A new era for the city of Sonora began Tuesday night with the swearing-in of two newly elected city council members, the new city manager and city clerk, and a new ceremonial mayor and mayoral protector for the next two years.
New councilors Andy Merrill and Suzanne Cruz, who were the top two voters in the June 7 primary, took their seats near the end of the public meeting before the council voted to nominate Councilman Mark Plummer for mayor and Councilor Ann Segerstrom for Mayor agreed tem.
Both the mayor and mayoralty are largely ceremonial offices, elected every two years on a rotating basis, with Plummer next in line, followed by Segerstrom based on their time on the council.
Councilman Matt Hawkins has served as mayor for the past two years, while Plummer has been mayor per tem.
“It’s a great honor,” said Plummer, who added that he came to Sonora 35 years ago, driving down Washington Street, and upon reaching Courthouse Square he said to himself, “Look, that’s a cool town . I really hope that I can find work here.”
Plummer said he found work the next day and has called the town home ever since. He was first elected to the council in 2016 after being encouraged to run by the late former councilwoman and mayor Connie Williams, which Plummer acknowledged in his acceptance speech.
Former Sonora teacher BZ Smith, speaking after Plummer’s appointment, reminded him that the office is bipartisan because he has made statements in the past that cast the Democrats in a negative light.
Segerstrom, a Sonoran Native whose family has lived in the county for generations, thanked Plummer for her nomination and noted how their differing personal views would help balance each other.
“(I appreciate) your confidence in my ability to be your sidekick and support,” Segerstrom told Plummer. “We can guarantee it will be an impartial council because we will be pushing from both sides, so we have to get in the middle.”
At the beginning of the meeting, the council recognized the achievements of outgoing council members Colette Such and Jim Garaventa, both of whom chose not to seek re-election. One such was elected in 2020, while Garaventa won its first four-year term in 2014, followed by a second in 2018.
Hawkins, who still serves in his role as mayor, rattled off a list of Garaventa’s accomplishments over the years, including serving as mayor from 2018-2020, serving on numerous commissions and committees, and leading the homeless task force the city as chairman during its first term.
Garaventa said he plans to move to New York for some time to be with his girlfriend.
It recognized her work on homelessness, which has brought groups together to fund portable bathrooms at a former homeless camp on Stockton Road known as Camp Hope, as well as what she considers her crowning achievement – helping to develop a Social Justice Resolution as chair of the city’s former Social Justice Committee.
Cruz and Merrill were both sworn in at the same time as city manager Melissa Eads, who last month accepted a five-year deal to permanently fill the role, and newly appointed city clerk Tracy Skelly, who has worked in the city for more than 10 years in others functions.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone who came out and voted,” she said. “In our constitutional republic, it is so important that we are active members of the government we want.”
Merrill thanked his campaign team for helping him get elected and the voters who put their trust in him, before saying he hopes to live up to the “beautiful legacy” Such and Garaventa left behind.