Editor’s note: In order to keep this story from being too long, each candidate's responses will be presented separately, in alphabetic order.
On March 25, the five candidates vying for a short-term seat on the Windsor Town Council came together virtually to participate in a forum hosted by the Windsor Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters, and moderated by local personality Pat Kerrigan.
Oscar Chavez, Julia Donoho, Jeffrey Leasure, Rosa Reynoza and Cody Wilson all took turns sharing their vision and ideas with the 138 tuned in voters in their bid to take over Dominic Foppoli’s former at-large town council seat, vacated when he was elected mayor last fall.
The special election will take place via mail-in ballot only, with the first ballots arriving in mailboxes April 5 and due no later than May 4. The last day to register to vote in the election is April 19. The seat will be up for regular election in the fall of 2022, meaning the winner of the special election will be seated for approximately 17 months.
Due to the town transitioning to district elections, the winner of this special election will be able to run in 2022 only if they live in one of the districts up for vote in that election. Because this seat is still an at-large seat, any town resident is eligible.
The forum allowed candidates to make a two minute introductory statement, then gave them two minutes to answer questions sent in by residents ahead of time, followed by a one minute closing statement.
The questions covered familiar territory, including COVID pandemic recovery, the Town Green civic center project, equity and social justice, affordable housing and development, how to spend the Lytton tribe’s $16.5 million community benefit grant, disaster preparedness and how to strike the balance between small-town feel and the need for economic development, specifically tourism.
Reynoza is a long time Windsor resident, with a background in finance. She works with several local nonprofits, and has run for town council seats previously.
“My connections run deep here, and I’m running again because I want to be a different type of council member,” she said. “Somebody connected with people in the streets of Windsor … having contact with businesses and families that are struggling and that is the lens I hope to offer. My goal to bring more awareness and engagement and connection to residents.”
When it comes to pandemic recovery, Reynoza thinks it’s important to focus on connections and partnerships. She talked about remembering the wide variety of businesses that need help, and how programs like the recently enacted “get a haircut, give a haircut” program is helping both hairdressers decimated by pandemic closures, and families who have been equally hurt.
Reynoza has been a longtime opponent of the civic center project, and it seems unlikely anything could sway her opinion, however she did state that a risk and financial feasibility report is key to any possible project.
“We don’t know the future, but we’re going to want to see a risk and financial feasibility report, we want to see the steps of what is possible because last thing I want is another empty lot with fence around it in the center of town ,so we can dive in and look at again. The town did a survey and I would like another,” she said.
When it comes to racial equality and social justice, Reynoza has helped promote multiple events, and wants to see the town do even more. “I think its education is so important and doing more events that are culturally expressive is key,” she said. “We had Día de los Muertos, and people wanted to learn and know more. I have so many ideas and I am excited to do them. I want to do a festival of colors with the Hindu religion, celebrate Juneteenth, we did an open mic for Black Lives Matter and residents from all walks of life (shared) what was going on in their lives.”
Reynoza has been a longtime council meeting attendee, and has used her observations to create her view of affordable housing projects.
“Affordable housing is not affordable for many working families … something I’ve expressing last five years attending council meetings is to remove in lieu fees, at least for a year, because pretty soon it’s not going to be up to us, but up to the state, and we won’t have any say,” she said. “We need to grow together and live together, and we need to remove in lieu fees and build mixed-use housing.
Reynoza is cautious about using the Lytton money, pointing out that it’s a $25 million allocation, but that a portion of that is for upgrades to the wastewater treatment facility to accommodate the Lytton’s housing project. She advocates letting that project be completed to make sure more of the $25 million won’t be needed to finalize the changes before budgeting for a community project. After that, she suggests community outreach to see what locals wants most.
She also believes that when it comes to fire preparedness, open space breaks and zoning needs to be considered carefully.
“Open space is very important. It breaks my heart to see rezoning of ag land. I went to a meeting where they talked about Arata Lane and I know people remember seeing fire come over the hills … we need that open space, and to protect our ag lands,” she said.
She also thinks that while attracting tourists isn’t necessarily bad, she’d rather attract tourists who appreciate Windsor as it is, not changing Windsor to suit tourist interests. “(Windsor is) one of the very few (family-friendly towns in Sonoma County) that is still small and charming and those are the tourists I would bring to Windsor … because we are quiet we’re charming, and nothing happens past 10 p.m., you can only hear grasshoppers. The goal is to make this a family destination,” she said.
“I serve the community,” she concluded. “There are five town council members that sit in chambers and make decisions on behalf of the town. It’s time to have diversity, social and economic diversity to bring the lens of what our families are struggling with the most and what their needs are. I will bring that voice not on council.”