By Larry Barnett | Sonoma Valley Sun —
Not everyone enjoys the generational legacy of a given name, but Sonoma’s newest City Council member, Kelso Grant Barnett IV does. The fourth generation of his family to be named Kelso Grant Barnett, he indeed was preceded by his great grandfather, grandfather, and father, all so named.
This home-town son, born in 1980 in Sonoma Valley Hospital, is the oldest of two; his sister Erin was born in 1982. Kelso’s family first made its name in Sonoma Valley in the 1940s, when his mother Kathy’s parents, James and Mary Whelan, opened and operated a hamburger joint in Fetters Hot Springs called “Whelan’s Rendezvous.” Kathy married Kelso’s father in 1974, who, having joined the navy, was stationed on Skaggs Island.
“Our family lived in Diamond A for a while, and after my parents divorced they each lived in homes in the City of Sonoma. I traveled back and forth between Nathanson Creek Lane and 4th and Patten Streets,” Kelso recalls. “I attended St. Francis and then high school at Justin Siena in Napa.”
Neither of Kelso’s parents was particularly political, he noted, although he’s been very much involved in Sonoma land-use, planning, and political life. Perhaps his stint at The University of California in Berkeley had a part to play in that. Majoring in political science and history, Kelso found himself to be a political conservative among the generally liberal student body at Berkeley. “From 2000 to 2004 Berkeley was politically charged, particularly after 9-11. Things were controversial but fun; everyone enjoyed playing their part,” he recounts. Kelso became part of a University magazine, Calfornia Patriot, intellectually modeled after the National Review. He graduated in 2004, and moved to San Francisco for two years.
While attending Cal, Kelso moonlighted to earn money by doing some political fund-raising, eventually meeting a businessman involved in real estate development. Not long thereafter, he began working as a consultant for a firm providing market and best-use analysis and traveled extensively. That culminated in two years headquartered in Boston, MA, and then a return to graduate school at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he received his master’s degree in business administration in 2013. He traveled home to Sonoma frequently, which he always considered his primary residence. Not long thereafter, he was appointed to a seat on Sonoma’s Design Review Commission.
In 2014, Kelso’s mother Kathy became ill with cancer, and he once again took up residence full-time in Sonoma. Kathy died in 2016. Kelso started his own financial/real estate investment consulting firm, which he continues to operate to this day, and in 2017 he was appointed to fill a seat on Sonoma’s Planning Commission.
In January, at age 40, he was appointed as a member of the City Council.
“I was so lucky to grow up here, and I’m keenly aware of the effect decisions made in the past have had, like the rejection of a four-lane freeway running up and down the Valley,” he noted, adding, “I’m always thinking about the potential effect of today’s decisions on the future.”
He sees himself spending the rest of his life connected to Sonoma. As for the time commitment a council seat requires, Kelso feels no hesitation. “I enjoy working with complex issues and enjoy the many relationships I have in Sonoma. My involvement does not feel like a burden.”
And about any plans to run for election in 2022? Kelso smiled, “I have no plans. I’ll wait and see. A lot can happen in two years.”
The author, Larry Barnett, a member of The Sun editorial board, is no relation.