On the night she joined the Napa City Council, Doris Gentry reacted like a surprised and delighted winner first and a politician second.
“Yay! We did it! Woo!” she called out, turning from her second-row seat toward several dozen friends and supporters – many of whom she had enthusiastically greeted and hugged on their arrival – who packed the seats of the council chamber minutes before a swearing-in ceremony Monday at City Hall.
Minutes later, the longtime community volunteer and foster mother at last began her political career, reciting the oath of office from Clerk-Recorder Dorothy Roberts. After taking the rightmost of five chairs on the council dais, the new councilwoman was invited to thank all of those who helped her to a surprise election victory last month.
“If I was gonna introduce all you rascals, it would be a while!” she cracked good-naturedly, to the laughter of audience members, including a few of the voters who boosted her to the council chair alongside incumbent Scott Sedgley and Mayor Jill Techel, who also were sworn to new terms Monday.
Gentry, who first ran for council in 2012 and earlier was a two-time state Assembly candidate on the Republican ticket, took the oath of office 27 days after her second-place election tally of 34.79 percent won her the seat held by Vice Mayor Mary Luros, who had been appointed in January 2015 and was seeking her first full four-year term.
So uncertain was the election result, she said later, that Gentry spent 10 hours of Election Day waving campaign signs outside CrossWalk Community Church hoping to persuade undecided Napans.
Sedgley secured his second term by scoring the top vote share at 38.63 percent. Techel won her fourth mayoral term unopposed.
For Gentry, the past few weeks have been a near-unbroken chain of meetings with city department leaders, days spent poring through three-ring binders of staff reports, and constant requests from Napans for her time, said the council newcomer, a former Southern California businesswoman who has lived in Napa for 27 years.
“I knew I’d have to come up to speed on the workings of the city departments, but I was very surprised how many people now want to meet me for coffee,” she said before the ceremony. “I was thinking, ‘Really? How does someone meet 20 people a week for coffee?’ I’ve asked everybody if they just want to meet me because I’m new, and they said ‘Oh no, no – we have a project that’s opening in January and we want to give you the preview.’”
During her early months on the council, Gentry, a longtime foster parent, hopes to advocate for improved city parks facilities and programs – a part of her campaign’s push to improve livability for Napa’s families even as its tourist industry continues to grow.
“I was elected by moms and PTAs and parents with kids in school; that’s the backbone that supported me, the local families,” she said. “All of them want more resources for the kids, and a quick way to do that is expand the services available at our parks. There are a lot of cost-effective and low-expense things we can do, and I’m looking forward to being an advocate for that department.”
Sedgley, meanwhile, predicted his priorities in the coming years will remain the same ones as before – laying the groundwork of a new city government building, supporting roundabouts at congested street crossings, and redeveloping the Napa Pipe site and the Oxbow district.
“The first time you get elected, you wonder if it was just a fluke,” he told the City Hall audience after being sworn in. “But with the second term, it sinks in that maybe you are doing something good for your community.”
Techel, who joined the council the 1997 and became mayor in 2004, announced earlier Monday that her fourth mayoral term will likely be her last. “I will spend the next couple of years looking at potential candidates and helping to ensure we have some great candidates going forward,” she said.