The long list of titles and terms describing the life of Suzanne Brangham just got longer.
To the end of the list that includes artist, author, entrepreneur, restaurateur, real estate developer, committee chair, culinary school founder, hotel owner and volunteer extraordinaire, you now have to add alcaldessa.
On Monday night, the City Council
unanimously selected Brangham as the 2014 Sonoma alcaldessa and then promptly called her cell phone while she was attending a Sebastiani Theatre event and jointly announced their congratulations.
Brangham has lived in Sonoma for some 25 years and founded The General’s Daughter restaurant in the 1870 Victorian house on West Spain Street built by Attila Haraszthy and Natalia Vallejo, daughter of the general. In doing so she rescued the neighborhood from a subdivision future. On land next door, she founded Ramekins Culinary School and subsequently bought an old farmhouse on Broadway, renovated it and opened MacArthur Place.
Meanwhile, she founded the Red and White Ball and the nonprofit Sonoma Plaza Foundation to raise funds to improve the Plaza. She joined the effort to create the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, chaired a trio of “Muse” fundraising events for the Sonoma Community Center, chaired Sonoma Jazz-Plus, joined the Sonoma Valley Hospital Coalition and has worked with or been on the boards of the Sebastiani Theatre Alliance, the Sonoma Valley Fund, Teen Safe Ride, Sonoma Valley High School’s Senior Project’s Night, has co-chaired fundraisers for the Lyon Ranch Animal Rescue and Therapy Center, Pets Lifeline, the Sonoma International Film Festival, served on the advisory board of the Mentoring Alliance, La Luz, the Arts Guild and the Sonoma Valley Boys & Girls Clubs.
The list goes on and on and on.
Despite those unassailable credentials, Brangham said the next day, “I’m shocked. I can’t believe it.”
Criteria for alcalde selection include:
• A broad spectrum of voluntary service to Sonoma Valley.
• Service in a leadership role in at least one nonprofit organization.
• Having spearheaded at least one community-service project without compensation.
• Being well-known for consistent, behind-the-scenes good deeds.
• Refusal to seek public accolades or recognition for good deeds done.
• Adherence to a high standard of moral and ethical values.
Each alcalde is given a silver-headed cane they are expected to carry with them when conducting personal appearances and presiding at events.
Brangham was chosen from a field of eight candidates that included Harriet Derwingson, Gary Edwards, Pam Gibson, Carole and Bob Nicholas, Wayne Schake, Jackie Stubbs and Marcie Waldron.
Brangham said she was “thrilled by the honor” and joked, “maybe they chose me because I’m the oldest.”
Brangham will be celebrated at the annual alcalde reception, for which the date and time will be announced soon.
The first person named Sonoma alcalde was Richard Raoul Emparan, grandson of Gen. Mariano Vallejo, and was selected in 1972 by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
In 1975, the Sonoma City Council decided to make selection of an honorary alcalde an annual process in order to recognize local citizens who had made unselfish contributions to the welfare of Sonoma. August Pinelli was named the 1976 alcalde.