By DEREK MOORE
THE PRESS DEMOCRA
Sonoma Mayor Joanne Sanders said she will forgo a run for a third term in office to concentrate on her family and to help run the employment staffing firm she owns with her husband.
Sanders, 45, is one of Sonoma County’s more well-known city officials thanks to her bids for higher office, including most recently for county supervisor.
Her exit from the political stage throws open the race for two open seats on Sonoma’s city council.
Sanders presents herself as the council’s most fiscally conservative and business-friendly member who most recently opposed the city drafting an ordinance to regulate chain stores.
She said she was spurred to run for office in 2004 after the city enacted a living wage ordinance.
“I felt my local government was getting involved in issues it shouldn’t,” she said Tuesday. “It shouldn’t have a say in what a business pays its employees.”
Sanders also joined the council’s more liberal members in supporting Measure J, a sales tax measure that gained voter approval in June. The measure had the backing of the city’s business groups.
Sanders said she is most proud that Sonoma has been able to maintain services without any layoffs or forcing employees to take unpaid time off.
She also was a champion of the city creating an historian position and the elimination of a property tax assessment district in one of the city’s neighborhoods.
Her tenure has not been without controversy, including in 2011 after she suggested that Sonoma ban pit bulls following the death in Pacifica of a pregnant woman who was mauled to death by her own pet, a pit-bull named Gunner.
She also faced criticism for entering the race for the 1st District board of Supervisor’s seat in February after two other Sonoma Valley candidates already were running.
Some critics blamed Sanders for splitting the vote among the valley candidates and allowing Santa Rosa-based candidates John Sawyer and Susan Gorin to make it into the November run-off.
Gina Cuclis, one of the valley candidates who failed to make the run-off, on Tuesday tweeted that Sanders’ departure was “good news” for the city.
Cuclis said in an interview that her comments were not related to the supervisor’s race, but the fact she has “never been impressed with her (Sanders) as a city council member.”
Sanders said Cuclis “just needs to move on.”
Ken Brown, the city’s vice-mayor, praised Sanders on Tuesday for being attentive to her constituents and for running a “very, very good meeting” during her tenure as mayor.
Sanders served for four years on the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District and also ran against Noreen Evans in an unsuccessful bid to become a state senator.