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Jason Walsh: Second time’s a charm for Sonoma’s new mayor

“I came through, and I shall return”

– Gen. Douglas MacArthur

Madolyn Agrimonti was uncharacteristically at a loss for words Monday when her Sonoma City Council colleagues unanimously voted her the town’s Mayor for 2018.

She quietly accepted the gavel from outgoing mayor Rachel Hundley, mouthed “thank you” to those applauding in the council chambers and without further ado moved to the next order of business in choosing the incoming vice mayor, or mayor pro tem. (The Council unanimously chose Amy Harrington.)

The subdued spirit of the moment was exemplified in the single public comment on the vote from former councilmember Ken Brown who summed it up in two words: “I’m glad.”

It was a moment of redemption for Agrimonti, who’d been passed over as mayor last year, after serving 2016 as Mayor Pro Tempore (Latin for “in absence of”), a designation with few responsibilities outside of filling in for the occasional ribbon cutting, but traditionally – though not always – is seen as the mayor-in-waiting.

But last year’s election saw longtime Councilmember Laurie Gallian – an ally of Agrimonti’s; their votes often aligned – lose her seat to challenger Harrington and the balance of the council shifted. Despite Agrimonti’s pro-tem status, Harrington and Councilmember Gary Edwards supported Hundley for mayor – and for the first time in recent memory, the vice mayor was left holding the bag, not the gavel.

Letters to the editor came to the I-T the next day describing the move as tactless at best or “a palace coup” at worst. (Some council watchdogs applauded it, noting Agrimonti’s at times stream-of-consciousness style when speaking on the dais.)

But Agrimonti took it with a grain of salt.

“For those who voted for me and supported me, they assumed I would transition into the Mayor seat,” she said at the time. “I’m sad that that did not happen and I am sorry.”

But, despite it all, this is a council that generally plays together nicely; when there are periods of disagreement or acrimony – and there have been some doozies – members leave any lingering umbrage largely behind the scenes.

Councilmember Harrington on Monday apologized to Agrimonti about last year’s mayoral vote and described her “regret” in how it played out.

“I think it was hurtful,” said Harrington. “I think Rachel did a great job (as mayor), but I regret that it happened and I’m hoping we can make that right tonight.”

And they did.

We asked Agrimonti if she was surprised to finally be wearing the mayoral sash.

“The (mayor) vote is never a done deal,” is all she said, pointing to the past two years as evidence.

“I’m pleased with the Council giving me unanimous support, she said. “I’m looking forward to the coming year.”

Despite it being largely ceremonial, the role of Mayor isn’t always a cake walk. You need to run tightly efficient meetings, absorb the bulk of any criticisms directed at the council, commit large amounts of personal time to community events and conduct yourself in a well-spoken and dignified manner as the de facto leader of the city.

The City of Sonoma will see how Mayor Agrimonti fares.

Until then, we’ll echo the sentiments of former Mayor Ken Brown.

We’re glad, too.

Email Jason at jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.