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I believe 2019 has the potential to be St. Helena’s best year yet and together as a community we can make it happen. We just need to step into this new year with focused optimism, consideration for others and a strong sense of pride in our community.

When I was growing up here attending Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School there was a mural that read “Wherever I may roam, St. Helena is my home.” It seemed a little hokey to me then, but stuck with me, and through all my travels through all 50 states I found it true. To me, St. Helena is the greatest town in the world and worth all our attention and energy to prepare it to be its best for decades and generations to come. We are all here for a reason and love this place. Future generations should have the opportunity to experience the amazing things we have experienced here.

St. Helena and Napa Valley are unique. Forward thinking people in the 1960s and 1970s implemented ideas like the Agricultural Preserve in the County and policies in St. Helena that took things in a different direction than areas like the Silicon Valley and San Fernando Valley. They are now former agricultural areas. We still are — we’re a world-renowned agricultural area, with a remarkable sophistication and a remarkable down to earth quality at the same time. San Francisco Magazine’s 2018 list of the top 101 cities in the Bay Area rates St. Helena as number 8 out of 101; higher than any other city or town in Napa or Sonoma County. That’s pretty remarkable and something to be proud of.

Like all cities, we have challenges. Yet St. Helena is a small town with incredible resources and community. Because we can actually talk to each other, we have a much better chance of overcoming challenges we face. Just as it took a different kind of nuanced thinking to establish St. Helena, it will take a different kind of nuanced thinking to sustain it. We need to move forward together and evolve while we remember what it is that allowed this place to exist in the first place.

In 2019, this City Council, together with an excellent staff and engaged community, can seamlessly continue the work we initiated over the last few years. We can strengthen our financial, water and environmental policies; move forward on a serious housing strategy and downtown revitalization; move forward on long needed infrastructure upgrades like sidewalks and streets; and move forward to address needs of our civic buildings, city departments and all other components that make and keep a town safe and livable, including strengthening our volunteer network.

We must also pay attention to the things that keep a town wonderful. That includes holiday tree lightings, skating rinks, community potlucks, music, art, square dances, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, Harvest Festivals and whatever else we think of to help us come together and stay together as a full community. I will propose to the Council we reinstate the Multi-Cultural Committee, create a Youth Committee, and expand outreach to our senior and business communities so that all of our voices are heard. We also need an engaged dialogue with the Napa County administration to ensure our best interests are understood at that level.

Wine, food and bocce are critical elements in St. Helena, but while we’re at it, let’s not forget freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and the full exercise of the democratic process. Those are the real foundations of this town and country that allowed all else to follow.

St. Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” We can do anything we set our minds to. I believe our collective efforts over the last few years have set us in the right direction for a magnificent future here for many generations to come. Let me finish with a Buddhist proverb I got off of a box of tea, where many great quotes come from: ‘If we are facing in the right direction all we have to do is keep on walking.’”

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Editor’s Note: Geoff Ellsworth is the mayor of St. Helena.

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