Cruz will serve as the city’s first Latina mayor
The Cloverdale City Council voted to appoint Marta Cruz as Cloverdale’s next mayor and Todd Lands as Cloverdale’s next vice mayor on Wednesday night, May 12.
Cruz’s appointment to the mayor position was a unanimous 4-0 vote, and Lands’ appointment received the majority vote with 3-0-1, with Councilmember Melanie Bagby abstaining.
The council traditionally selects a mayor and vice mayor at its first meeting in December to begin at its first meeting in January. In December 2020, former Councilmember Jason Turner was selected as mayor and Cruz was selected as vice mayor. Turner announced his resignation from the council on May 4 effective immediately, so the council met on May 12 to address both how to fill his vacant council seat and who to move into the city’s mayor and vice mayor positions.
“The role of the mayor is really to preside over the meetings … to represent the council and the community in ceremonial events, as well as to sign official documents,” said City Manager David Kelley.
The person appointed to the vice mayor position fills in for the mayor when they’re absent from council meetings.
“It is really disappointing that we no longer have Jason among us, because he was definitely an incredible part of the mix,” Cruz said, speaking of the former mayor. Praise for Turner abounded at the council meeting, with council members speaking to Turner’s ability to lead efficient, thoughtful, even-handed meetings.
A new mayor, mid-year
When it came time to select the mayor that will continue out his run, serving as mayor until this December, Cruz opened by expressing interest in the position.
“I welcome the opportunity to become mayor and to continue to serve Cloverdale,” Cruz said, opening the floor for council discussion.
Bagby was the first to make a motion to appoint Cruz as mayor.
“I think you’ve demonstrated your commitment and your leadership and I appreciate your willingness to step up for a partial term,” Bagby said. Lands seconded her motion.
Wolter voted in favor of Cruz becoming mayor, but cautioned her that he wouldn’t vote in favor of her becoming mayor come December.
“When December comes around and it’s time to appoint a mayor, chances are I’m not going to be able to support you,” Wolter said, reiterating that he believes Cruz should become mayor this year. Wolter said that he disagrees with the notion that a council member should be mayor twice in one term, pointing to a 2019 Windsor City Council vote where Dominic Foppoli was appointed mayor for the second time in a row.
One public commenter, Liane Fabian, voiced support for Wolter becoming mayor and Lands becoming vice mayor. Fabian accused Cruz of not being genuine and reading off of a script.
Community member Angela Cordova said she didn’t have a problem with Cruz becoming mayor, but said that she has concerns about a conflict of interest stemming from Cruz being married to a city department head.
“My only concern, my major concern, is the conflict with you and your husband,” Cordova said. Cruz is married to Cloverdale’s public works director, Mark Rincon. “You guys stay in the same house, you sleep in the same bed and people do talk. I think that is a direct conflict for you to make decisions. I think in order for you to be the mayor, you may have to recuse yourself on quite a few things.”
When asked Wednesday evening about any possible conflicts of interest stemming from her marriage to Rincon, Cruz said that she checked with the city’s attorney before running for city council to ensure that her marriage wouldn’t present a conflict. Cruz said in situations where a conflict presents itself, she has recused herself from the item — like a January 2020 consent calendar item regarding a change in Rincon’s pay.
“There’s no conflict because he’s not a contracted individual that goes through any kind of competition for services. He is a hired person, his immediate supervisor is David Kelley — he responds to David, David responds to us as a council,” Cruz said. “There’s nothing that I can tell Mark about planning, because he doesn’t make planning decisions. He performs duties as assigned, and he performs upon decisions that the council makes, and I as an individual cannot give him orders.”
Additionally, she said that in situations where she has to address Rincon from her position as a council member, she goes through Kelley. According to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, a non-partisan commission that is responsible for impartial and effective administration of the Political Reform Act, which regulates campaign financing, conflicts of interest, lobbying and governmental ethics, the employment of a spouse in a public position primarily presents a conflict of interest in matters relating to income.
Lands comes in as vice mayor
When it came time to select a vice mayor, Wolter nominated Lands as vice mayor. Lands seconded the motion after confirming with Wolter that Wolter didn’t want to become vice mayor, and after the motion failing to receive a second from any other council member.
Lands was the top vote-getter in the 2020 city council election, bringing in 2,222 votes (29.44%). Prior to joining the council, Lands served on the Cloverdale Unified School District Board of Trustees for eight years.
“I would like to thank Jason Turner for his years of service and support. He and his commitment will be missed by our entire community,” Lands wrote in a statement to the Reveille Wednesday evening following the council selection. “I would also like to thank the council for trusting in me to do what is right for our community. I will work hard with our mayor to make sure we are open, honest, transparent and available. I look forward to the rest of this year and the years to come.”
A historic step for Cloverdale
Wednesday’s meeting was also historic — Cruz, the city’s first Latina council member, became Cloverdale’s first Latina mayor.
“It feels great. I want to continue to be a role model — not only for Latino kids, but for all kids, especially all girls in Cloverdale,” Cruz said when asked about how she felt following the meeting. “We need to believe that we are capable of filling anybody’s shoes. We are capable of establishing our own mark.”
When asked about some of the top issues Cruz believes the city will have to come to terms with in the coming months, she outlined concerns about the drought, COVID-19, continued communication and working with the county to address homelessness.
“We definitely need to come to terms with the reality of the drought. We really need to be conscientious and start thinking or rethinking what our landscape is going to look like,” she said.
We also need to start working on common goals for Cloverdale,” Cruz said. “Communication — I really want to have a mode of communicating with all people, not just leaning back on technology and saying ‘It’s on the website.’ I want that, but I also want to have community meetings.”
Talking about homelessness, Cruz said that the city needs to work collaboratively with the county to find ways to address finding ways to assist Cloverdale’s shelterless population, with a focus on “being human” while, at the same time, “being proactive to protect our constituents and our businesses.”
“It’s not just a one-way street. It has to be a collaborative effort with a heart to assist, not necessarily to police and to abuse those that have already been abused by the system,” Cruz said.
Looking ahead, the Cloverdale City Council has one immediate hurdle — selecting the person to serve in the council seat vacated by Turner. During a separate discussion on May 12, the council voted to move forward with an application and public interview process to fill the seat (check back later for a separate article on the decision).
“I’m eager and ready,” Cruz said about the remainder of the year.