New face on Planning Commission
Caitlin Cornwall replacing 18-year veteran Dick Fogg on vital commission
Caitlin Cornwall will be stepping into Dick Fogg's shoes on the Sonoma County Planning Commission as he retires after 18 years, serving under three First District Supervisors.
Cornwall is a veteran of Sonoma Valley land use issues, having worked at the Sonoma Ecology Center for 21 years, leading planning and partnerships as well as advising on technical projects. She is also project director for Sustainable Sonoma, a coalition of people and groups working with housing affordability, economic and environmental issues in the Sonoma Valley.
Combining degrees in biology and botany, her areas of expertise are land use ecology, watershed health indicators, communicating with non-technical audiences, and building diverse, successful partnerships.
She was the lead author of the Biodiversity Action Plan for Sonoma County, Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Agency's climate vulnerability assessment, and the Climate Resilience Roadmap for Sonoma County. She has led hundreds of people on "fire recovery walks" in areas of the North Bay fires of 2017.
A Sonoma County native, Cornwall lives with her husband Richard Dale and their son in Sonoma.
First District Supervisor Susan Gorin announced Fogg's retirement and Cornwall's appointment on June 29. Cornwall was expected to be sworn in before the Board of Supervisors meeting on July 14. Her term will begin on that day.
Fogg a fixture on county commissions
"Eighteen years is enough," the 83-year-old Sonoma resident said in a recent interview. His last day on the job - July 9 - was spent sitting as a member of the Board of Zoning Adjustments, hearing a request to replace a camping area on Old Redwood Highway that was lost to the Tubbs Fire and a second request to build a free-standing communications tower in Camp Meeker, a community well-known for lively meetings surrounding development issues.
"Dick has been vital in moving the First District and Sonoma Valley in the right direction over the years," Gorin said in her announcement. "His commitment to the community and his institutional knowledge will be sorely missed. On a personal note, I have enjoyed immensely working with Dick Fogg and Greg Carr as my Planning Commission appointees for the past seven years. Their sage advice and understanding have helped me to understand the critical interplay of the general plan, history of the development of Sonoma Valley and emerging issues over the years."
Fogg's takeaway from years on the job is that dealing with the wide variety of issues that crop up calls for strong leadership, with fair and understandable analysis and responses.
"Leadership is vital in both state and local government agencies," he said, noting that large turnover in Permit Sonoma can make it difficult to "plan for the next 20 years."
Fogg was first appointed to the newly formed Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission by Supervisor Mike Cale in 1997, and has served as an ex-officio member of that body to the present. Cale later appointed him to the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals in 2002. He was re-confirmed in his position by both succeeding supervisors, Valerie Brown and then Gorin.
Fogg said his appointment to the Planning Commission was pretty straightforward.
"Mike (Cale) called me up and said I was on the Planning Commission," Fogg reminisced. "He said, ‘Don't be late.'"
"Dick has been an invaluable asset to giving the Valley a stronger voice in local land use decisions," Cale said. His years of service are a tribute to his strong character and a valuable asset in protecting the vision we all embraced in protecting Sonoma County land use policies."
Fogg served with fellow First District appointee Gregg Carr on the General Plan 2020 update, a grueling multi-year process that will soon be revisited. The process yielded the General Plan currently in place that has served as a guideline for all of the county's development under state law.
He originally grew up in Boston, was schooled in Maine and went to Cornell in New York. He has been a lifelong Red Sox fan.
Fogg arrived in Sonoma County in the mid 1990s having served as the COO for Land O' Lakes for over a decade in Minnesota, living outside of Minneapolis with his wife Carrie and three children. He became a public figure when he was elected to the town council and later chaired the town planning commission.
The couple moved to California when he retired. Carrie was born and raised in Marin County. A short stay in Napa convinced them they'd be happier in Sonoma, where they bought a home within a short walk of Sonoma Plaza. He met then Sonoma City Mayor Al Mazza and entrepreneur Ig Vella and worked in the cheese business a while before Cale tapped him for county service.
Even at 83, Fogg is not ready for a rocking chair. He still serves on the Board of Commissioners of the Partnership Health Plan of California (PHC). This is a non-profit, community-based health care organization that contracts with the State to administer Medi-Cal benefits through local care providers.
PHC helps Medi-Cal obtain access to comprehensive, cost-effective health care for over 560,000 people in 14 Northern California counties, including Sonoma.