Q&A with Windsor Council member Rosa Reynoza

Council member reflects on the community’s past, present and future including COVID-19, town growth and fire season|

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This story is part of a special section focusing on the various communities in Sonoma County. For more stories about local communities, go to bit.ly/3SfyHkf.

Windsor is a small town that made big headlines in May 2021 when its former mayor, Dominic Foppoli, eventually resigned after a number of women made allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against him. As the town builds back from that scandal, its council faces plenty of other challenges including selecting a new town manager, balancing a budget impacted by a decline in hotel tax revenue and addressing the threats of wildfires and a global pandemic.

Rosa Reynoza, who was elected to the town council in 2021, believes the city also needs to slow down the pace of development, tackle the problem of housing affordability and maintain community involvement.

We asked the Windsor town council member about what makes Windsor special, what its challenges are, what’s being done about those challenges and what she believes the town’s future will look like.

Q: Could you start by telling me a little bit about yourself and your history with the town?

A: I've lived in Windsor since 1979, but I got involved in politics around 2015. I was … noticing stuff getting torn down and paying more attention to what's happening. I started attending town council meetings. People were looking for some new representation, and I was looking for it too. … I felt I wasn't being heard.

Q: What kinds of things were the council members doing that you didn't agree with?

A: The council at that time was like, ‘well, (the people) voted us in to make these hard decisions.’ I'm thinking, no, if I vote someone into office, I just want them to be connected to what we want … to ask us, and not just take the reins and vote how you want.

And then I finally decided, why not me? Why can't I do it, a regular resident raising a family, middle-class. I got a lot of pushback, a lot of ‘nope, someone with a full time job cannot do this. Someone with kids can't do this.’ I started campaigning my first year in 2016.

I ran every two years until I got a seat — I just kept going for it. I wasn't going to give up, especially because I knew, at that time, the council did not want me there. That motivated me even more. What (was) their concern of having … at least one of the voices on the council to be totally opposite of them? Because I feel like it needs to be diverse. What an amazing thing to have a group of five people coming together making decisions for the whole community. They don't have to be on the same page all the time.

I finally won with this whole drama with Dominic Foppoli. I've been on the council for one year now. I'll have until December to serve.

Q: I'm curious, how has all of this ‘drama’ affected the dynamics on the town council and the council's relationship with the community?

A: The (past) council members always felt like they were doing the right thing. They were always doing what they thought was the best for the community. But we've learned since then, it wasn't. It wasn't how the people would have wanted them to handle it. That's where a lot of the community started speaking up and saying, ‘We want more transparency. We want you guys to be more open and honest and let us know exactly what's happening when it's happening.’ So, the change has been that there's more involvement, and maybe that's part of COVID too, with the Zoom meetings. Everything's accessible now.

Q: Have you noticed an uptick in public participation?

A: For sure. And I hope it continues ... I actually don't want to let go of Zoom availability. I want to see that continue.

Q: Stepping back, what would you say are some things that make Windsor special?

A: ​​Well, on a personal note, there's generations after generations of families that have lived here and raised their kids here. My grandparents moved here first in '72. And then my mother and my dad moved in '79. I'm surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles. So many friends that I grew up with are still here.

The other nice thing is that there are so many neighborhoods that have great connections. They work together, they play together. … Everyone's going to school together. … I think we have great parks. Not only the town parks, but also surrounded by the county — Foothill and Shiloh parks.

Q: How has Windsor changed, looking over the last decade?

A: Definitely a lot wealthier people have moved into town. But it's not a bad thing … well, the bad thing is it is unaffordable for young families, or my oldest kid (who) moved back in with me. It's not as easy as it was to move into Windsor.

It's almost a town where I have everything I need besides a hospital. Walmart came in a while back, there's more options for restaurants, services, massage, nails, whatever. I only go out of town to go to the movies, maybe.

Q: Looking back over the last couple of years, how would you say that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the town?

A: In a positive way, back to the neighborhoods, we saw more connections. People were having block parties. There (was) a little bit of a difficult time there. We lost some businesses, but also some businesses opened during COVID. I think Grata was one that opened — an Italian restaurant over here.

We did have one of the higher rates (of COVID-19) by zip code.

Q: Why do you think it was higher, comparatively?

A: I don't know. … Honestly, some people might blame it on the Latino community … I know they have a statistically higher rate. Maybe we just tested more often. Hard to say.

Q: If you were to ask your average resident of Windsor, what would you say is their top concern in town right now?

A: At this moment? The scooters. On social media, the talk of the town is the scooters, and the one homeless person on the Town Green. Besides that, a lot of people also are very concerned that we have a few major developments going in right now. The discussion is, where's the water coming from? How can we build if we're in a drought? And why are we building if there's a drought? So there's a piece of education where we say we're required to by the state. We have a lot of projects that have been ongoing for a long time. Eventually, these lots that are empty are going to start seeing developments and people will start asking: When did this get approved? And why are we doing it?

Q: Speaking for yourself, what would you say are the top three challenges facing the governing body of the town? What are some of the big issues the town council is talking about?

A: Number one is our budget.

Q: Was that pretty impacted by the pandemic?

A: From my perspective, it started way before that ... that was something that I was paying attention to in 2015 and 2016. I saw some numbers going down and … now, it doesn't look very good. We had a discussion about adding sales tax on the ballot. It wasn't taken very well by the town.

The big thing is how do we get our revenues to increase. That's challenging when you have the county coming in, and they made a contract with one of the hotels for the homeless. That took away TOT (hotel) taxes. It was just done between the hotel and the county, and we were not even involved or … even told that it was happening until after it happened. And so that's challenging. … It was only temporary. So it's back to a hotel now. (Other challenges are) affordability and housing.

Q: When it comes to those issues, what do you feel the council is doing to address them?

A: As a council person myself, my job is to look at every expense a lot closer. I ask more questions: Why are we spending that money? Do we have to spend that money? Where can we save money? Can we attract new businesses, when we bring new business into Windsor? So that will be exciting to see. The last big business was the Russian River (Brewing Company). That was a really big deal to bring them in. Not only for the revenue stream, but for employment too.

Q: If you were guiding visitors around Windsor for a day, where would you take them? What is the best that the town has to offer?

A: I really think Windsor is considered a quiet, family-friendly town. So when I picture who would want to come stay in Windsor and why, I picture families with young kids who want to come and just relax, get out of wherever they're at — the hustle and bustle of the city and come relax here. And so we’ve got a lot of hiking. We've got wonderful lakes, fishing at the golf course. We have a cute little museum that a lot of even residents don't know about … the historic Windsor Museum.

If you come during the summer … we have a movie series targeting the kids. This year we're going to show the Goonies – I'm so excited. And then we have music Thursday nights, and the farmer’s market is really fun. And the local candy store. Note: In an email, Reynoza later recommended the Windsor Bowling Center as a fun destination for families, which offers glow-in-the-dark miniature golf and two escape rooms.

Q: Obviously, this area has experienced a lot of impact from fires. How is Windsor preparing to manage that risk?

A: For a lot of our protection, we rely on the county as far as making sure that the big parks are cut back. I think they've gotten a little bit stricter with property owners, making sure they take care of their properties, being out there and educating the public about defensive gardening and landscaping.

Q: Looking towards the future, how do you think the town will change in the next decade to come?

A: We'll definitely have more buildings, more housing, more apartments. I'm hoping to see one major attraction for families — a large complex, whether it's a swimming complex or an epicenter for sporting events ... something like that. Besides the housing, I would like to see slower growth.

It's going to grow. I mean, there's really no avoiding that. We have about 30,000 (residents). But if we do it right, it'll still feel the same, I hope.

Your Community

This story is part of a special section focusing on the various communities in Sonoma County. For more stories about local communities, go to bit.ly/3SfyHkf.

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