The Healdsburg City Council voted unanimously on June 29 to open an application period, starting today and ending on Friday, July 3 at noon, for city council candidates for either a partial or a full 2.5-year term.
Applicants will be interviewed by council and city staff in a public meeting set for July 7, at which time council will make a decision to appoint someone to either the full remainder of former Mayor Leah Gold’s term, or for a partial term until a special election is held.
Despite a show of overwhelming support from residents to appoint Healdsburg local and business owner Ozzy Jimenez to the 2.5-year term, councilmembers eventually decided after much back and forth discussion that it would be fair to have an application and interview process in case others want to throw their name in the hat.
During the special council meeting, councilmembers were presented with three options to consider for filling the vacancy: leaving the seat empty and calling a special election for Nov. 3, filling the seat for the interim and calling a special election, or appointing a candidate for the remainder of Gold’s term.
A dozen or so locals spoke highly of Jimenez and urged the council to appoint him. Many cited Jimenez’s commitment to the community, his experience as a delegate and his volunteer time.
Speakers also said his experience as a Plaza business owner and as a member of the LGBTQ and Latinx communities would bring a fresh perspective to the table, making him the ideal candidate for the job.
“Ozzy is the perfect person to bring into the city council,” said one resident. “The community loves him and he loves the community.”
Resident Jesus Guzman said if appointed, Jimenez could provide the city an opportunity for transformative leadership.
“The council’s membership should reflect the community it serves and Ozzy Jimenez’s lived experience offers an opportunity for our city to have inclusive representation. His skills and acumen offer the city a talented entrepreneur and his unwavering commitment to community offers all of us an opportunity for transformative leadership,” Guzman said.
Local activist Cristal Perez echoed Guzman’s thoughts and said it’s time to have city leaders that represent and reflect the diversity of Healdsburg.
Resident Deb Kravitz said she can’t think of a better person to appoint than Jimenez.
“I think he’s got the drive, the passion, the energy, as well as the leadership chops to be an exemplary representative for the entire community. As a member of the Latinx community, the LGBTQ community and as an entrepreneur, I really cannot think of another individual who would bring so much to representation on the council at this time,” Kravitz said.
Councilmembers Joe Naujokas and David Hagele voiced strong support for Jimenez, however, both were in favor of pursuing the application and interview process. Acting Mayor Evelyn Mitchell and acting Vice Mayor Shaun McCaffery were initially inclined to pursue the option of holding a special election.
Naujokas said while he appreciates the desire to let the voters speak, council is given the explicit authority to appoint someone if needed. He added that for anybody to jump in and start campaigning might put them at a disadvantage and that historically, there hasn’t been a successful campaign in the city from a Latinx individual.
“I think of Ozzy as a community leader, as a business owner, as a contributor to public service, and of his clear work ethic and leadership skills. He’s a standup community member and I’d be honored to serve with him,” Naujokas said. “To me, it’s like the fates have given us Ozzy. If we say ‘No’ to this opportunity, what message does that send?”
McCaffery was at first unwavering on his support for having a special election and said that people have the right to choose their councilmember. Naujokas pointed out that this is not just about having another election, rather it’s more about addressing the lack of diverse representation on the council.
“Clearly there’s a problem, and simply letting the voters vote isn’t going to address that, it hasn’t for the entire history of our city. So to say that it’s suddenly going to be solved in six months … you’re not being aware of the nuances that are at play,” Naujokas said.
As a compromise, councilmembers settled on the application and interview idea. Based on the merits of the applicants, the council will determine whether to appoint someone to the interim term or for the full 2.5-year term when the interview process is complete.
During the public interview process, each applicant will have to answer the same five questions:
• Why are you interested in this role?
• What are the qualifications and experience that you bring that allows you to best serve the community?
• What are the issues facing Healdsburg and what are your ideas to address those?
• What is the value to you of Healdsburg and being in Healdsburg?
• If the council were to select a shorter term versus a longer term, do you have a preference or a perspective on that?
The special interview meeting will take place virtually, Tuesday, July 7 at 5 p.m. Check the city’s website to apply: https://www.ci.healdsburg.ca.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=454.
Prior to the discussion on filling the council seat, Gold made a statement about her resignation. To read her statement, view the sidebar. Councilmembers also thanked Gold for her time on the council and for her service.
“I really enjoyed working with you on the council. The work that you’ve done made a difference in this community in a real way,” McCaffery said.
Hagele thanked Gold for her advice and constructive criticism.
“Being mayor is not easy. There are a couple of times where I stubbed my toe … If I am better, you played a part in that,” Hagele said.