Gold to step down June 30
In an interview with The Healdsburg Tribune on June 16 and in a written commentary submitted to the paper, Healdsburg Mayor Leah Gold announced that she will be stepping down as mayor at the end of this month following public outcry and concern and numerous requests for her resignation after several recent missteps handling the discussion on racism and police use-of-force policies in Healdsburg.
Gold will step down from her mayoral role and from the council on June 30, following the completion of the city’s budget process and review.
When asked what factors led to her decision Gold said, “There has been a vendetta against me by a small group of Healdsburg women, and they feel very emboldened to say whatever they want about me and misquote me and it has been unpleasant, and I think it makes it more difficult for me to be effective in my role, so it just occurred to me that maybe if I step down at this time when there is so much momentum to have more participation in government by Latinx, Black, Indigenous and other people of color, maybe if I step down at this time, we will see some candidates and actually achieve that and have that representation on the city council.”
In her commentary that was submitted to the Tribune, Gold also cited a desire to create better representation of the community’s population — 30% of which is people of color — and to contribute to advances in racial justice by creating a space for people of color, as reasons for her decision to step down.
Gold’s commentary in part reads, “We clearly need to work on creating a more inclusive environment in Healdsburg. It is often lamented that although Latinx residents and other people of color comprise over 30% of our population, they are not represented on city council. I would like to help change that… Although I feel positively about my contributions and have many loyal supporters, I'm certain there are also many BIPOC members of our community who could serve our city well. As I've considered how I can help Healdsburg advance in racial justice during this critical juncture, I believe that one of the ways I can contribute is by creating a space for a person of color to join the city council.”
City council will now have to decide how they want to fill that vacancy.
“My assumption is that they will choose to put it on the ballot for next November. In order to do so, they have to act before July 12. I wanted to make this announcement in a timely fashion so that they would have time to put it on the ballot if that is what they choose to do, and also so there is time to find a candidate to take my last two years,” Gold said.
Gold’s mayoral term expires in December so the position would be a councilmember seat, not a mayoral seat.
She said she hopes a black, indigenous, or person of color (BIPOC) will step forward as a candidate for the role.
According to Gold, to become a candidate for city council, one must file nomination papers at city hall with 25 signatures from Healdsburg supporters. Those who wish to apply, also must pay a filing fee with the county. The filing period is July 13 to Aug. 12.
Gold’s Tuesday announcement comes on the heels of Monday evening’s city council meeting where many residents requested that Gold step down effective immediately.
The overall message from residents was one of pain and frustration.
Healdsburg resident and Miss Sonoma County 2014 Skylaer Palacios said of recent events, “Just being a person of color and hearing what our Mayor Leah Gold had to say or not say, about the situation was completely distressing to me. There have been so many things that have happened to me, and I'm not going to go into every single one because I could write a book at this point about the racism in Healdsburg, so to just use your white privilege to look over the situation is disgusting to me. If you cannot listen to your constituents, if you cannot try to have some kind of understanding, then you should not be leading.”
Community members also voiced the need for change, better representation and the willingness for elected leaders to lend an ear to listen and to work towards progress in equality.
Healdsburg resident Elena Halvorsen, who helped lead the charge for the mayor’s resignation, read the following request during the public comment on non-agenda items.
“City of Healdsburg residents, business owners, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ respectfully make the following request. Mayor Gold we request your resignation as mayor and as a city council member effective immediately. Your actions exhibit silencing of the underrepresented community in Healdsburg from urging the city to refrain from public demonstration taking place across the country, to initially silencing an important agenda item on use of force, to requesting that part of the art exhibit on racism on June 11 in the Plaza be taken down because it referenced you, to not obliging a cordial response to me, a concerned citizen, who wrote you a letter regarding racism in the city. These actions result and continue underrepresentation of the BIPOC community that needs you most. Your subsequent behavior and communications following these events further evidence your reluctance to lend a humble ear to your constituents. This request is backed by significant voices. Those who have emailed you and the city council, those who have called to share their voices, those who have written to the papers and perhaps most significantly, the 1,856 people who have signed a petition calling for your resignation, many of whom reside in Healdsburg,” Halvorsen said.
Halvorsen urged city council members to support the community’s demand for Gold’s resignation. Following Halvorsen’s comment, other community members read a list of requests to the council involving policing and other equity issues. (See sidebar).
In the interview with The Tribune, Gold said of her time as mayor, “I’ve always felt like I’ve tried to adopt policies that address the needs of the less privileged members of our city through affordable housing, relocations, avoiding evictions, that kind of thing, so a lot of people do consider me their advocate for their interests, but like I said, it has become very unpleasant and I am hoping I can turn this into a good opportunity for Healdsburg to have more diversity on the council.”
Vice Mayor Evelyn Mitchell said she respects Gold’s decision to step down at the end of June.
Councilmember David Hagele said he too respects Gold's decision and appreciates her willingness to see the budget process through to completion.
"I respect her decision and appreciate her willingness to see our budget process adopted, allowing us time to decide the best path forward for all of us who reside here," Haggle said. "I believe our council & our community needs to stand in solidarity through this difficult time. It's up to all of us to come together, listen, learn & support one another."
Councilmember Shaun McCaffery said he was shocked to hear Gold’s announcement, but understands that everyone reaches a point where they feel that they are doing more harm than good.
“While we have not always agreed on all the issues, I have always found Leah to be honest, collaborative and someone who tirelessly works to make Healdsburg a better place. I consider her time on the council to be one of great leaps forward — reforming the growth management ordinance, creating and preserving affordable housing and limiting the development of hospitality projects in the downtown core. Without her leadership, we would not have been able to do all these things in such a short period of time,” McCaffery said.