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St. Helena Star editorial board

The Star’s editorial board gathered last Thursday to wish John Ponte well on his appointment to the St. Helena Planning Commission. They are, from left, Shannon Kuleto, Ponte, Jesse Duarte, Gail Showley, Norma Ferriz and David Stoneberg. Missing were Christopher HIll and Dave Yewell.

We bid farewell to John Ponte from the Star’s editorial board as he resigned last week after being appointed to the St. Helena Planning Commission. Serving on both would not be ethical and could lead to many difficulties. Ponte has served on the board for the past 10 years. His replacement is being sought.

Last Thursday, Ponte joined the board for just a few minutes – to say hello and goodbye – before the rest of us had a conversation with St. Helena Councilmember Paul Dohring. At the end of the day, we toasted him for drinks and appetizers at Sogni di Dolci.

Serving on the board is not easy as it involves attending and participating in weekly meetings, held at 8:45 a.m. Thursdays at the Christopher Hill Gallery, 1235 Main St., participating in the writing and rewriting of the editorials and helping to make sure the Star’s editorial board is covering this community and the Upvalley area.

Currently serving on the board are Christopher Hill, Dave Yewell, Norma Ferriz, Gail Showley, Sean Scully, Shannon Kuleto and myself. Reporter Jesse Duarte attends and helps steer the conversation, especially if it deals with city issues.

On Thursday evening, Ponte said his favorite editorial board meeting was with the late Del Britton, who was mayor at the time. Doug Ernst, former editor and publisher of the Star, was aggressively pressing Britton, who got so upset he slammed his hands on the table, said something like, “I’m sick of this stuff,” got up and walked out. It’s the only time I remember one of our guests walking out on us. Ernst turned the episode into an interesting column.

Ponte joined the board on the recommendation of former board member Bill Savidge. In those 10 years, John has shared his life experiences and wealth of knowledge with the board and with the guests. He asked pointed questions of the guests and sometimes let them know that he knew the answers better than they did, especially if it dealt with transportation.

His questions helped the rest of us understand often difficult topics and led to better editorials.

In his resignation letter, he writes, “I had no inkling of the scope of subjects and variety of people who would come in each week. Issues of gravity both weak and strong have been the subject of the hundreds of Star editorials during my service and I have enjoyed the interplay both in the interviews and crafting of each piece.”

I thank John for his steady service and for the fire in his belly, and I know the rest of the board joins me in wishing him well as a planning commissioner. I know that he will do a good job on the commission and may well accomplish something the editorial board has been harping on the city for years: the passage of the city’s General Plan. The reworked draft of that plan – years in the making – is set to be considered by the commission.

Good luck, John, and “get her done.”


St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st