By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Two years ago, Mary Ann Brigham resigned halfway through her term on the Cloverdale City Council to devote more time to family and business.
Now she’s back, running for another four-year term.
“It’s been kind of a nice two years break,” she said, adding that she was prodded to run again after being approached by different groups, “mostly business folks in town.”
Brigham’s return to political life doesn’t seem to have sparked any hard feelings on the part of the two incumbents running for re-election, even though she might oust one of them in the Nov. 6 election.
“I don’t have a problem with that. It’s not like she doesn’t like what I’m doing and she wants her chair back,” said Councilman Bob Cox, who was appointed in 2010 to fill Brigham’s remaining term. “She’s legitimate.”
Councilman Gus Wolter, who is going for his fourth four-year term, said “If I don’t win, that’s fine. I think the city will be in good hands, no matter who’s elected to the council this time.”
He said people often underestimate the time commitment for serving on the City Council, but the other candidates know what it takes.
“Both do a great job and know what’s involved,” Wolter said.
The genteel nature of the race could be because there aren’t any current hot-button issues in the community of 8,600.
Economic development has been elusive in the former lumber mill town set at the rural northern edge of Sonoma County.
While there’s been a physical makeover of Cloverdale’s center and more businesses sprouting up, there are still a half-dozen or so stubbornly empty storefronts and lots in the downtown.
“I have no ax to grind with them,” Brigham said of the incumbents. “I just want to shift the focus a little more toward building our business community.”
“We all three of us probably have the same priorities — economic development, jobs, business in Cloverdale, whether it’s a need for revenue, or a place for people to work instead of going out of town,” said Cox, a retired auto parts sales manager and former planning commissioner. He has been active in Cloverdale Alliance for Financial Education, conducting workshops on how to start and maintain small businesses.
So far, the results have been modest, with the creation of a window-washing business and another that rents electric bicycles, but Cox said there are two or three new businesses on the horizon that are part of the program.
Brigham, a brew pub owner and president of the performing arts center, has some things she wants to pursue, including developing a business incubator and securing some federal grants to help business start-ups. She’d also like to help find a satellite location for a culinary school.
“My focus will be on economic development and being a liaison into the business community and still keeping quality of life,” Brigham said. “I want to make it easier for business to be successful.”
Wolter, a banking vice-president and bed and breakfast owner, who is on the planning and community development committee, said he is working with the Chamber of Commerce, including conducting a review of zoning codes and other regulations, “to make sure we are business-friendly.”
But he also wants to see through the completion of several municipal projects.
“There are a few things I’d like to see the city complete under my watch,” he said, including the purchase of the veteran’s building and construction of a new police station.
The city is negotiating with the county to buy the vets building, which has the city’s only public swimming pool. The sale will be financed with development impact fees that have been collected to fund park and recreation programs.
The city also has $5.5 million in bond proceeds set aside for a new police station, although still not enough for the project’s estimated $9 million cost. Wolter said the building’s footprint may need to be cut and some federal grants or loans obtained to bridge the gap.
But Wolter also believes Cloverdale needs to find a new source of revenue to bolster its sagging general fund and build up its minuscule $60,000 surplus.
Among other things, he would like to be able to fill three police officer positions that remain empty and reopen City Hall on Fridays.
The City Council has scheduled a workshop on Oct. 20 to get public input into a variety of ideas for raising more revenue, including hiking the sales tax, or reinstituting a utility tax on cable and telephone bills. Wolter said both would require voter approval.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org