After a lengthy public interview process, Joe Palla was unanimously chosen last week to fill a vacancy on the Cloverdale City Council. Palla, a 12-year veteran of the city council, was one of five people who turned in an application for the position.
In an interview with SoCoNews, Palla said he decided to throw his hat into the ring because his experience with the city would allow him to hit the ground running — something he says is important because of everything going on in the city, “different things on social media, some things where some people aren’t so happy ... I figured with an 18-month council seat there’s a huge learning curve for someone coming on new to the council,” he said.
Other community members who applied for the position include Jenny Candelaria-Orr, Nicole Garcia-Hinchliffe, Maeta Emmons and Eric Sanders.
During public comment, public commenters voiced support for Garcia-Hinchliffe and Palla. “Of course I support Nicole, she’s amazing,” said Liane Fabian. “She has the ability to be open-minded and accept lots of different input, she’s educated, she has an agriculture background, she has a military background. Not only that, but she’s already engaged in this community.”
Other public commenters didn’t name Palla specifically, but urged the council to look at candidates with experience within the city and city budget matters.
Susan Verde voiced support for Palla as well, “I hope that the council considers Joe Palla. I’ve lived in Cloverdale over seven years and I have found him to historically demonstrate an investment in the city of Cloverdale,” Verde said. “He possesses experience, professionalism and fairness in the roles I’ve seen him in as council member, vice mayor and mayor. I think at this very crucial time, I think it’s really important that we bring someone on board who has extensive experience and qualifications and Joe, through the years, has shown that.”
Making a decision
The council was tasked with a difficult decision in finding someone to fill former Councilmember Jason Turner’s vacant council seat, Councilmember Gus Wolter said.
“I’m looking for an individual that’s not interested in running much beyond 2022,” Wolter continued. “I know Councilmember Palla, I’ve worked with him before, I think we all have. He brings a lot to the table, there’s no learning curve, he could pick up the phone tomorrow and call Mike McGuire, Jim Wood, Supervisor Gore, he could start working on the swimming pool again. I mean, he’s just up to speed on everything.”
Councilmember Melanie Bagby posited that the council should consider Candelaria Orr for the appointment.
“As far as the vote count for Jenny Candelaria-Orr, the fact is if there had been three seats open instead of two seats just seven months ago, she’d be sitting on this council right now,” Bagby said. “She convinced, after living here for seven years and being a political newcomer, she convinced a significant percentage of the voters in Cloverdale to vote for her during a pandemic when she couldn’t have a meet the candidate night, meet the candidate coffees. Clearly the voters of Cloverdale supported her.”
Bagby said that Candelaria-Orr is one of three candidates she considered for the position, with the other two being Palla and Sanders. However, a motion from Bagby to appoint Candelaria-Orr to the position failed to gain a second from the other council members.
Vice Mayor Todd Lands said that on his list for top candidates was Garcia-Hinchliffe, Sanders and Palla.
“But nobody can beat the 20-page background resume from Joe Palla, who has done everything, knows everything, knows everyone,” he said.
Mayor Marta Cruz voiced her support for Palla, Sanders and Candelaria-Orr.
Ultimately, Wolter motioned for the council to appoint Palla, with Bagby seconding the motion.
What’s up next for Palla?
In both his public interview with the council and a separate interview with SoCoNews, Palla stressed improving communication between the city and its residents as a paramount goal.
“On social media, I’ve been reading a lot of negative comments toward the city council and the city staff. I know a lot of it is based on incorrect information that’s floating around such as rumors, and there’s more to it than that,” he said, explaining that he wants to try to educate the public on how city government works and the various limitations city governments have. “I really think the improved communication would work to improve trust.”
Palla also said that he’s concerned about the drought and the impact of frequent, successive droughts.
“Everything is banking on reductions and cutbacks and reducing your use — you can only do that so long. If we have another drought next, year what (happens) at that point,” he said.
Palla suggested that the city approach the California League of Cities about establishing an ad hoc devoted to providing water should the drought continues. Once actions are identified, Palla said that cities could begin lobbying the state and federal legislatures for funding to help implement recommendations that the suggested ad hoc committee comes up with.
He also said that he believes the city should establish a coordinator for emergency preparedness that’s going to devote time to our emergency operations plan and make sure we get training in place both for staff and the community and get the resources and understand the resources that are available.”
In the meantime, Palla said that anyone who has a concern about city matters or who wants to talk about the city can reach out to him. While his city email is still being established, it should be in place soon.
“I feel like I could hit the ground running … I feel like I still have a lot to give to my community, and here I am,” Palla said.