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March 5, 2021
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Rohnert Park Leadership transition

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
December 11, 2020

The Rohnert Park City Council met for the last time in 2020. During the two- and half-hour meeting on December 8, the focus was on thanking outgoing Mayor Joseph Callinan, Vice Mayor Jake Mackenzie and Councilmember Gina Belforte for their combined 48 years of service. The main order of business was to install Walter “Willy” Linares, Jackie Elward and Gerard Giudice on the council. This was followed by the election of a new mayor and vice mayor to lead the city for 2021.

Callinan, on behalf of the entire city council, presented his last “Mayor’s Proclamation.” This final proclamation was honoring the life of Arturo “Art” Ibleto who was known as “The Pasta King.” Ibleto, an icon in Rohnert Park and Sonoma County, died late last month at his Cotati home. He was 94. Callinan and other council members shared his story and their remembrances of this man, “that was larger than life.” They described the many civic contributions Ibleto made to the communities throughout Sonoma County. The proclamation was presented to his daughter Annette. He will be missed by many.

After some routine business, they moved on to the main agenda item which was the “Ceremony for Installation of Elected City Councilmembers and Selection of Officers for the Year 2021.” Joining the council for their yearend 2020 reflections and presentations to outgoing council members were Fifth District Congressman Michael Thompson. He was joined by State Assembly member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt.

Following a short slide show about the city’s accomplishments in 2020 presented by City Manager Darrin Jenkins; Callinan, Belforte and Mackenzie made their final remarks. Councilmember Pam Stafford and Susan Adams also provided their comments and thanks for their service. All the remarks were gracious in content and each congratulated the newly elected councilmembers on their elections, warmly welcoming them to the city council.

Three other themes were evident. The first was each was grateful and honored for the trust given them by the community to serve the city on the council. The love they have for this city was also on display. Finally, they acknowledged the love and support of their families. Thompson, Aguiar-Curry and Rabbitt followed with their own comments and presentations. They highlighted the contributions each of them had made not only to the city but also to the county and state in various ways during their public service. On behalf of the city staff, Jenkins presented each with a photo book reflecting that service over the years. 

The next order of business was to select Stafford as Mayor Pro Tem. Callinan, Belforte and Mackenzie then waved goodbye and left the meeting. Stafford then continued the meeting with the city clerk certifying the results of the 2020 election and administering the oath of office to Linares, Elward and Giudice. Once that was completed, she opened the meeting for the nominations and selection of the city’s next mayor and vice mayor. Stafford and Giudice were both nominated for mayor. After the vote for Stafford failed 2-3, Giudice was elected 2021 mayor on a unanimous and gracious 5-0 vote of the council. Stafford then turned the meeting over to Giudice for selection of the vice mayor. Adams and Elward were both nominated. After the vote for Adams failed 2-3, Elward was elected 2021 vice mayor on another unanimous vote.

With the new council seated, new mayor and vice mayor elected, Giudice gave his first mayor’s comments followed by councilmember comments. Here too, themes emerged. For example, the warm welcome given the new council members; the thanks to the city manager and staff for working with them to prepare for their council duties and the desire to work collaboratively together to continue moving the city forward. Giudice said his vision for 2021 was the “Health, Safety and Stability of our Community.” He said he campaigned on “listening, inclusion and respect.” He asked, “you hold me to that standard.” 

Jenkins announced that the council would have a 2021 goal setting session on Thursday January 7. That five-hour session will start at noon and be conducted on-line using Zoom. He encouraged the community to submit their concerns and suggestions via the city’s website or by email. If public comments are any indication, civilian oversight of the Department of Public Safety will be on the discussion agenda. The final decision item was to cancel the scheduled December 22 council meeting to avoid conflicts with the holiday season.