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Incumbents Hinton, Carnacchi joined by small field of challengers

Registered voters within the city of Sebastopol are promised an engaging and full civic conversation over the next several months as five candidates, including both incumbents up for re-election, have officially filed for the Nov. 3 election for two 4-year council terms. The filing deadline is Aug. 7, so the list may lengthen.

Incumbents Neysa Hinton and Michael Carnacchi, who are completing their first terms in office, have “pulled” nomination packets and are now collecting the minimum 20 registered voter signatures required to qualify for the election. Also filing at city hall is Diana Rich, former executive director at the Sebastopol Community Center; Robert Jacob, a former mayor of Sebastopol; and Luke Lindenbusch, a current appointee to the Sebastopol Planning Commission.

No matter who else may join the field, the 2020 city election will differ from all past elections due to the social gathering and public meeting restrictions under the COVID-19 pandemic public health rules. Sebastopol residents can expect extra social media campaigning, new candidate websites popping up on the internet, possible Zoom and Facebook Live invites and socially-distanced yard signs.

“My primary reason for seeking re-election is there is a learning curve to this job and I feel I can really begin to get things done with another four years,” said Neysa Hinton, an executive director for a senior assisted living facility. “I’ve always been an active volunteer and I view this as my community service.”

She said her business experience could be beneficial to the city during these times of very difficult city hall budgeting challenges. “I grew up here and have raised my children here. On the council, I am just one of five voices but I think I can make a difference.”

Carnacchi owns a downtown boot making and shoe repair business and has been a local business advocate prior to his election in 2016.

“My motivation for seeking reelection is to retain a diversity of thinking and discourse on the city council and to insure that Sebastopol's silent majority of residents are equally represented,” said Carnacchi.

 If reelected Carnacchi will seek to make the choice of a city mayor up to voters instead of an appointment by the city council. Currently, the mayor position is rotated”among city council members for one-year terms. Past custom has been nonpartisan, allowing all willing council members an opportunity to serve. However, that tradition was suspended last year when Carnacchi felt it was his turn to fill the mostly ceremonial role, but was passed over by his fellow council members.

Following the style of his first campaign four years ago, Carnacchi said he will not accept donations or spend any money to get elected. “I think it was great that enough people voted for me the last time and felt I could do a better job than others. I hope the same people and others will vote for me again,” he said.

Rich led the Sebastopol Cultural Community Center as executive director from 2010 to 2017. Prior to that she had a law career as a public defender and employment law attorney. She has been a Sebastopol resident for 20 years.

“My motivation, honestly, is a call to service. Sebastopol has nurtured me to my heart and soul and I want to keep contributing here.” Her strengths are her collaborative and communication skills, she said. “I am out now talking to lots of people and collecting their ideas and listening to all these voices. I don’t presume to know more than others. I don’t come here with pre-determined opinions.”

Jacob was elected to the city council in 2012 and served as mayor for one year. His term was shortened when he took a leave of absence in 2016 due to “family reasons.” He is a co-founder of the cannabis dispensary, Peace in Medicine, which merged with SPARC and operates a dispensary in Sebastopol. He was Sebastopol’s first Latino councilmember and is believed to have been Sebastopol’s first “out” gay mayor. (Jacob did not respond to phone calls for this article.)

Lindenbusch, an Analy High School graduate and newest appointee to the city’s planning commission confirmed via email that he is considering a run for one of the two council seats. He declined to make further comments until he after he officially enters the race. He is a graduate of New York University in urban planning and public advocacy. In his application interview for the planning commission he cited his interests in “creating a more inclusive Sebastopol, reducing the third-highest youth and general homelessness rate (and) attracting small business development. He has worked and volunteered at the Ceres Project and has been active in HIV/AIDS work.

The voter registration deadline for the November General Election is Oct. 19.

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