Simon and Kimberly Blattner named Sonoma's 2020 'alcaldes'
In the 45 years Sonoma has designated an exemplary citizen as honorary mayor, the annual title of “alcalde” has been given to an individual 37 times. On only eight occasions has the city’s elected mayor decreed that the honor should be shared by a pair.
But Simon and Kimberly Blattner are the kind of couple one references collectively, the kind who finish each other’s sentences. They are the kind of couple who gently abide while listening to the other tell stories likely heard dozens of times, the kind who work hard to maintain synchronicity. They say they actually “fell in love at first sight.”
So it was no surprise that Mayor Logan Harvey opted not to separate the two when awarding the annual honor on Feb. 3, naming Simon and Kimberly Blattner as Sonoma’s 2020 alcalde and alcaldessa. Their selection was unanimously ratified by Harvey’s city council colleagues.
“I chose Kimberly and Simon because they express every single qualification and requirement for the position,” said Harvey. “They are selfless. They never seek recognition for their work. They are involved in a broad variety of philanthropic efforts in Sonoma, and they’ve done a lot for our community. They are just wonderful people who contribute so much.”
The Blattners, who married in 1990 and moved to Sonoma from San Francisco in 1994, have contributed time and money to many local causes in their 30 years together: Sonoma Land Trust, La Luz, the Sonoma Valley Fund, Save the Clydesdales, Sonoma Valley Hospital, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, the Sonoma International Film Festival and others. By their estimate, 50 percent of every eight-hour workday is dedicated to various kinds of volunteer work.
“We’re workers,” Kimberly, 70, said. “We are consummate workers.”
Simon, who parlayed his fascination with papermaking and paper arts into a long, lucrative career, could easily afford to rest on his laurels. But even with his 83rd birthday on the horizon, he’s not the kind of man who truly retires. “I just like to work,” he said.
Their work has advanced the circumstances of Sonoma Valley residents in myriad ways, and to hear them tell it, they’ve only just begun.
“We understand how lucky we’ve been,” Simon said. “Our whole focus is about working every day to level the playing field and make this Valley the most fantastic place to live for everyone.”
“Alcalde” translates from Spanish as “mayor,” and in centuries past the term designated an individual endowed with significant authority. Spanish alcaldes arbitrated land disputes, enforced local laws, and levied and collected taxes.
But in Sonoma the title is ceremonial, meant to identify people who contribute unselfishly to causes that service the greater good. The only real “job” assigned to the Blattners this year will be to lead next summer’s Fourth of July Parade. But despite the relatively narrow responsibilities of the position, the Blattners see the role of alcalde as a platform from which to continue their efforts to foster social equity in the Valley.
“We like to say we were born on third base,” Kimberly said. “We were born white, in the United States, to highly educated parents. We were already halfway there.”
The Blattners fully understand those advantages.
“When you live in a place where everybody’s not eating the same every night and everybody doesn’t have the same stuff, it really is about raising the bar,” Simon said. “Do you know how important this is to us? What it means to us to bring people up? We have an obligation, an obligation to do better. Everybody deserves a chance and a fair shot.”
A social conscience is part of Simon Blattner’s DNA: In 1963, he marched in Birmingham with Martin Luther King, Jr. The personal good fortune he shares with his wife has only deepened their commitment to causes that democratize opportunity. “We’ve worked hard, but we’ve also been very lucky, and a lot of that luck was just being in the right place at the right time,” Simon said.
Simon and Kimberly Blattner have four children between them, eight grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. They both still work at least a 40-hour week, and plan to carry on that way indefinitely. Their selection as Sonoma’s 2020 alcaldes is acknowledgment of their many contributions to the Sonoma Valley, and the productive and generous ways they have shared their resources. As they see it, there is no other choice.
“We really can’t figure out what people do when they retire,” Kimberly said. “If they’re not volunteering all the time, I’m not exactly sure what they do.”
The City of Sonoma will host a reception in the Blattners’ honor at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10 at Vintage House, 264 E First St. E.
Contact Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org.