelter and services in Guerneville, complete with protest signs reading “not in my hometown.”

She didn't shy away from the controversy, hosting town hall meetings and naming advocates and critics to a committee that evaluated proposals for addressing homeless along the lower Russian River.

Three years later, she says, homeless in river communities “has started to tilt downward.”

Hopkins employed a similar model to give her constituents input on other issues, establishing municipal advisory committees with members selected by local residents and public meetings streamed on social media.

Her lone opponent in the March 3 primary, Mike Hilber of Santa Rosa, describes himself as a taxpayer advocate. Hilber has some interesting ideas, including construction of a warehouse-sized homeless shelter. He also favors construction of apartments for county employees on the Chanate Road hospital property rather than selling it to a private developer.

But he doesn't make a compelling case for unseating Hopkins or for how he would persuade the rest of the board to follow his lead.

Outside Sebastopol and a portion of west Santa Rosa, the 5th District is entirely unincorporated territory, governed by the Board of Supervisors. The district has pockets of high unemployment, aging infrastructure and conflicting views about winery events, vacation rentals and marijuana farming that demand leadership from the local supervisor.

Lynda Hopkins is providing that leadership, and The Press Democrat recommends her for reelection in the 5th District.

You can send a letter to the editor at letters@pressdemocrat.com.

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