New Petaluma City Council ready to get to work

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The council chambers at Petaluma City Hall reverberated with applause and cheers Monday night as the new mayor and three council members were officially sworn in.

City Clerk Claire Cooper inaugurated a four-year term for Mayor Teresa Barrett and Council members Dave King, Kevin McDonnell and D’Lynda Fischer, ushering in a new chapter in Petaluma politics.

After, the meeting was called to order, Cooper performed the roll call, and the drudgery that comes with the duty of a council immediately began.

“Hopefully this is going to be a good four years. It’s certainly going to be four years of change,” said Barrett, who will be embarking on her fourth term on the council, but first as the separately elected mayor. “We’re getting a new mayor, a new city manager — and that’s just around the corner. Once we get that person in place, we’ll be able to set a goal-setting session and that should be a big deal this year. We have a lot of issues we have to really identify, focus on and put a timeline on.”

The council in December interviewed candidates to replace former City Manager John Brown, who retired last year, and has made an offer to the top choice.

King, the top vote-getter in last year’s competitive city council race, was the lone incumbent in a pool of seven candidates that campaigned for three open seats.

Councilman Chris Albertson and Mayor David Glass both announced their retirement from public office last year, vacating two seats, and Barrett’s decision to pursue the city’s mayoral office, a perk that she expressed excitement about, opened up a third.

King said he “hasn’t missed a beat” since Election Night, and expects the new council to build on the accomplishments of the previous one, despite its tag as a “progressive” body.

“There are labels that go out. I don’t particularly agree with them because … we’re all pretty liberal-to-moderate democrats,” King said. “When you get down to the local issues, there’s a hell of a lot more 7-0 votes — even on the more contentious stuff — than there are 4-3. And it’s not always the same people voting the same way, nor should it be. So I have a lot of confidence in the new council.”

McDonnell, a civil engineer who has served on several city commissions — most recently as the chair of the Recreation, Music and Parks Commission — said the new council has “hit the ground running.”

As he adjusts to the learning curve that comes with the scope of the mandate, he’s hopeful he can start energizing many of the supporters he uncovered on the campaign trail now that the real work is officially underway.

“The next thing I want to do is help turn all the concerns that were expressed to me into commitment,” said McDonnell, who was appointed vice mayor for 2019. “Concern only gets you so far. It’s commitment that gets you real change, and we need some real change.”

Over the last few weeks, Fischer said she has been pondering what policies she’d like to pursue as she steadily met with several directors of various city departments.

Increasing civic engagement was a big piece of the nonprofit consultant’s platform, and she’s hoping to establish a better relationship between the public, the council and city staff.

“We’re here representing you,” Fischer said. “What do you want to see us working on the next four years? What does that look like? I might have my agenda, but it has to match the public — and that has to really align with the directors. It all has to mesh.”

(Contact News Editor Yousef Baig at yousef.baig@arguscourier.com or 776-8461, and on Twitter @YousefBaig.)

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