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Hopkins to be first Sonoma County supervisor to give birth in office

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Sonoma County officials, constituents and anyone else who does business with Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins can expect to find her responding to emails and other queries at odd times in the coming months.

With a new baby arriving any day, the west county supervisor says she’ll be squeezing in reading, study and correspondence whenever she can, including the late night and early morning hours that most people spend asleep.

The job of county supervisor extends into most hours of the day and night, anyway, and often consumes her mind during wakeful night-time hours as it is, said Hopkins, 35. Now that she’ll be up in the night to feed her newborn, she expects she’ll be getting work done then, too.

“I’m actually looking forward to the midnight productivity,” Hopkins said, recalling the multitasking skills she discovered when her two daughters, now 6 and 3, were babies.

“I’m often actually up at night thinking about my job, thinking about policy, on my phone, reading agenda packets. ... I’ll make good use of those midnight hours.”

Hopkins, who just started her third year in elective office, is due to give birth Jan. 23, though her first two children were born on the early side, at about 38½ weeks, which could means she delivers this weekend.

Only seven women have served on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, beginning with the late Helen Rudee, who was elected in 1976.

Hopkins, the youngest, will be the first to give birth in office — a distinction with which she’s been struggling somewhat, given what it says about gender disparity in politics and government and, thus, public policy, including areas like parental leave, affordable child care and education.

“I would like for this to become normal — for this not to be newsworthy — because it’s just something that’s a social norm. It’s just expected,” she said. “In my opinion, we need more women in office so we can address the broader disparities in gender across the country.”

She also noted that, while it may seem “unusual to be in this visible of a position and to be very pregnant and still at work,” women around the country work until they go into labor.

“I’m just doing exactly what the majority of mothers that I know in the county are doing, which is juggling kids and doctors’ appointments and full-time-plus jobs and finding a way to make it all work.”

She and her husband, Emmett, community care manager for LandPaths, have chosen not to learn their third baby’s gender beforehand and are waiting to be surprised, as they did with their first two.

Assuming an uncomplicated birth, Hopkins plans to take three weeks off to bond her with the newborn, and then transition back into weekly board meetings and business as usual — though she acknowledges it will be a heaping full plate.

Hopkins’ in-laws live down the street and her own parents plan to come and stay for the first six weeks or so to help everyone get through the transition to a new baby in the house.

They also have plenty of other friends who help get the kids from place to place already, so there is a strong, supportive village in place for the busy supervisor.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m happiest when I’m busiest, and it’s just part of my personality,” the Stanford-educated Hopkins said. “I love my job. I love my family. I love my children. I feel lucky to be able to balance all those things. ... I will confess my house does not look like a 1950s perfect, everything-in-its-place kind of location. Dishes might not get done the same night if there’s an agenda packet, but I’ll take all the imperfections for the big picture.”

Calling Hopkins “a wonderful, supportive, amazing mother,” fellow Supervisor Susan Gorin said she expects Hopkins will handle the balancing act with aplomb and “just bring the baby everywhere.”

Gorin, who has two grown children and is now a grandmother herself, said there may be things Hopkins has to say “no” to at first, given the demands of parenthood. But in general, the new baby “will be just one more thing that she will multitask around very successfully,” Gorin predicted.

She also said having a baby around will serve as a reminder to the rest of the board “that the whole reason we do what we do is for the future generations.”

Hopkins said she hasn’t decided yet if or how much time the baby might spend in the supervisors’ chambers, but people should get used to seeing her in her office and around the district with a baby on board, she said.

The support from constituents, colleagues and county staffers has been overwhelming, she said.

“They’ve seen me already juggling two young kids and the job and I think that I’ve shown that I have the capacity to handle that, and so I haven’t had anybody express any reservations about my ability to do my work going forward,” Hopkins said.