If Sonoma County’s election results can be certified by Monday, Tuesday could be the last City Council meeting for outgoing Santa Rosa City Council members John Sawyer and Marsha Vas Dupre and the first for newcomers Julie Combs and Erin Carlstrom. (If not, the changing of the guard will occur on Dec. 11.)
Whenever the new members are sworn in, the first order of business will be electing a new mayor, who will serve for two years, and a vice mayor who will serve for one.
The question is who will the mayor be? At the moment, the money is on Gary Wysocky. He’s made no secret about the fact that he would like the post, and he may have the votes, given that Susan Gorin will still be on the council for that meeting. She won’t have to step down to assume her new role as county supervisor until the end of the year. Conventional wisdom suggests Wysocky would get the support of Gorin as well as newcomers Combs and Carlstrom.
But there are some who believe that it may end up going to City Councilman Scott Bartley who is likely to have the support of current Mayor Ernesto Olivares and Councilman Jake Ours, who make up the more conservative bloc on the council.
The outcome is likely to hinge on the Carlstrom vote, which is uncertain. Wysocky did not endorse Carlstrom during the election and clearly was not happy with her decision to forge an alliance with Olivares during the campaign. Carlstrom and Olivares endorsed one another in September pledging to bridge the gap that has existed in recent years between the two factions on the City Council. But that alliance will certainly be tested early — both during the vote for mayor and in the vote to appoint someone to fill Gorin’s seat.
Promises of better cooperation aside, it’s questionable whether the six City Council members will be able to agree on someone to fill the vacancy. The key will be whether Carlstrom votes with Wysocky and Combs or sides with Olivares, Bartley and Ours.
Whatever the decision, the worst outcome would be if the City Council can’t come to an agreement and forces the city to hold a special election — an election the city can ill afford. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
- Paul Gullixson