Two days after her election win, Mayor-elect Teresa Barrett was jubilant as she walked around downtown Petaluma greeting well-wishers who offered congratulations.
At a Starbucks on Petaluma Boulevard, a group of constituents broke into applause as they recognized her. One said that he voted for her because of her campaign pledge to help secure funding to dredge the Petaluma River.
Barrett said that she had just received a congratulatory phone call from Rep. Jared Huffman, a supporter and ally in the search for river dredging funds. She said she hoped to work with the congressman to secure the necessary dredging funds.
It is one of many issues that Barrett hopes to address using her considerable connections as a longtime Petaluma politician, and her newly won pulpit in the mayor’s chair. After a hard fought race, which she was winning by nearly 9 points over rival Mike Harris in unofficial returns, Barrett is turning to the tough task of governing.
With an electoral boost from like-minded city council candidates — self-identified progressives D’Lynda Fischer and Kevin McDonnell both appeared to win seats Tuesday — Barrett can claim a mandate to put her stamp on the future direction of the city.
“I do think that there will be more pressure to do the things that are achievable that we said we want to do,” said Barrett, 70, who served three terms on the city council.
The first order of business, one that could come before she’s even sworn into office on Jan. 7, is choosing a successor to City Manager John Brown, who is retiring this month after 10 years running the city. A subcommittee of outgoing Mayor David Glass, Councilman Mike Healy and Councilwoman Kathy Miller are working with a recruitment firm to winnow applicants down to a short list.
The full city council, the council members-elect and city department heads will interview the top candidates in mid December with the hope of making an offer at the council’s last meeting of the year Dec. 17. Assistant City Manager Scott Brodhun will be interim city manager until Brown’s successor is on board.
“I’m looking for someone with transit-oriented development experience,” Barrett said. “I would love that. And they have to be really good with financials. The budget is the restraint on what we can do.”
Barrett’s preference in a city manager signals her priorities for the coming term. With calls to build our way out of an ever growing housing crisis, Barrett prefers a measured approach to growth, a stance that set her apart from her political rivals.
She would like to focus new developments on vacant parcels near Petaluma’s downtown, places where residents can live above store fronts and people can ditch their cars to walk to shops and restaurants or to transit hubs to commute to work. She has accused the majority on the city council of ignoring Petaluma’s core urban planning documents that call for more transit-oriented development.
She is also in favor of higher development fees and requiring developers to add extra perks like bike paths.
“I’d like to see development that is paying its way,” she said.
The new mayor will have additional ammo to tackle another major campaign pledge, fixing the city’s potholed streets. Voters rejected Proposition 6, which would have repealed the state gas tax increase. With the key revenue source surviving the ballot challenge, the city stands to receive a $1 million injection to pave the streets.