While Joanne Sanders decisionhad been the subject of speculation for several weeks, it does change the complexion of city politics almost overnight.
City Clerk Gay Johann confirmed today that for the two City Council seats up in the November election: incumbent Laurie Gallian, David Cook of the Chamber of Commerce, personal trainer Cameron Stuckey, and Madolyn Agrimonti, a member of the Sonoma Valley Hospital board.
Because Sanders is not running, filing will remain open until August 15. So unless Sanders changes her mind and decides to run by Aug. 10, there will be at least one new member of the Sonoma City Council come 2013.
Sanders, the founder ofwith offices in Sonoma and American Canyon, first won election to the council in 2004, making her the second longest-serving councilmember. (Only Ken Brown, first elected in 1998, has her beat.)
She has a reputation as the city's most financially conservative member -- she told the Press Democrat she was spurred to run for office in 2004 after the city enacted a living wage ordinance, and she voted against this year's city budget because it retained money for non-profits while cutting funds for road repair.
If there was any surprise in her announcement, it stemmed from her perceived ambition, evidenced by two forays into a wider political arena. Sanders ran against Noreen Evans in an unsuccessful bid to become a state senator in 2010, and she drew attention in that election when she suggested to Republicans that they change their party registration to vote for her over Evans. For years a Republican, Sanders changed her party registration to Democrat in January 2008, according to county Registrar of Voters databases.
Earlier this year, Sanders entered the race for Sonoma County Supervisor relatively, causing some to complain she split the "Sonoma Valley vote" so that neither she nor Gina Cuclis, a more liberal candidate,for the run-off. Sanders came in fourth.
Ambition, however, was not a characteristic of her statement to the city council on Monday. "But as my children have gotten older I have just come to an appreciation that the demands of public office and running a campaign can be very overwhelming," according to a transcript of Monday's City Council meeting. "And I'm totally enjoying my kids right now and my family, and I just can't see embarking on that at this point."
Perhaps tellingly, Brown's response was not to applaud her service, but her decision not to run. "Speaking for myself, I want to thank you," he said at that meeting. "It's important to people who want to run, and people who are interested in politics here in Sonoma to get a heads up on the decision. And I think it's just the right thing to do and I applaud you for it."
Brown did later tell Patch, "She served her constituents very well and I respect her reasons for not running very much." And in comments to the Press Democrat, he praised Sanders "for being attentive to her constituents and for running a 'very, very good meeting' during her tenure as mayor."
Other city council members were somewhat more generous. Said Tom Rouse, the newest councilmember (elected in 2010), "Mayor Sanders can be proud of the service she has given the city these past 7.5 years. She is articulate and has never been afraid to take a stance on any number of issues. I believe her decision to not run again is good for those who may want to seek office. The City Council job should not be a career."
Steve Barbose, who has been on the Council since 2006 and now becomes the second senior member, said "Joanne has been a hardworking council member and mayor and a passionate advocate on issues important to her. I can understand her decision to devote more time to her family and business and know she will remain active in our community."
On the Sonoma Patch Facebook page, user Dyann Espinosa was generous. "Joanne Sanders has given a huge amount of her time and energy to Sonoma. This and having a small business and 3 children...pretty awesome."
Joanne Sanders will serve until the end of the year, and by now many Sonoma residents have formed their opinions of her term and decision. What do you think? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.