Sam Salmon

Sam Salmon. Photo Times Archives.

Veteran town council member running again, for all the same reasons

Few local elected officials have served quite as long, or as single-mindedly as Windsor’s Sam Salmon. First elected to the town council in 1994, the veteran councilmember had been on the fence about running for his seventh term, but the same issue that brought him to the council in the first place — growth — prompted him to run one more time.

“That’s been the big question, hasn’t it?” Salmon said when asked about why he decided to run again. “What put it over the top for me was the 60 acres of (proposed) vineyard conversion north of Jensen Lane. It seems to me it’s kind of a déjà vu back to 1994, when all of sudden it seems like the town wants to expand in all ways. We’re looking at expansion in every direction; west with the (Lytton tribe), which isn’t really our choice but we can assume will happen, to the south is Shiloh, to the east in Jensen and then north we have ‘north of Arata’.”

Unchecked growth is what drew Salmon to the council in the first place. “The first town council was wanting to take advantage of various opportunities and I felt that the town was projected to grow far too much and far too fast. So I ran on the platform to preserve open space and stop sprawl and it hit a nerve,” he said.

Since then, Salmon has had a consistent message about what he thinks is appropriate growth, but he admits it may have given him a reputation as a bit of an outlier, as he is often the lone ‘no’ vote on various projects.

“I don’t know if people see me as being negative or an angry old man, if so that’s a misconception,” he said. “I’ve never considered myself a naysayer and an obstacle, but I’ve come to the point where my understanding of what people in Windsor want is somewhat different than what the council direction is.”

But he admits that he struggles with his stance — in light of the fires and rising rents, housing is needed more than ever. “I struggle with where are those juniors and seniors at Windsor High School going to live,” he said. “I struggle with knowing they may not have an opportunity to live here. It’s an issue that is going to take a lot of thought and planning.”

“Right now I think we should focus on the Old Red corridor where we could see a different type of house; not just apartments, but rowhouses, zero lot line houses, condos, that type of growth,” he continued. “It won’t look like what many of us are used to living in and looking at, but I don’t know what our kids are going to move into.”

After attending many smart growth conferences over the years, he believes he can see a middle ground, focusing on city-centered growth and infill. He also hopes that the new council can be more proactive, rather than reactive when it comes to new projects.

“I want us to stop focusing on development plans that are inappropriate and start focusing on areas of town that are ripe for development and will benefit the town,” he said, citing the Old Redwood Highway corridor or the downtown area.

“It’s not that the council has to confront developers, but the council has an obligation first to the people that live here, and to make every effort that they can to make the town sustainable, enjoyable and maintain that small town character that people have indicated they want.”

As the elder statesman of the council, he is willing to share his own thoughts on the meaning of service, whether he wins re-election or not.

“It’s been really rewarding for me, I’ve enjoyed learning about small town government and serving. I have been fortunate to go to many annual conferences with regards to smart and sustainable growth. Being able to come back and talk about it and think about it in terms of how a community can grow has been rewarding,” he said.

“I found that once you’re elected, if you’re that fortunate, and you start serving on a town council you start to get a different picture of what it is and that’s the exciting part,” he continued.

“Go in with your eyes wide open and learn. We started off with ‘why would I run again?’ — well, at some of those conferences and events I’ve met the most amazing people and received the most amazing thoughts. It may only be a tiny speck of information, but it will light you up, and it will change the way you look at things.”

“I think anybody, to a certain degree, if they have an open mind and want to learn will find being on the council is a wonderful experience,” he finished.

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