How long have you lived in Benicia? Since 1983. It was half way between San Francisco and Sacramento and I had a newly minted Masters in Urban and Regional planning and I wasn’t too sure where I would wind up working. I thought if I was half way between, and in the Bay Area, that I would have a better chance of getting a job. The second reason was that I was concerned about the schools where we were living. My children were just starting school and I wanted to make sure that they had a really first rate education. I had a good friend who lived here, got some good feedback from him, and never looked back. I’m glad I made that decision.
What compelled you to run for Mayor and take on this post? I’ve always been interested in politics, and I’ve been particularly interested in managing land use and building a community through economic development, creating jobs, and also dealing with the environment. I was frustrated that a lot of the insight I had, having worked for government, and being a planner that I wasn’t able to see the progress that I thought was necessary. I thought with my skills, as Mayor, things would happen. So, that’s exactly what I did. I set myself tasks and a list of things to get done, and so far, so good.
What have you checked off your list so far? One of the things was to provide for open government; transparency; my open meeting-open door policy; making it easier for people to reach city hall and to be able to communicate. Another item was to have more diverse commissioners, board members, and committee members. By doing that we have opened up the flood-gates. We get lots of applications now, because people feel they have a chance, that if they apply they might actually get appointed (to a commission). We have a lot of talent in the community and we have been able to tap into that. I would say we have some of the best commissions and the hardest working commissions that anybody could find in the county, if not the state. The two other things at the top of the list were to get a Sustainability Commission and to have an Arts Commission.
What’s been your biggest surprise since you’ve been in office? The ceremonial aspects of the office. I’m really good as a policy wonk. I’m really good at getting things done, making things happen. I knew there was some ceremony aspect to the job, because I read up on that, and I watched other mayors. But I didn’t realize the time commitment involved. I’ve grown into it. It’s not something I was really comfortable with and I learned to really value and treasure it.
What’s the thing that you want to be remembered for as Mayor of Benicia? That we worked together as a community and we moved forward together as a community. I think I stand for that more than anything else. I work really, really hard to get consensus, and sometimes that takes us longer. But in the end we have a durable decision and we are moving together.
You can read more about what Mayor Elizabeth Patterson is up to on her blog.