By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa on Wednesday revealed the names of a diverse group of residents hoping to be appointed to the vacant seat on the Santa Rosa City Council.
The 17 people seeking to fill the last two years of Susan Gorin’s term include working professionals and retirees, the financially secure and those struggling to find work.
Some seem to be taking the process very seriously, submitting long resumes and thoughtful, articulate answers to questions. Others cracked jokes or offered only two-word answers.
Most are from the east side of town, but several residents of the underrepresented west side of the city said they hoped their selection could resolve that imbalance.
The applicants see a wide range of issues facing the city, including balancing the budget, overhauling pensions, improving pedestrian safety, fighting homelessness and restoring a spirit of collaboration to the polarized City Council.
And while many are well known for their civic involvement or previous political campaigns, others are relative unknowns with little public service to their names.
The council plans to begin interviewing candidates at 2 p.m. Monday. It could make a decision that evening or the following day before its regular council meeting.
Four applicants are hoping the council will do what voters declined to in the 2012 election.
Don Taylor, 53, owns two Omelette Express restaurants. He has run for council unsuccessfully four times, and came in fifth in November.
Caroline Bañuelos, 53, is a former homeless services provider and current grade-school tutor. She is a member of the Planning Commission and came in sixth place in November, just 17 votes behind Taylor.
Mike Cook, 33, is co-owner of a Santa Rosa landscape architecture firm. The former member of the city’s Design Review Board dropped out of the last council race. His name remained on the ballot, however, and he was the seventh-highest vote getter.
Hans Dippel, 52, is a sales and marketing executive with a Cotati-based wine industry services firm. Dippel came in eighth in the November election. He also ran in 2008.
Other candidates have a wide range of professional experience and varying degrees of civic involvement.
Curtis Byrd, 57, is a community relations specialist for Blood Centers of the Pacific. He is also a planning commissioner and divinity student.
David Rosas, 50, is a telecommunications software analyst. He is a community activist from the city’s southwest neighborhood who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2008.
Robin Swinth, 45, is a former Hewlett-Packard engineer. She is a member of the city’s Board of Public Utilities.
George Steffensen, 55, is a retired union official. He is a former member of the Cotati-Rohnert Park School Board.
Roy Sprague, 69, is a retired firefighter. He was a battalion chief for Cal Fire in Glen Ellen for 17 years.
Gary Saal, 61, owns an intellectual property licensing firm. He has served as a trustee of the Mark West Unified School District board and hopes to bring a minor league baseball team to the city.
Zachary Rounds, 34, is a water-quality regulator with the state Department of Public Health. He is the youngest applicant for the vacancy.
Jeffrey Owen, 48, works at Exchange Bank in the Special Assets Department. He serves as a commissioner on the county’s Open Space District.
Karen Lovvorn, 75, is a retired nurse and diabetes educator. She lives in a mobile home park on the city’s west side and wants to represent that community.
Douglas Krikac, 61, is an unemployed lumber salesman. He has no political or government experience and little hope of being appointed, he said.
Robert Malm, 72, is a retired container-ship captain. He served on the Sonoma County grand jury.
Barbara Ramsey, 68, is past president of the Sonoma County Medical Association Alliance and Foundation. She has been a member of the city’s Community Advisory Board since 2008.
P.W. Hughes, 61, is a pharmaceutical salesman for Pfizer who is retiring March 1. He has been active in the establishment of the Southeast Greenway.
Gilbert Cobb, 63, a retired trade show installer, submitted his paperwork, but withdrew late Wednesday. He said he lacked “the necessary community experience and organizational backing.”
The release of the application information concluded a 13-day nomination period during which the city kept information about the process secret.
Officials would not release information about who picked up application packets, who returned applications before the deadline, nor allow the public access to the documents.
The Press Democrat filed a request to view the documents under the state Public Records Act, but the city claimed they were not public documents, citing a so-called “deliberative process exemption” to the law.
Who took out nomination papers but never returned them remains unknown. City Clerk Terri Griffin said her staff did not keep track of how many people requested packets or who they were.
One resident who took out papers but never submitted them was Tanya Narath. The executive director of the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy said she opted not to apply because of the demands of performing both her job and council duties.
“I really think being on the council should be almost a full-time job,” Narath said.
Narath and Swinth met with representatives of three of the city’s most influential labor unions last week.
Tim Aboudara, president of the city firefighters union, called the sessions a “meet and greet” to give both the applicants and the unions a better sense of the issues important to one another.
“It was not an endorsement interview like you would see during the election,” Aboudara said. “They asked as many questions of us as we asked of them.”
The fact that the employee unions were privy to the identities of some of the candidates before the public or even the council raises additional questions about the wisdom and fairness of the city’s new policy of keeping the application process confidential.
Mike Reynolds, president of the city’s largest union, the Santa Rosa City Employees Association, said he found the meeting informative.
“They seem like both very qualified ladies,” Reynolds said.
But he said he had no plans to share his thoughts or opinions on the two candidates with members of the City Council prior to the selection.
“That would be inappropriate,” he said.
Alan Schellerup, president of the police officers association, said he tried to impress upon both candidates just how much work the job is and how complicated issues like pensions and compensation are.
“It’s not just show up on Tuesday for two hours and go home,” Schellerup said. “I think it was an eye-opener for both of them.”
To view the candidates’ applications online, go to http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us/news/Pages/CouncilApplications2013.aspx
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @citybeater.