Susan Gorin, Sonoma County 1st District Supervisor, was sworn in on January 8. Eight months later, it’s time to check in and see how her new job is going.
“I just love it. I love the fact that supervisors have autonomy to create initiatives, to meet with stakeholder groups and set their own agendas for what they want to accomplish for the district. I compare my experience as supervisor now with that of a city council member, and I have far more interesting things I can work on.”
Gorin’s calendar fills up quickly: Telephone conference calls, department heads meetings and community events. “I wish I could clone myself,” she laughed. “It’s very, very frustrating to explain to great community groups why I can only spend 10 minutes at each place, or can’t be there because of distance and the geography of Sonoma County.”
A typical day is a busy mixture of responsibilities. She acts as liaison for the Board of Supervisors to the Permit Services Department and represents the board and county in the Bay Conservation Development Commission. She participates as representative of Sonoma Sanitary District on the North Bay Water Reuse Authority. She is also alternate for the Water Advisory Committee for the water district.
As Director of Sonoma County Water Agency, she is flying to Washington D.C. this week, where she will speak with the Army Corps of Engineers and a number of different legislators about the importance of funding for rehabilitation and restoration projects in the county. “We get our water from the Russian River, and it’s been somewhat challenging for the past couple of years to meet the requirements of the federal government dealing with endangered species in our water delivery system,” she said. In summary, “Show us the money.”
Gorin was also recently elected chair of Sonoma Clean Power (SCP), the county’s not-for-profit agency that will provide a greener mix of electricity at competitive prices. SCP has had a series of public meetings, the biggest in the City of Sonoma, with over 100 people in attendance. Some of them were not happy, quizzical about how the new county power agency could compete against PG&E. “Some folks think that PG&E is doing fine, so why would we change?” said Gorin. “The emphasis of Sonoma Clean Power is eventually toward building our electrical generation from renewable sources and a greater mix of renewable energy sources, and creating local jobs in the process.”
On Sonoma’s Hotel Limitation Measure, Gorin is “so delighted” she doesn’t have to take a position. “This is a city issue,” she said, smiling. She is, however, paying close attention to the public discussion and debate over the initiative. “I believe strongly that good public policy emerges from a public debate. I love it when an issue captures the public’s attention and imagination, because this will help the people of Sonoma decide who they want to be.”
Regarding the Highway 12 street and sidewalk upgrade project in Boyes Hot Springs, Gorin said, “I am doing a little happy dance that the lawsuit did prevail, but recognizing that the state has filed appeals on similar successful lawsuits, I’m waiting.”
She is hard at work with the county administrative officer and board of supervisors exploring all funding sources to complete, what she calls, “this essential infrastructure project.” She’s confident the project will be completed in the timeline set out, which calls for construction in the spring or summer and completion it about a year later, barring unforeseen complications.
Gorin’s passion lies in connecting citizens and the community with government. She views it as a privilege to be able to help folks understand which department handles which function and help them to solve the problems they have, whether it’s barking dogs, crumbling roads or adding amenities to public parks. “I have faith in the citizens that once they understand how we’re moving forward on specific projects, they’ll be glad that they’ve been heard. They will know that their interests are a priority to me.”
Gorin is meeting with neighbors and the Springs Community Alliance about other issues, like the loss of parking due to widening Highway 12, adding bike lanes, curbs, gutters and sidewalks. If they are successful with the lawsuit, it will allow them to repay the money to the general fund to construct the project and will also allow for discretionary funds to purchase some of the lots in the Springs area to provide parking to mitigate the situation.
“I’m also working with emerging Latino business leaders to help them organize and articulate their needs, to help them through some of the permit processing issues that they’re facing, and to figure out how we can move forward to provide assistance for them to upgrade through the Façade Improvement Program.” In addition, she is working with residents on a community process for public art and, with the lighting district, for street lighting.
“It’s going to be a huge economic boost for the Boyes Hot Springs area,” she said.
Gorin has regular office hours in Santa Rosa to meet with constituents about specific issues and work with them to resolve any problems they might be having with departments or permitting processes. Regular office hours in Sonoma have not been established yet, but they will most likely be Fridays at the Sheriff’s Substation at 810 Grove Street, in El Verano. In the meantime, the Sonoma City Council has graciously opened their office so that Gorin could meet with constituents there. She also takes many meetings out in the community.
“I’ve been through the learning curve. I understand how to work with the various departments. I understand how to cut through certain bureaucratic obstacles and I am moving forward briskly in my work with the community and stakeholder groups on a number of initiatives. That will become evident in the next five or six months ahead,” said Gorin.