PD Endorsement: Mark Stapp, Terry Sanders and Jeff Okrepkie for Santa Rosa City Council

The times call for creative thinking and unified leadership.|

Editorials represent the views of The Press Democrat editorial board and The Press Democrat as an institution. The editorial board and the newsroom operate separately and independently of one another.

Santa Rosa has come along way since the 2017 fires, but more challenges are ahead: revitalizing downtown, fully incorporating Roseland and surrounding neighborhoods into the city and finding a way to keep city budgets balanced without making deep cuts in public safety and other important services.

The times call for creative thinking and unified leadership. Three City Council seats are up for election on Nov. 8. The choice is clear in two districts, and it’s a much closer call in the third. Here’s our assessment:

District 2: With four-term Councilman John Sawyer stepping down, voters in southeast Santa Rosa will choose between Mark Stapp, a Sonoma State University administrator, and Mason Rossiter, a student at Santa Rosa Junior College.

Rossiter supports high-density housing, greater community engagement and shifting money from police to fire and violence prevention. As a young person getting started, he offers a perspective not presently represented on the council, but he can’t match the knowledge and experience of Stapp, who serves on the city’s Design Review Board and the oversight committee for the Measure O sales tax.

Stapp is well-versed in Santa Rosa’s economic and housing needs, he’s committed to preserving the Bennett Valley Golf Course and careful development of the Southeast Greenway — top District 2 priorities — and we think he would be a good addition to the City Council.

District 4: Victoria Fleming, a social worker elected in 2018, has advocated for expanding child care, and she joined a unanimous vote to accelerate a minimum wage increase in Santa Rosa. She favors housing but is skeptical of residential development on the Sutter Hospital property on Chanate Road, citing concerns about emergency evacuation.

Although she voted to ease restrictions on building downtown, Fleming is opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and by unions representing police and firefighters, who were offended by her remarks about policing after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in 2020.

Terry Sanders, a recently retired Oakland paramedic, is a formidable challenger. Sanders’ home in Fountaingrove burned in the 2017 fire, giving him a personal connection to a section of District 4 still struggling to rebuild. He has active support in the downtown business community and among first responders.

Sanders says he’s committed to downtown revitalization, including a grocery store and a pedestrian connection between downtown and Railroad Square. He is troubled by homeless people living in RVs and cooking over open flames in city parks and warns that some are “gaming our system.”

Also running in District 4 are Henry Huang, an accountant and attorney who advocates free parking to draw people downtown, but couldn’t vote on many downtown issues because of his property holdings, and Shari Shamsavari, a retired educator, who says her grant-writing experience would help the city obtain funding for public services.

It has been 12 years since Santa Rosa voters ousted an incumbent, but Fleming’s strained relations with business and first responders cannot be overlooked. While some of Sanders’ comments about homeless people are too harsh, he offers a fresh start in District 4.

District 6: Jeff Okrepkie and Veronica Jacobi are running to succeed two-term Councilman Tom Schwedhelm in northwest Santa Rosa. Jacobi, an engineer, served on the City Council from 2006-2010 and is a passionate advocate for local action to combat climate change.

However, few first-time council candidates are as well prepared as Okrepkie, a commercial insurance agent and founder of Coffey Strong, a volunteer organization that was instrumental to rebuilding after the 2017 fires. Okrepkie, who serves on the Planning Commission, has an insider’s and an outsider’s understanding of government. He’s a clear choice for City Council.

You can send letters to the editor to letters@pressdemocrat.com.

Editorials represent the views of The Press Democrat editorial board and The Press Democrat as an institution. The editorial board and the newsroom operate separately and independently of one another.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:
  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.