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Geoff Ellsworth sworn in, December 2018

Mayor Geoff Ellsworth takes the oath of office at the City Council meeting in December, 2018.

It’s been 6 months since I was sworn in as mayor of our wonderful town and working together with the City Council, City Manager Mark Prestwich and staff, we continue to make substantial progress on many long-running issues.

An important aspect I’ve learned over my last few years on Council is that city government is not too difficult for any of us in the community to understand, it simply uses different language and structure than the private sector, and the more we are willing to learn that language and structure the more effective we can all be in shaping and safeguarding the future of our town.

As reported in the St. Helena Star, we recently received a very healthy financial diagnostic. This financial diagnostic was created by the League of California Cities and is an objective barometer of the city’s financial health. We must still be wise in spending but City finances are strong with diverse revenue streams bringing in the highest per capita sales tax in Napa or Sonoma County.

Some other highlights of our progress in the last few months include the General Plan coming into the home stretch this May, recent Council votes to finally begin the York Creek Dam removal this summer, and long-needed upgrades to the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

We’re also moving forward on our downtown streetscape/sidewalk plan — Cultivate St. Helena — which will replace aging sidewalks and help with parking, wayfinding and traffic flow issues. Please visit the website cultivatesthelena.com and give input. Your opinion matters!

As these issues get traction moving into summer we’ll be able to focus on our comprehensive Housing Strategy to address affordable housing needs, and our evaluation of forward steps on City Hall, the library and Adams Street. Environmental, climate and open space issues factor into all these efforts with the Council also committed to youth programming, multi-cultural engagement, supporting our schools and a spirit of inclusiveness.

This is also the first full year of Measure T county sales tax money that will give St. Helena an additional $1.5 million a year for the next 25 years to repave aging streets and sidewalks. This multiple increase in our paving budget will help tremendously in both fixing our roads and maintaining them to a high standard, as well as enhancing local traffic calming measures.

Water/wastewater issues remain high priority and we are currently working with two engineering firms to analyze our water systems and rate policies. We had an excellent rain year but as we never know what next year holds it’s imperative to stay focused on optimizing our water administration. Upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant will also help us move toward recycled/tertiary water distribution which will strengthen our drought resiliency.

Our Fire Department continues their incredible dedication to protecting our community. The addition of full time firefighters gives us even more efficiency in top level response. We as citizens and residents also have a role in fire and emergency preparedness. Join us at a community meeting Tuesday, May 21 at the Firehouse from 6-8 to learn more about how we can all work together to enhance our “Culture of Preparedness” for all emergency situations.

PG&E continues to let us know that power outages will occur more frequently this summer in response to high wind events and our residents can be best prepared by keeping on hand 2-3 days supply of water and non-perishable food. The City is also making preparations for community support during these events and that information will be made widely available.

Our Police Department continues their commitment to community engagement and keeping our town a safe and pleasant place to live.

To learn more join Chief Foley at his Wednesday morning “Cup with a Cop” program at the Roasting Company.

With summer coming there is also great opportunity for the community to re-connect and support each other. Bocce season and Farmers’ Market are underway at Crane Park, and Lyman Park has been busy hosting events such as the schools’ Fiesta de Mayo and the Rally4Rianda. Check the schedule for the upcoming Chamber of Commerce “Concerts in the Park,” as well as Mariachi events and July 4th activities.

The recent St. Helena Saints Fajita Fest and FFA Rib Feed were well-attended and last weekend’s Sidewalk Sale brought many folks out to the downtown.

The City also held a successful Spruce Up St. Helena volunteer event touching up parks and public spaces.

We’re looking forward to more of that as well as the upcoming downtown Neighborhood Table on Saturday, May 11 with the city partnering with the St. Helena Hospital and the Chamber of Commerce.

Also the Historical Society is planning their Museum for a Day on May 18 and the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum is holding their annual Treasure Hunt on May 25.

This is our community, our democracy, and all of our voices matter, so please stay engaged!

With this in mind our Council continues to improve cross jurisdictional dialogue with other Napa County cities and the county, which strengthens our ability to work together towards balanced regional solutions.

My philosophy is the more we each put in, the more we get back.

If we move together in gratitude and balance, helping our neighbors on the way, then we can arrive at the thriving equilibrium and sustainability we seek in our community.

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Editor’s Note: Geoff Ellsworth is mayor of St. Helena and the Star requested and received a city update from him. We’re planning that these updates will be published on a quarterly basis.

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