River council draws 28 candidates

An impressive total of 28 candidates met the deadline last week to run for nine seats on the new Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Council (MAC).

The large turnout ended worries about a lack of interest in the River MAC that will advise the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on public issues along the lower river.

“I’m thrilled by the turnout,” said 5th District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who has championed the formation of a lower river citizens advisory group and a separate Sonoma Coast Municipal Advisory Committee since she took office last year.

The river MAC election will culminate with an all-day caucus and final balloting in the Guerneville School multi-purpose room on Saturday, Nov. 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Nine representatives on the river MAC will represent seven lower river districts: Forestville, Hacienda, Rio Nido, Guerneville, Pocket Canyon, Monte Rio and Cazadero. Each district will elect at least one representative, with Forestville and Guerneville selecting two for those more populated areas.

The candidates’ official statements of occupations, platforms and goals are listed below by the area they hope to represent.  

FORESTVILLE

Vesta Copestakes

 Occupation: Publisher, Sonoma County Gazette

Community service experience: Forestville Chamber of Commerce (board, vice president, president), Forestville Planning Association (founder and board member), Forestville Education Foundation (founder and board member), Friends of Forestville School (board member), Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Sonoma County (board member).

Platform: Like many of us who live here, we value what we have and want to protect what makes us unique. That includes our sensitive environment as well as our intimate towns, small schools and bedroom community status. Preserving what we value is how we will keep this place feeling like home.

Goals: To be a good representative of my home. I know a lot of people and am a good listener. I believe I can be of service to our communities in a way that represents us as a whole, not just me and my personal opinions, which may not always coincide with others in my community. I know a lot about many issues, have a long history of being involved, so I have a perspective few others have. When I represent Forestville, I have to be clear that we are not all of one voice, but that we can agree to disagree and move forward.

Lucy Hardcastle

 Occupation: Crisis counselor, West County Community Services

Community service experience: Forestville Planning Association (secretary), Soroptimist International of Santa Rosa (secretary), Association of Fundraising (president), West County Community Services (crisis counselor), Food for Thought (food fairy and fundraiser)

Platform: I have neighbors who represent a wide swath of folks who live in the lower River area: teachers and counselors, artists and bohemians, construction workers and hairdressers. Some are wealthy, but most are not. Many struggle with the cost of living as our special enclave gets pricey. Being ‘discovered’ as a go-to area after years of neglect is thrilling. To come back from some pretty destructive flooding episodes and shine again is nice. But to be priced out of our homes is brutal. I am a good listener, can see the common threads that bind us together and communicate effectively and respectfully those connections to reach conclusions that work for all.

Goal: To fairly represent my neighbors’ voices while staying true to my own experience. 

Gary Harris

 Occupation: Real Estate Broker, Sequoia Properties

Community service experience: Forestville Chamber of Commerce (president, director), Forestville Water District (director), Independent Broker Association (director, president), El Molino Little League (director, president)

Platform: I am very interested in the downtown core of Forestville. We have a state highway running through the middle of town, which generates a high volume of traffic. Crosswalk/pedestrian safety is a real concern of mine. Other concerns of mine include having an elementary school that is contiguous with a closed business that has contaminated the ground with TCE, the future of the downtown square and the ongoing health of the Russian River and businesses that depend on the health.

Goals: To fairly and honestly represent the needs of our community and convey that to our supervisors. Sometimes unincorporated areas have a more difficult time being represented, and I would like to see that change.

Iain Burnett

Occupation: Project Engineer, Traditional Medicinals

Community service experience: Emily’s Light Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (trustee/manager), West County Pet Adoption Fair (organizer), Green Party Sonoma County (IT/media chair/delegate to GPCA)

Platform: I don’t have plans for my service on the LRR MAC, but I know that whatever issues the community brings to my attention, my skills and personality put me in a good position to do the most good. Ten years in engineering has trained me how to research and understand technical and regulatory issues, how to communicate with groups affected and how to effectively and patiently work with all stakeholders to develop the best solution to whatever is at hand.

Goal: Be a fair, compassionate and hard working in service to the west county and lower Russian River area. I’m not bringing any preconceived goals or accomplishment other than to serve the community to the best of my abilities. As a relatively young member of the community that hopes to raise a family here, I feel I could add a worthwhile perspective.

Allison Bordessa

Occupation: Graduate Student

Community service experience: Forestville Chamber of Commerce (volunteer), Forestville Youth Park (volunteer), Senior Access (program aid/volunteer), Citizens Against the Roundabout (volunteer)

Platform: My aim is bring a voice to residents of west county, particularly to those that are underserved and to participate as a well-informed liaison between our Fifth District Supervisor and the residents of Forestville and our surrounding neighbors in west county.

Goal: To act ethically and to carefully examine all facets of the issues at hand to collaborate with the committee and bring fact-based, appropriate recommendations to local policy makers.

HACIENDA DISTRICT

Calvin Sandeen

Occupation: Project coordinator, Sonoma County Economic Development Board

Community service experience: North Bay/North Coast Broadband Constortium (deputy manager)

Platform: I am a lifelong resident of the Lower Russian River area, having lived in Cazadero, Forestville, Guerneville, Hacienda and Monte Rio. The Lower Russian River is home to me, and I have come to realize just how lucky we are to live where we do. That being said, there will always be ways to make it better. The LRR requires out-of-the-box and progressive thinkers to find sustainable solutions to tackle some of our biggest issues, as well as solve the smaller ones.

Goals: I am interested in helping develop the Lower Russian River to become a better and sustainable community for existing and new residents, businesses and visitors. It is an unincorporated region with various pockets requiring attention in many ways, and I am willing and able to collaborate with my community to ensure all issues and needs are identified and addressed.

Chelene Lopez

 Occupation: Health Promotion Programs Coordinator, St. Joseph Health

Community service experience: St. Joseph Health (health promotion), Sonoma County WIC (in-take/application assistant), Sonoma County CHDP (application assistant)

Platform: My goal and responsibility on the MAC is to serve as a bridge between my community and Supervisor Hopkins’ office.

Goal(s) if selected: My goal is to be a good resource to Supervisor Hopkins’ office to help her make informed decisions that could impact the Hacienda community.

Claudia Sisomphou

Occupation: Communications Coordinator, Sonoma Clean Power

Community service experience: Food for Thought (advocate/volunteer), Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (TNT participant/volunteer), Global Student Embassy (intern/volunteer), Join Us Making Progress (participant), United Nations Association Sonoma County Chapter (member/president)

Platform: We face many of the same problems as the other county communities, including traffic congestion, fire hazards and a lack of access to basic services, but one of the biggest issues that our unique area faces is the health of our river. Those of us in the LRR area experience some of the worst effects of local pollution, but there are causes throughout the entire county that impact the condition of the waterway. As climate change worsens, it will be incredibly important to think of all the sectors that impact the sustainability of our world.

Goal: To strengthen the voice and representation of the Lower Russian River (LRR) area not only in District 5, but in county-wide conversations and decisions.

RIO NIDO DISTRICT

Pip Marquez de la Plata

 Occupation: Executive Director, Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County

Community service experience: Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County (executive director), Friends of Rio Nido (board president), Sweetwater Springs Water District (board president)

Platform: I want to represent a district that generally feels overlooked, to work with other community members to find common ground and help facilitate dialogue.

Goal: To ensure that the issues that face Rio Nido that have a potential to be solved by county government are heard and that the community feels as if they have seat at the table.

Lewis Lee Brown

 Occupation: Nonprofit Management/Disabilities Rights Advocate/Care Provider

Community service experience: Sonoma County Conservation Action (co-founder/canvass director), Becoming Independent (team leader), Project Censored/Media Freedom Foundation (senior research director/writer), Legal Aid of Santa Rosa (legal volunteer), National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (research fellow)

Platform: After a quarter century of living, working, loving and playing here on the Russian River, I have witnessed many conflicts arising and injustices perpetrated through the misuses of zoning laws, the public comment process and a headlong drive toward economic prosperity for a few at the expense of even multi-generational families forced to flee. My experience both in the visceral and sometimes heart-wrenching trenches of change, combined with my legal knowledge and psychological sensitivity, provide me with a unique perspective and ability to help see into and heal the roots of conflict.

Goal: To help diffuse conflict and to better understand the fears and concerns as well as the hopes and wishes of my community, to help generate a workable long-term plan for our region that leaves no one behind, providing both opportunities for growth and prosperity for local business owners, as well as ample housing, education, health services and emergency services for everyone.

John Uniack

GUERNEVILLE DISTRICT

Brian Applegarth

Occupation: Entrepreneur

Community service experience: Sonoma City Tourism (marketing committee), Giveback Tuesdays (donations), Music Cares (volunteer), Operation Hunger (volunteer)

Platform: My skills are in communicating and problem solving. Because of my vast experience internationally, I have insights that are unusual. I am empathetic and have respect for all members of my community. It would be an honor to be appointed.

Goal: To stay highly engaged with stakeholders in the Guerneville District and represent their collective voice professionally and clearly and to advocate for the meaningful and sustainable development of the Lower Russian River.

Brian Ohm

Occupation: Owner, In the Tree Apothecary

Community service experience: CPALS of Sonoma County (director), Yor OM Wellness MBC (executive director), Multimedia Arts Foundation (member)

Platform: Through community outreach, the MAC can create a political voice expressing the diverse issues and needs of the separate river community and provide the coordination necessary to make community-level government more efficient and less expensive.

Goal: A voice for the community, create a forum for community participation, enhance a strong regional economy in the Lower Russian River, preserve Sonoma County’s image as an eco-tourist destination, foster economic development for the river communities, promote clean water and environmental protection.

Dylan Ohm

Occupation: Owner/operator of In the Tree Apothecary

Community service experience: Cerebral Palsy Alternative Lifestyle Solutions Foundation (director), Yor Om Institute (managing member), Sonoma Film Festival (volunteer)

Platform: My first priority is to listen to residents’ advice and to carry their voice to our elected officials. I will focus on neighborhood compatibility, safety, support for the local economy and preservation of the west county heritage. 

Goal: My goal would be to create a safe space and opportunity for residents to be heard by organizing local events. My goal is to help the board efficiently and effectively implement local planning that ensures a sustainable future both economically and environmentally.

Jeniffer Wertz

 Occupation: Real Estate Appraiser

Community service experience: Guerneville Community Alliance (volunteer)

Platform: My priorities are getting as much of our TOT (tourism occupancy tax) to be spent here as possible, continuing to work with law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office for a safe community, continue to advocate to get homeless people out of illegal encampments and into legal shelter and to reduce fire and water quality hazards associated with illegal homeless encampments.

Goal: My goal has always been to try and make the community healthy and safe for everyone. I would like to see the diverse fabric of this community thrive and for us to retain our unique character as we improve our quality of life. I believe there needs to be a healthy balance. We need everyone to have a home, especially our local workers who are essential to our local economy.

Jordan Lebovich

 Occupation: Vacation Rental Manager, Russian River Vacation Homes

Community service experience: Redwood Empire Remodelers Association (vice president, president), American Institute of Architects (communications director), Russian River Chamber of Commerce (treasurer)

Platform: I know that everyone will be watching to see if the MAC will be successful or not, so it will be critical to get some quick wins and show everyone that this idea can work. I would also like to get a list of priorities together that can be divided into short, medium and long-term projects and vet that through the community.

Goal: If elected to the MAC, I see the following issues as ones we might take on: affordable housing, jobs and training, businesses, tasting rooms, parking, tourism, traffic, safety and blight. I don’t have answers or solutions to offer, as these are very complex issues, but I know that with invested MAC representatives and community involvement, we can help inform the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on our issues and hopefully come up with solutions to improve our neighborhoods.

Rod Redmon

Occupation: Registered Nurse, Life Coach

Community service experience: Memorial Hospital Bioethics Forum and Hospice Board of Directors (team member, consultant), Guerneville Community Church (youth leader), Guerneville Elementary School (classroom volunteer), Empowerment Center (member, music team), Grace Fellowship Church (youth leader, men’s group leader, street ministry)

Platform: Whatever role I am in, I focus on relationships. I have lots of ideas that I can share without getting upset if they are not chosen for action or if they get changed. I would like to provide links between the creative citizens of Guerneville and the Board of Supervisors and the businesses in our county. I’d like to help establish community efforts over time, so as new people come into the community or into office, everything won’t get reinvented.

Goal: To help the Board of Supervisors better understand the issues of the Lower Russian River on the grassroots level, to help advocate for people whose voices are not well heard and to promote unity and respect among all our citizens.

POCKET CANYON DISTRICT

Marcy Cooper

Occupation: Independent Contractor

Community service experience: San Quentin Community Partnership (educator), Friends and Residents of Guerneville (secretary), River Friends of the Library (publicity/social media chair), Veterans Employment Committee (vice chair), San Francisco Reentry Board (workforce services committee)

Platform: The Russian River Watershed is the gateway to all of our communities, businesses and homes. I have been able to get very involved in the love and care of my own community now, which is very fulfilling. I have learned to work with my neighbors, and we all have very and varied different opinions and ideas. The solutions are what is important and the positive path to them. I know how to put my community’s needs first and to be very objective, which I think is really important if you are working with others, especially as a team member. We are neighbors and volunteers, and I would say anything someone finds important should be brought up. All activities that affect our communities affect us all.

Goal: To seek consensus and representation on the many issues we, as a rural area, have. Our neighbors and community members have consistently asked for a voice. The Lower Russian River MAC is that voice. We must be active and show up. I will ensure our public knows they have a voice, and we are there to listen.

Angie Dillon-Shore

Occupation: Executive Director, First 5 Sonoma County

Community service experience: First 5 Sonoma County (executive director), Sonoma County Human Services (upstream investments initiative), Community Action Partnership (Healthy Communities director), Larkin St. Youth Services (homeless youth services coordinator), Sonoma County Rises (co-chair)

Platform: I have a deep commitment to the critical role of community voice in government and am inspired by the efforts to create a system for residents of unincorporated 5th District to have a stronger, more equitable voice. I yearn to bring my knowledge, connections and skills gleaned from years of working at the county level to a more concentrated, personally relevant, local focus in the community where I have lived for 14 years and plan to retire.

Goal: To fulfill the duties of the representative well enough to be considered trustworthy, effective and sincere by the residents of the district and the other MAC representatives.

Jeanette Dillman

Occupation: Retired

Community service experience: Russian River Health Center (board of directors), Sonoma County Association for Retarded Citizens (president), River Community Services (board of directors), Sonoma County Democratic Central Committee (alternate), Sonoma County Human Services Commission (commissioner), Russian River Area Resources and Advocates (participant)

Platform: What interests me most is developing an organization that is open and transparent, with solid policies and procedures to set the underpinnings for this critical community need.

Goal(s) if selected: To represent Pocket Canyon and Noel Heights neighborhood, which is more sparsely populated and less urban. This area is often an afterthought and needs a place and voice at the table in establishing a solid foundation for this pioneer river council. 

Crista Luedtke

 Occupation: Chef/Owner of Boon Eat + Drink

Community service experience: Russian River Chamber of Commerce (board member), Sonoma County Tourism Bureau (board member/marketing chair)

Platform: I think I am a good voicebox for change, and I think people trust me in the community. I hope to be able to be a bridge between our residents and business community and Board of Supervisors.

Goal: To ensure that the best interests of our community are being considered and to be an advocate for change that will help us to be a sustainable destination for years to come. I feel I have a good sense of what works and what doesn’t in the Lower Russian River.

Kim Holliday

Occupation: Program Manager

Community service experience: Russian River Brand Working Group (member), Friends of Rio Nido (board member), Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee (elected member)

Platform: I respect and desire to protect our unique lifestyle out here, while recognizing there are things that need fixing and new areas into which we may need to grow.

Goal: To represent the span of interests in our community, inject creative ideas and problem solving into discussions on how to address community needs and to facilitate good discussions.

Bruce MacDonell

Occupation: Construction Management

Community service experience: Russian River Wild Steelhead Society (president), Clean River Alliance (Garbage Patch kid), River Keeper (volunteer), CDFW (mentor), El Molino Little League (coach)

Platform: I feel I can contribute by using my 40 years of construction knowledge to help with recommendations and ideas. My lifelong relationship with the Russian River powers my passion and motivates me to achieve goals that will ultimately benefit the river and my community.

Goal: To be a voice for those in the Pocket Canyon District and to help bridge the gap in communications between my community and our local officials and agencies, regarding a variety of topics and, at times, provide recommendations to our local supervisors on those topics.

MONTE RIO DISTRICT

Chuck Ramsey

Occupation: Banking

Community service experience: Russian River Alliance (president), Monte Rio Community Alliance (president), Monte Rio Rec and Park District (director), Monte Rio Chamber (president), Sonoma County Pride (president), Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District (hearing board officer)

Platform: It is my hope that the MAC can be a voice for change through the Board of Supervisors. We have so much potential here. Instead of reminiscing and longing for the heydays of yesterday, instead of neglect and apathy, we should be taking control of our destiny, be excited about the possibility and be proud of where we are heading.

Goal: To make the River the envy of anyone that visits here. This would entail all our communities and our governmental partners working together for the greater good.

Cynthia Strecker

Occupation: Retired

Community service experience: Monte Rio Union School District (board member)

Platform: I feel that doing this job well means committing to more than just a monthly meeting. It is also necessary to commit to extending ourselves to many groups and individuals within our own community to ensure that we are receiving a well-rounded overview of their needs and perspectives.

Goal: I would want to see the river area continue to progress in ways that maintain our diversity, strengthening our relatively strong middle class and safeguard our citizens who are struggling economically.

Kyra Wink

Occupation: Retired

Community service experience: Friends of Villa Grande (board vice president, member, secretary), Kaiser Permanente (volunteer), American Lung Association (board member)

Platform: I have experience in program development and the writing of protocols. I am a great organizer, communicator, facilitator and planner. I really enjoy working with diverse populations, teasing out commonalities for possible consensus building and problem solving. 

Goal: To develop and establish the foundation and protocols for the future of MAC operations and to help develop a synergistic relationship between the community and the supervisors and other governmental agencies.

CAZADERO/DUNCANS MILLS DISTRICT

Mike Nicholls

 Occupation: Community Volunteer

Community service experience: Wisconsin State Vocational Technical Curriculum Task Force (governor appointment), River Area Shelter and Downtown Task Group (supervisor appointment), River to Coast Children’s Services (board member), Cazadero CSD (board president), Access Sonoma Broadband (co-chair), Russian River Rotary (member)

Platform: I have long felt the lower river region has been underrepresented and many times overlooked in the county conversation, which generally tends to be Highway 101-centric. Key goals include expanding the county conversation to include the Lower Russian River region and work to assure that a greater share of TOT funding is returned to local communities.

Goal(s) if selected: To assist in creating new local jobs, reduce the level of distrust held by many with regard to “the county,” and to provide a local ear for residents and leveraging worthwhile opportunities with the balance of the board for the good of the region.

Theresa “Terry” Gwiazdowski

Occupation: Retired Library Manager

Community service experience: Clean River Alliance (volunteer), Guerneville Friends of the Library (volunteer)

Platform: To engage with key stakeholders in my community and throughout the MAC is of great interest to me. I would bring organizational skills, communication skills and moderating skills to this position. I was a team member and team leader on many projects in my library jobs, and I feel that I can bring these skills with me to the MAC.

Goal: To discover the most pressing needs of the various communities in the MAC and to work with my fellow MAC members, with Supervisor Hopkins and the entire board of supervisors to create plans to fill those needs.

Tom Walls

Occupation: Hairstylist, Owner of Heads Up Hair Care

Community service experience: Bernal Heights Merchant Association

Platform: I look forward to being the voice of the community. Since 1994, I have been a visitor to the area and seen how the community has changed. Being a voice for my community and all the wonderful people I know and will get to know drives me to work on saving what we have.

Goal: To work with local and county organizations to remove/save the tan oak and to create local jobs by researching ways to convert the local saw mills into producing alternative building materials.

For more information, contact Amie Windsor, 5th District field representative, at  Amie.Windsor@sonoma-county.org or (707) 565-2866.