Our County by Lynda Hopkins - 5th District Supervisor - August 2019

This summer flew by, didn’t it? It’s nearly half over, but it feels as though it got a late start; those May rains and high river flows resulted in delays in placing dams along the river as well as some of the local crossings that our summer crowds rely on. Fortunately, it did not delay the extensive roadwork planned for this summer. We have pavement projects in process all over West County. Unfortunately, however, many of our community connectors suffered major damage during this winter’s flood event and downpour. In fact, we suffered more than 110 road slippages and failures this past winter. None of this work was scheduled, but all of these failures must be repaired. I am constantly advocating for haste in these repairs so that we can have our roads restored ASAP, but the wheels of disaster response bureaucracy sometimes grind slowly. Our Department of Transportation and Public Works is touring the area (again) with FEMA representatives in the coming weeks, and we hope to have more information on what is possible and how quickly major road failures can be repaired after that meeting.

TMDL – Total Maximum Daily Load – is an acronym, which will affect many of our residents along the Russian River who rely on septic systems to clean their wastewater. The Regional Water Board will take up the proposed Advanced Protection Management Program (APMP) will be the subject of a public hearing on August 14th at the Regional Board offices at 550 Skylane Blvd Suite A, Santa Rosa. More information on the proposed TMDL and APMP can be found at the Regional Board’s webpage under the following link: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/northcoast/water_issues/programs/tmdls/russian_river/

A dedicated group of volunteer community members has been working with the Regional Board and the County for the past year to learn more about the TMDL and research potential solutions for affected property owners. The Lower Russian River Citizen’s Advisory Group (CAG) meets on the 3rd Thursday evening of each month from 6-8pm. These meetings are sparsely attended by the public but are very worthwhile. Additionally, the County has recently hired an ombudsperson – Alisha O’Loughlin – to act as an independent resource and problem solver for residents regarding system or individual upgrades. Alisha can be reached at Alisha.Oloughlin@sonoma-county.org. While she is based in the County Administrator’s office in order to have better access to county records, she will begin holding regular office hours at the Monte Rio Rec and Park board room beginning in September. More information to follow, but we are very excited to have Alisha on board!

Many changes are afoot in the Fifth District office. With the departure of Amie Windsor, our field representative - who has moved on to an exciting opportunity with Social Advocates for Youth - we welcome Elise VanDyne! Elise comes to our office with an extensive and accomplished history of founding businesses, procuring grant funding, and engaging with communities. Formerly Executive Director with the Russian River Chamber, Elise will hit the ground running with our river towns. We will be acquainting Elise with our southwest Santa Rosa community, as well as our coastal communities in the coming months. Elise will have primary responsibility for our Municipal Advisory Councils, and you’ll also find her working on other community events, initiatives, and constituent case management and response.

As many of you already know, our District Director Susan Upchurch will be leaving our office in October after 11 years of service to the community. This move is bittersweet for Susan and our office, but this retirement has been planned for more than 5 years. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to work alongside Susan for the past two and a half years. If you’ve ever thanked me for something I’ve done for the community, you really should be thanking Susan. Not only does Susan shoulder a tremendous amount of the unseen work that goes on in the office — never taking credit for her accomplishments — but she’s also the person who taught me the ins and outs of County government. In particular, she taught me how to get more than two dozen different County agencies and departments to work for constituents (as opposed to against them). Susan brings sorely-needed creativity and tenacity to government work, and she is endlessly dedicated to serving the needs of West County residents. Her never-give-up attitude and institutional knowledge will be sorely missed by all.

However, Susan and I are both extremely happy with the very competitive recruitment and many very qualified applicants we reviewed for her position. The nextDistrict Director, Leo Chyi, has an incredible background. Leo has been with the City and County of San Francisco for over 10 years, most recently managing an $800 million budget for their health services division. His educational background includes a Stanford undergraduate degree in Earth Systems (my field as well), and an MPA from the prestigious Princeton Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

His work in budget analysis and policy development is extensive, yet Leo was looking for an opportunity to work directly with our community in the Fifth District. He and his partner have been regular visitors to West County for over 30 years, own a home here, and are active CSA members. He looks forward to ditching the commute, working full-time in Sonoma County, and more deeply connecting with our wonderful community. Despite his lofty credentials – he speaks 4 languages including Spanish – Leo is very down to earth and committed to public service. Leo begins his tenure on August 23rd, and I look forward to working with him. I believe that together we will be able to create innovative institutional change that will benefit beautiful West County.

Our new team will continue to serve our community and bring even more resources to the work that we do. It is my hope that we can not only improve our communities in the Fifth District, but also the entire County.Onward!

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