By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Janet Orchard, Cotati’s vice mayor for the past year, was named mayor Wednesday by a unanimous City Council vote.
The 55-year-old councilwoman has twice been mayor before, in 2002 and 2006. An insurance underwriter first elected to the council in 2000, she is the city’s representative to the general assembly of the Association of Bay Area Governments.
The last few minutes of outgoing Mayor Robert Coleman-Senghor’s term were touched with the same bitter atmospherics that characterized much of his 14 months as the council’s head.
In a period set aside for public comments, former Councilman George Barich, who lost his seat in a 2009 recall election spurred by the use on his website of a photograph of himself in blackface, called Coleman-Senghor a “race hustler.”
The comments, part of a lengthy list of criticisms Barich delivered, were a reference to racial comments made by Coleman-Senghor around the time of the blackface controversy.
Barich and other critics have accused Coleman-Senghor of violating the city’s ethics code because he used racial slurs on at least two occasions.
Coleman-Senghor, who is black, never denied uttering the slurs, but has said he did so to make a point about the power of race-related symbols in the context of a discussion about lynchings.
He did not respond to Barich’s comments, other than to say, “Thank you for your remarks, Mr. Barich.”
Five other residents then thanked Coleman-Senghor for his service as mayor.
“You’ve done a great job in an incredibly negative environment,” said Andre Morrow.