By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Owning a pub can have its advantages in small-town politics.
Mary Ann Brigham, owner of Ruth McGowan’s Brewpub, took a two-year hiatus from the Cloverdale City Council, but it didn’t hurt when she ran for re-election.
Brigham cruised to victory in the City Council race on Tuesday, capturing 41 percent of the vote. Incumbent Bob Cox retained his seat, with 32 percent of the vote, defeating fellow incumbent Gus Wolter, who received 27 percent.
Brigham concedes that her high visibility downtown as pub owner, as well as being president of the Performing Arts Center, were key.
“I know most people in town. I know their kids, I know grandmothers,” she said Wednesday. “The only reason people support me the way they do, is I’m so involved and plugged into the community on so many different levels.”
With only two council seats up for grabs, third-place finisher Wolter lost his bid for a fourth, four-year term.
“What helps Mary Ann is her establishment in town. People come to her every day,” said Wolter, a bank vice-president who works out of town.
He joked about buying a pub if he ever runs for election again.
“You have a captive audience coming in,” he said, adding that Brigham “has a good reputation within the community. That goes a long way.”
Even more surprising is that Brigham did no door-to-door campaigning like her rivals, nor did she print campaign literature.
Her only advertising was approximately a dozen campaign signs, much fewer than what her competitors put up.
“She blew away the field,” Cox said of Brigham’s victory.
“Mary Ann knows a lot of people personally. She has a lot of customers in her brewpub,” he said, also acknowledging her as a driving force in creating the performing arts center.
In 2010, Brigham resigned halfway through her term on the Cloverdale City Council to devote more time to family and business.
The three candidates appeared at one forum together, but otherwise the election was low-key with no hot-button issues.
Brigham was the only registered Democrat running. She, along with the two Republican candidates, made economic development a top priority along with streamlining how the city deals with new businesses.
Wolter felt he may have been hurt by advocating for reviving a utility tax on telephone and cable TV service that was discontinued in 2006.
“I was the only candidate that suggested we look for additional funding sources through a user utility tax,” Wolter said, adding that it would bring in about $400,000 annually to the depleted general fund. “The others felt they didn’t want to raise taxes.”
Wolter, a three-time mayor, said he still plans to stay active in civic affairs and attend council meetings.
He said the city of 8,600 residents is in good hands with Brigham and Cox, who is an active community volunteer and involved in Cloverdale Alliance for Financial Education, conducting workshops on how to start and maintain small businesses.
“The nice thing about a small town like Cloverdale is you don’t have to be an elected official to have a say in the issues,” Wolter said. “The City Council always welcomes the public to come forward and share with them, and I intend on doing that.”