There are three seats open for the Healdsburg City Council in the upcoming Nov. 3 General Election and there are six candidates vying for a seat, Charlie Duffy, incumbent David Hagele, Doralice Handal, David Jones, Ariel Kelley and Skylaer Palacios.
As part of our local election coverage, The Tribune will be publishing a series of candidate Q&A’s where we will ask each candidate the same five questions. Alphabetically, Ariel Kelley is the next candidate in the Q&A series.
About Ariel Kelley
Kelley, 38, is a founder and the outgoing CEO of the local nonprofit Corazón Healdsburg. Kelley has worked for the community organization for several years. She also serves as a planning commissioner for Sonoma County and is the founder of the Healdsburg Free Store, which was established in 2017 after the devastating Tubbs Fire. Since its inception it has been activated several times to help locals in response to other fires and natural disasters.
She also founded the Kinder 2 College Fund, which aims to establish college savings accounts for Healdsburg and Geyserville public school students.
In addition, Kelley is a delegate of the California Democratic Party. She holds both a law degree and an MBA.
Kelley has lived in Healdsburg with her family for five years.
Healdsburg Tribune (HT): What are the top three priorities/goals that you would want to address if you're elected to council?
Kelley: My immediate priorities have shifted in recent months. Due to the impact of COVID-19, I’ve seen how the pandemic has affected our community in many ways — the one that seems to be the most consistent is the economic impact on many of our residents. Sonoma County is experiencing high unemployment and the Walbridge Fire and subsequent smoke from regional fires has impacted our grape harvest and has caused many residents to face extreme financial hardship. Our response to COVID-19 is critical to ensuring a successful short and long-term economic recovery. With this in mind, my top three priorities focus on:
I. Working with businesses to assist in securing relief from private and public programs such as Healdsburg’s Small Business Sustainability Program, which in turn will help keep our residents employed.
II. Encouraging our city’s community services department to foster regional partnerships that will bring job training and workforce retraining resources to our community. For those who have lost their jobs in agriculture or hospitality, we can ensure that there are still pathways to prosperity for these residents. And meanwhile, our city can support renters with help through ongoing utility bill discounts and rental support.
III. Whether our residents are renters or are homeowners, we should be assisting them on how to receive reprieve from their banks and landlords and assist them in securing relief and navigating through the financial burdens for those now unemployed or underemployed.
HT: What is the focus of your campaign platform?
Kelley: Aside from COVID-19 response and recovery, I will be addressing issues such as affordable housing, transportation and connectivity improvements, and maintaining a healthy, diversified local economy and combating climate change.
HT: What are the most important personal qualities that you think you would bring to the council?
Kelley: As a mother, county planning commissioner and nonprofit executive, I have diverse experience raising a family, working in a decision-making capacity on county planning issues and helping improve the quality-of-life for underrepresented communities as a founder and CEO of Corazón Healdsburg. Through these experiences, I have learned the importance of listening, adapting, studying issues and engaging with residents across Healdsburg on the challenges we face and ideas on how to address those challenges. Using these qualities in my personal and professional life should prove valuable as a member of the city council as the council hears a variety of viewpoints on issues and aims to build consensus or find common ground in times when there is disagreement within the community.
HT: If elected, how would you make yourself open to residents who may want to start a dialogue with you on an issue or share concerns? How would you foster and encourage that open communication especially within marginalized groups?
Kelley: Community engagement and inclusivity have been cornerstones of my campaign. As a Healdsburg City Councilmember, I will seek to engage with my fellow residents to understand their questions, concerns and needs. In light of the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement and socioeconomic disparities facing many living or working in Healdsburg, I will particularly encourage underrepresented communities to have a stronger voice at city hall to ensure our council hears the perspectives of all those living in Healdsburg, not just the most vocal residents. I will work to create more avenues for the council to engage and outreach to diverse residents and will look for ways to convene dialogue around quality of life issues in the community.