By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The race for three seats on the Sebastopol City Council is starting to take shape with Mayor Sarah Gurney announcing that she is seeking re-election.
“It’s really an honor to be mayor in this city,” said Gurney, who is serving her third term as mayor since being appointed to the council in 2004.
There is still a question, however, of whether it will be uncontested, similar to 2006, or whether other candidates will step forward.
“I think the public is better served by a contested election,” said Vice Mayor Guy Wilson. “At least the issues will get discussed.”
The terms of the seats held by Gurney and council members Larry Robinson and Linda Kelley expire this year. Robinson has said he will not run again and Kelley has not responded to questions about her intention.
Gurney, Ron Basso, former owner of a chain of furniture stores, and Colleen Fernald, an artist and sustainability consultant, are the announced candidates.
The deadline to file as a candidate is Aug. 11.
“For three seats to be uncontested, that is just not good for the community,” said Councilwoman Kathleen Shaffer. “There needs to be choice and I was really hoping this time people will step forward.”
In the 2008 election, Wilson and Shaffer were elected from a field of four candidates. In 2006, however, when Gurney last ran, an election was not held because there were three seats and only three candidates.
Council members receive a stipend of $300 a month, plus health, dental and vision care and a life insurance policy covering the time they serve.
“It is hard work to be on the council; it takes a lot of time, it is something you have to think through and arrange your personal life and professional life,” Wilson said. The stipend “doesn’t begin to cover the time you put in,” he said.
With the difficult budgets and the need to cut programs, wages and employees, being a council member has been discouraging, Robinson said. There is also a tone of discussion at the council level which in the past has been contentious.
“Part of it is the hardening of positions and opinions in our populace in general, and part of it is an anger that grows out of a frustration that is based in a sense of helplessness,” Robinson said. “A lot of people feel that things are spinning out of control and people want to find someone to blame for it.”
Wilson said he believes there will be more candidates, and is surprised they haven’t already filed.
“There are a lot of really talented people in the community who could serve the council well, but they need to step forward and identify themselves,” Wilson said.
“Here we are June 24 and we only have three announced candidates. With three seats, you would think more people would see an opportunity to get elected.”
You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@