A whole bunch of kudos
Two years ago, the Tuesday night farmers market on Sonoma’s Plaza horseshoe was both the most popular ticket in town and a focus of mounting criticism, resentment and widespread complaint.
The longtime fair manager, who had successfully grown the event into a produce party with regional appeal, found it increasingly difficult to adjust the market’s focus to match an evolving vision that married old-fashioned farm-to-consumer sales with a weekly block party.
Compounding the problem was a climate of proprietary ownership that rubbed many people the wrong way – including some vendors who felt inclusion in the list of permitted participants was arbitrary and at the whim of the manager, whose oversight of the market lacked transparency.
But, as the City Council learned Monday night, all that has changed.
As Public Works Director Milenka Bates made clear in her staff report, “The issues experienced by the previous management regarding fairness, transparency, trash management and vendor mix have been eliminated. City staff received one complaint in 2011 and that was dealt with by the board immediately. Staff has not received complaints in 2012. The market board has established a website (vomcfm.com) that is maintained and routinely updated. Rules, policy, procedures and vendor guidelines are posted. Board meetings are open to the public and the dates and the meeting place are available on the website. The community has welcomed this market management and comments received are positive. The Valley of the Moon Certified Farmers Market has met conditions established by the City Council and has established an ideal amenity for the residents and visitors of Sonoma Valley.”
Credit for the turn-around goes to manager Bill Dardon and his exceptionally dedicated and competent board, as well as to countless volunteers and the vendors whose produce and products draw so many happy participants from May to November.
We congratulate all those involved, as well as the city for guiding and prodding this iconic event in the right direction and giving Sonoma a weekly center.
While we are on the subject of jobs well done, the hands behind the curtain guiding all activities on the Sonoma Plaza, and on all other public places in town, belong to Public Works Director Milenka Bates, who has announced her departure to return to her native Washington in a few weeks.
We need to extoll the virtues of Bates’ tenure, because of her responsive accessibility, her reassuring competence, her fundamental kindness in dealing with both the public and her staff and the grasp she has demonstrated of a wide range of technical and policy issues.
We’ve been lucky to have her, we’re going to miss her, and we wish her the best as she returns to rainy Washington.
One other management change requires separate attention. Sonoma is a city blessed with sound leadership and a remarkably competent cadre of executive staff. City Manager Linda Kelly will also take her leave of us in December, and of her time in Sonoma we will have more to say, in more space, in a subsequent editorial. But we want to recognize here how fortunate we are to have Assistant City Manager and finance director Carol Giovanatto move up to replace Kelly. She is an outstanding choice and we applaud her selection.