Val Brown to step down
First District Supervisor Valerie Brown revealed on Monday that she will not seek another term.
One of the most politically-seasoned supervisors in recent county history, Brown began her political career as a Sonoma City Council member and mayor, then launched a successful run for the state assembly where she served for six years before term limits forced her out. Brown returned to private life, but was appointed to replace Mike Cale, who retired due to health issues, in the 1st District Supervisorial seat in 2001. She won re-election in 2004 and 2008 and served simultaneously as president of the National Association of Counties in 2009-10.
Describing her multi-faceted political life as like "a family," Brown said deciding not to run was the hardest thing she has ever done.
Asked what she plans to do next, Brown - who has a degree in secondary education and English, and a master's degree in
counseling psychology - said she has "not a clue. I've never known what I'm going to do next. I never knew I would run for Sonoma City Council ... I've got to hope something will come along."
Brown will remain in office until the conclusion of her term at the end of 2012. "I've got 17 months left," she said, "that's a long time."
Already announced as candidates for the seat are Gina Cuclis, a former Sonoma planning commissioner and currently a public relations consultant, and Mark Bramfitt, a former PG&E technology executive and currently a director of the Valley of the Moon Water District and chair of the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Basin Advisory Panel.
Since Brown's last election, the 1st Supervisorial District has been redrawn to include more of Santa Rosa, which could give a Santa Rosa resident an added advantage should one choose to run.
Valerie Brown's statement
In announcing her decision to leave her seat at the end of her term, Brown released the following statement:
"We all make tough decisions every day, but some are much harder to make than others. Deciding not to run for another term on the Board of Supervisors has been excruciatingly difficult and very personal. Looking back on my two decades of public service and partnership with the people of Sonoma County, I've concluded that it is time.
"Twenty-two years ago, a group of Sonoma friends invited me to the Feed Store for breakfast. Jeff Lyon led the group and surprised me by asking if I would run for City Council. Never in a million years had I considered running for public office. Since moving to Sonoma I had certainly been engaged. I opened the Sonoma Valley Educational Center, became president of the Chamber of Commerce and president of the Vintage Festival, but public office was a more intense commitment.
"From the early days of buying my only suit for public appearances, walking every precinct in Sonoma, breaking into a cold sweat before every debate and standing in front of Long's with a card table and homemade brochures (thanks to Pete Peterson), I have been continually rewarded with the opportunity to work with a diverse array of people and bring folks together to solve problems.
"I learned about the give and take of politics by serving with wonderful colleagues - Larry Murphy, Phyllis Carter, Anthony Cermak and Bob Cannard. They helped me, as a brand new Mayor, along with many supporters and opponents, to develop a sound, policy-based framework which has served me throughout my public life.
"The decision to run for the State Assembly was equally difficult. When Otto Teller offered his red barn at Oak Hill Farm for my campaign and encouraged my candidacy, along with then State Senator Mike Thompson, I made the leap.
"I was fortunate to serve in the State Legislature with the best and the brightest minds - my mentors and now Congressional members Mike Thompson and Jackie Speier, John Burton from San Francisco, my seatmate and leading environmentalist of the time Byron Sher, and the indomitable Speaker Willie Brown.
"It was a time when politics was far more collegial. There were no pledges to sign and Democrats and Republicans worked together toward compromises. I could always count on the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, members of the Rotary, Kiwanis and the "Gang of 5" and my many friends, as a sounding board. These partnerships made my efforts far more effective.
"I've found great satisfaction in policy development that is the foundation of community development. I've never cared much for partisan bickering or political conflicts that prevent reaching practical and viable solutions.
"When I was termed out of the Assembly, I thought my career in politics was over. But a new door opened allowing me to return to local government. I happily accepted an appointment from Gov. Davis after Supervisor Mike Cale retired mid-term, and it has been my honor to serve on the Board for the past eight years.
"Sonoma County is an innovative, forward thinking place - willing to embrace new ideas and test the envelope. During my term I've had many proud accomplishments, including:
• Establishing the Redevelopment Advisory Committee that has enabled a beautiful Highway 12 project with street lighting and sidewalks.
• Supporting a Property Assessment Clean Energy program, known locally as SCEIP, to provide homeowners and commercial businesses the opportunity to retrofit for energy efficiency.
• Promoting and approving the first groundwater management plan in Sonoma County.
• Dedicating County land for a community garden in Larson Park.
• Bringing to the County a Network of Care website that gives nonprofits and veterans a resource for building a healthy community.
• Supporting a new Grange Bridge and naming the Riverside bridge the Ig Vella Bridge (a tribute to one of my most valued mentors).
• Redirecting funds from Transient Occupancy Taxes to tourism events in Sonoma Valley.
"I found myself being a voice for county governments at the state and federal level, particularly on climate protection and health care. The exposure to how other local governments handle major issues, as well as sharing our approaches from Sonoma County, have enriched my ability to serve Sonoma residents and helped make a name for Sonoma County nationally.
"Recently, I was again humbled when President Obama appointed me to the White House Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion and Integrative Public Health. This work is especially compelling as counties are the implementers of so many programs and the safety net when all else fails.
"There will be many candidates who enter the race for First District Supervisor. I want to thank those who have been respectful of my need for time to make this decision and who have worked with me to learn more about the role of Supervisor. The field will be competitive and I will be looking for a candidate who brings wisdom, common sense, experience, knowledge of the political arena, both in and outside Sonoma Valley, and dedication to learning about the complex role of county government.
"My life has been rich beyond expectation and I have been blessed by the support of my friends in Sonoma Valley and through Sonoma County. I love my job and I've loved my career, and have been blessed with incredible District Directors, Jennifer Hainstock and Lynn Morton-Weil.
"But after 22 years it is time to move on.
"I want to thank you all for your support and counsel throughout the years, and for your commitment in keeping Sonoma such a special place."