Rohnert Park elects first Latina Mayor

Samantha Rodriguez, Council member elect for District 1, was officially sworn into office by City Clerk Sylvia Lopez Cuevas and officially changed roles from vice mayor to mayor after a unanimous (5-0) vote by the Rohnert Park City Council. 

The city council met on Tuesday, December 13 for their last meeting of 2022. It was a changing of the guard. Long-time Council member Pam Stafford departed. New council member Emily Sanborn took a seat on the council. It was also time to thank City Manager Darren Jenkins for 19 years of service and welcome incoming city manager Marcela Piedra. Additionally, it was time to select the new mayor and vice mayor for 2023.

Rohnert Park history continues to be made. 2022 Mayor Jackie Elward made history last December as the first black woman of color to be mayor of our city. In addition, she was the first immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to hold public office in the United States. Tonight, Samantha Rodriguez became the first Latina woman of color to be mayor of our city. Initially appointed last year to fill the seat of resigning Vice Mayor Willy Linares, she was also elected vice mayor. She won her election for District One and now follows Elward as Rohnert Park’s Mayor. When Piedra takes over from Jenkins next January, she too will make history as our city’s first Latina woman of color as city manager.

The thanks and goodbyes went first. A certificate of recognition was given to both Jenkins and Stafford from State Senator Bill Dodd’s office. U.S. Congressman Mike Thompson’s office presented Jenkins a Certificate of Congressional Recognition. They also gave Stafford a statement to be read into the Congressional Record by Thompson honoring her 16 years of service, including three terms as mayor, which will make Stafford part of the history of the United States. Sonoma County Second District Supervisor David Rabbitt’s office also provided fond farewell remarks about Stafford. The new assembly member for Rohnert Park gave his first certificate of recognition to Stafford and Jenkins. 

Elward presented Jenkins a proclamation from the city that outlined his many contributions over his career. In accepting, Jenkins teased the audience about having a long goodbye speech but simply said “Thanks for the memories, Stay Friendly Rohnert Park.”

Stafford also received many thanks for her dedicated service to the city.  Rodriguez presented her with a gift and recapped the many accomplishments that Stafford was part of during her tenure. These included the 2008 financial crisis, the building of the City Center Plaza, and starting the Party on the Plaza event. Stafford demurred. 

She said, “I didn’t do anything by myself.” It was a group effort. “I’m just proud to have been part of it.” Rodriguez also presented Elward with a gift, a service plaque with a gavel on it, and reviewed her accomplishments. But she also reminded Elward “this isn’t it, you’re still here.”

Then it was time for the changing of the guard. Stafford departed and Rodriguez, Sanborn, and Council member Susan Hollingsworth Adams took their oath of office. Rodriguez represents District One, Sanborn District Two, and Hollingsworth Adams District Five. Now all three represent the entire city. Elward nominated Rodriguez for Mayor, Councilmember Gerard Giudice seconded the nomination, and it was a unanimous vote. Gerard then nominated Hollingsworth Adams for Vice Mayor, which was seconded by Rodriguez. The vote was also unanimous. The council then changed seats to their new positions and provided closing comments.

Rodriguez said her vision is to keep breaking the barriers we are breaking and “I look forward to 2023, to also work with our first woman city manager, who happens to be Latina as well.” Elward said she was relieved, it feels good to be in this environment, she is proud. She also told Hollingsworth Adams that she was part of a power team, and that the city is in good hands. Gerard said, “our future is bright.” Sanborn said this was not “a spot I pictured myself 22 years ago when I moved to Rohnert Park to attend SSU.” She also thanked her family, work family, and all the volunteers who worked on her campaign. Hollingsworth Adams invited Piedra to come up and be seen. She then read a short poem as follows: “I love a finished speaker; I really truly do. I don’t mean one who’s polished; I just mean one who’s through.” And with that, the meeting was adjourned.

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