Four seats are opening up on the Santa Rosa City Council next year, and some fresh faces are stepping forward to vie for a voice on the seven-member body.
The three new candidates, none of whom have run for elected office before, will join at least three incumbents who plan to defend their positions, meaning voters will have several options to choose from in the 2016 election cycle.
The most recent entry into the race is Jack Tibbetts, a 25-year-old environmental activist and member of the city’s Board of Public Utilities. He officially kicked off his campaign last week, but his plans were hardly a secret.
The son of a longtime Santa Rosa political consultant, Nick Tibbetts, he has been rumored to be planning a council run for months, a bid he confirmed in an interview with a Press Democrat reporter earlier this month at a county meeting on options to house homeless people.
He has all the markings of a serious candidate. He is working with a San Francisco-based political consultant, has a professionally designed website and is raising campaign cash.
“I’m all in and I’m all in early because I want to reach all 48,000 (active Santa Rosa voters),” he said.
Tibbetts, who grew up in Santa Rosa, since April has been a community and government affairs director at California Clean Power, which works to help local governments establish energy programs similar to Sonoma Clean Power, the local electricity supplier.
He said he makes a good salary for someone his age, but is keenly aware that given the soaring home prices and rents he won’t be able to afford a house in his hometown anytime soon.
“I see homeowners as the key to the middle class and we’re not creating an environment for homeownership,” he said.
Developers have told him that Santa Rosa’s impact fees are too high and its entitlement process too cumbersome. While he doesn’t feel the city should “grovel” to induce developers to build here, he said he thinks the city should find ways to make it more attractive to them.
While it may be his first run for public office, it’s hardly his first political endeavor.
While a junior at UC Berkeley in 2013, Tibbetts spearheaded a ballot initiative that would have taxed oil and gas companies to fund education, clean energy, infrastructure and parks.
The initiative, which was estimated to raise up to $2 billion annually, failed to get off the ground because Tibbetts quickly realized he’d never get the 505,000 signatures needed in time to qualify. So he switched gears and instead spent his energy supporting a similar bill by former Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa. That legislation has stalled.
Tibbetts lives with his girlfriend in Bennett Valley.
Another new face on the political scene is Brandi Asker, a 35-year-old mother of two young girls who is a district manager at Starbucks.
She said she was encouraged to become politically active by her grandfather-in-law, James Sparks, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council against developer Hugh Codding decades ago and speaks fondly of the experience.
Asker, who lives in Rincon Valley, says the city needs to grow its economy and housing stock to better serve its current and future residents.