By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Susan Jones, Healdsburg’s retired police chief, was selected mayor Monday night in a unanimous decision by fellow City Council members.
Jones, 56, was chosen as part of the annual rotation in which council members pick one of their colleagues for the position.
Having served as vice mayor for the past year, her selection as mayor was anticipated.
“I’m just looking forward to throwing myself into the mayor’s job,” Jones said in an interview,
She said her priorities include bolstering the police force and repairing city streets, which will be helped after voters last month approved Measure V.
The measure, which increased the sales tax in Healdsburg by half a percentage point, is projected to raise about $1 million annually for the city’s general fund.
Jones said police response times have suffered in the past few years as the department went from 18 officers to 15.
Citizens sometimes have to wait 30 minutes or an hour to report a crime because an officer is busy, she said, even if a suspect is still in the area.
“I think that is unacceptable. I’d like to see that corrected,” she said, adding it affects both citizen safety and that of officers.
Jones said even though Healdsburg’s population is less than 12,000, that doesn’t take into account tourism that can double or triple that population on a weekend.
“We need to keep up. Now we’re burning people (officers) out,” she said.
She said street repairs also are needed.
“There are so many streets in the city that need to be resurfaced. We need to put together a plan and see where we’re going to start and move forward,” she said.
The entire City Council will decide how to allocate the extra tax revenue, which isn’t expected to begin rolling in until April,
As mayor, Jones will run council meetings, set agendas with the city manager and represent the city at ribbon cuttings and other functions.
She estimated that being mayor could double the about 20 hours a week she now devotes to council activities.
The newest council member to be sworn in Monday night was Shaun McCaffery, a mechanical engineer and community volunteer who came in first in last month’s election. He replaced Steve Babb, a retired fire captain, who did not seek re-election.
Council Members Tom Chambers and Gary Plass were re-elected to four-year terms and took the oath of office again.
Councilman Jim Wood was appointed vice mayor.
Council members receive $150 a month and get medical insurance through the city. But because 10 percent of the cost of their health insurance is deducted from their pay, Jones said they end up netting about $20 a month.
Council members agreed to pay part of their health insurance, similar to what they asked of city employees in the latest labor contracts.
The city also has moved to cut costs by reducing pensions for new employees and having existing employees contribute more toward their retirement.
Jones said she does not anticipate the city will make more pension changes even though Plass and Chambers said during the election campaign that more needs to be done to rein in pension costs.
“With state pension reform passing and going in, in January, I don’t think there will be much more about it,” she said. “I don’t know how much more we can ask (of employees). There’s a breaking point. I think we’re getting there.”
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.