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Kathy Miller, a 48-year-old lawyer originally from Texas, who has resided in Petaluma for the past 12 years, grinned and posed with her husband and two kids after she repeated the City Council oath as Petaluma's newest council member Monday night.

Miller, who finished third in the November election, campaigned on her former Planning Commission experience, legal expertise and her involvement with local parks and recreation efforts.

"I have always been pretty active and involved in cycling, running and hiking, so I would notice things that needed fixing all the time," said Miller. "But once my kids started playing sports and I noticed the lack of field space in Petaluma, that's when I joined PFOR (Petaluma Friends of Recreation)."

Miller's 13-year-old daughter has been playing soccer for seven years. Miller said she has watched her daughter's teams squeeze onto fields too small for the number of kids playing and has had to travel far outside of Petaluma for games. "Plus, in the rainy season, the fields in Petaluma become unsafe," she said. So when PFOR launched a campaign to pass a parcel tax, Measure X, to fund parks improvements, Miller joined the effort to help pass it.

The special tax measure, which needed 66.7 percent to pass, ultimately failed, only garnering 62 percent of the vote. But Miller said it showed that a strong majority of Petaluma voters were willing to tax themselves to improve parks in Petaluma. She said that funding park maintenance will remain a longstanding goal of hers on the council.

Carol Eber, a co-chair of Petaluma Friends of Recreation who worked with Miller on Measure X, said that Miller's ability to listen to all sides of an issue will serve her well on the council.

"She listens to everyone and works well with diverse interests," said Eber.

Another top priority for the newest council member is increasing tax revenue for the city. Miller said that while the Regency and Deer Creek shopping centers will improve sales tax revenue for Petaluma, a primary focus for her will be recruiting new businesses to town. "Now that we've developed a large portion of Petaluma, the key will be keeping our storefronts occupied," she said.

In addition to serving on various committees, Miller will be returning to the Petaluma Planning Commission. Miller previously served as the chair of the commission before the City Council controversially combined it with the Site Plan and Architectural Review Committee and removed nine of the members from the two boards, including Miller, in 2009.

When asked if it would be awkward returning to a committee that she was removed from and working with members who replaced her, Miller said it would not, adding that she is looking forward to working with the other commissioners.

"When I was the chair, I tried to keep us focused on the issues that were within our scope of purview," she said. "Realistically, you can't always do that, especially in a place like Petaluma where development is the hot-button issue. But all I can do is try my best."

She said she'd apply a similar attitude to the council, which will now be composed of what many consider a 5-2 moderate majority. As a self-identified moderate, Miller said she would work hard to collaborate with progressives, who have historically clashed with moderates on issues like development.

Miller said her legal background — she runs a Petaluma business law firm with her husband — will also be beneficial on both the Planning Commission and the City Council. As a general business litigation attorney, she said she is accustomed to contracts, legal jargon and real estate law. "I'm also used to reading very long documents," she said jokingly. "I've earned my reading glasses."

Fellow attorney and Councilmember Mike Healy, who campaigned with Miller in the election, said that he is looking forward to having another attorney and Eastside resident on the council. "Having someone who understands issues in a deeper context than the average layperson allows them to ask more informed questions and be more of a leader in closed session," Healy said.

(Contact Janelle Wetzstein at janelle.wetzstein@arguscourier.com)