In a recent interview with The Community Voice, Diana Rich, the newest member of the Sebastopol City Council, talked about her career and community involvement, as well as the campaign.
Of the five candidates who ran for city council in November, Rich won the most votes (30.5 percent), in a battle for two seats up for contest. Former Mayor Neysa Hinton held onto her seat with 25.1 percent of the vote, just edging out current Planning Commissioner Evaristo “Evert” Fernandez in what Rich called an amicable campaign.
Sebastopol’s City Council has five seats, with council members elected to four-year terms. Once new council members are sworn in following an election, the whole council meets to select the mayor. The council selected Council Member Una Glass to be mayor for this next cycle. The three seats not up for contest in 2020--those of Glass, Sarah Glade Gurney and Patrick Slayter--will be contested in 2022. Rich replaced Council Member Michael Carnacchi in December.
Rich, who has been involved in the Sebastopol community in her over 20 years as a resident, recently working as the Executive Director of the Community Center, something she said helped her get to know local government officials and staff.
Rich commended city staff and officials as said she was eager to work with them in this new role.
After she retired from the Community Center following the 2017 North Bay Fires--during which time the Community Center hosted refugees from Santa Rosa and other hard-hit areas--Rich has stayed active in Rotary and helping the community prepare for emergencies like wildfires and flooding.
When the pandemic hit, Rich turned her sights on serving the community as an elected official.
“As a retired person, it was really depressing to be stuck pretty much in my house at a time when I felt the world was suffering. I felt like I could either sit and do nothing--which goes against the grain for me--or I needed to step up and offer my skill set so I could offer to help my community get through this in a successful and positive way,” Rich said.
“I can’t tell you how many people I talked to who were feeling powerless and sad and losing hope for the future,” Rich said.
A lawyer by trade, Rich said she’s excited to use the skills she developed through her career and years of community involvement to the Council.
“Sebastopol has provided me with this particular set of skills. I have the ability to see the big picture and various steps--how can you get there,” Rich said. Rich said that in addition to having formed valuable connections, her time practicing law and working in the community has made her a strong verbal and written communicator, good at collaborating and building relationships.
During her campaign, Rich launched a website designed to show voters her merits and connect directly with the community. Rich said she looked to Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins and Santa Rosa Council Member Chris Rogers for inspiration engaging with the public online.
Rich said that though she uses Facebook to engage with constituents, the website offers an alternative by providing real content she said showed a sense of respect for the people reading it.
Rich said she will continue to use Facebook and her website to connect with residents.
On the campaign, Rich said Sebastopol was lucky to have such a respectable group of competitors.
“It was the most mutually respectful campaign you could imagine,” she said. “At the end, when we were picking up signs, we all picked up each other’s signs. It was just a really, really amicable campaign.”
Rich said she grew up in a modest household and became a lawyer partly because of her belief in social justice causes.
She said although Sebastopol is an exceptional and self-reliant community, the city is working to help people through these difficult times. She cited the city’s work to help businesses affected by COVID, including $2,000 loans from city coffers, as well as her support for projects like the Sebastopol Inn project as ways local governments can help disadvantaged residents.
Rich applauded Sebastopol residents for their compliance and toughness during the pandemic and hopes her work with the city will help mitigate damages for Sebastopol residents.