Mayor David Glass shows up wearing cross-city colors: a purple-collared polo shirt peeks from under a dark green and gold windbreaker. It’s a visual way to highlight his commitment to both sides of this city.
Asked if his career in sports broadcasting prepared him for this position, he says, “I don’t know if anything really prepares you for something like being mayor.”
This being basketball season, Glass makes a sports analogy about how he perceives what a mayor does. “A good team,” he says, “has a distributor of the ball, not the guy who takes it home for a score. As mayor, you can feed off, hand off – someone else can do the job.” He talks about the Burbank senior housing project being built on Petaluma Boulevard North. “It stalled when the budget started falling apart in Sacramento. We knew it would either be the first casualty – or the last built.” So he got on the phone with Representative Jared Huffman. “It took an extra year, but Jared put together a 17-project coalition and saved that funding. I’m not claiming credit – I was just the distributor. That’s where you’re glad you’re mayor.
“This town has a lot of resources. As mayor, if I don’t know the solution, I know where to find the solution.”
Glass left sports broadcasting – a field of almost constant travel – after his daughter was born. He and his wifehad always liked Petaluma. “Part of what you learn as a sportscaster is look for a walkable environment.” Petaluma had that – or the potential. “As a sportscaster, you like a place that’s concentrated. Petaluma is more than way now. I saw the benefits and I loved it.”
He paraphrases Joni Mitchell, in reverse, referring to the revitalization of downtown. “We took a parking lot and turned it into paradise, at least I think we did. It changed the face of this community for the better, and showed what was good about this town.”
After moving here, Glass spent eight years working in municipal finance, beginning in 1994 and retiring last year, when he turned 65. He was mayor from 2003 to 2006. This time, he’s been mayor from 2011 through December, 2013.
He’s been “everywhere” in Petaluma, he says. “ [Former Mayor] Pam Torliatt went to so many events.” He tries to emulate her, he says, preferring new events, or ones he’s not yet attended.
Asked what he likes best about the job, he answers, “I like talking to the young kids.
“Talking to third graders about potholes,” he says, “they get it. I explained the situation. ‘If you took every nickel the city had for four years and put it only into the streets, that would remedy all the streets but – you’d have to move out of town because there would be no fire trucks, no ambulances, no police. And you’d have to leave your wallet behind. You’d still pay taxes, you’d have to get out of town for four years – but the streets could get fixed.’
“They laughed, but they understood how much money it would take. Kids aren’t jaded yet,” he adds. “They have open minds.”
What about the hardest thing he’s had to do. That happened when “the council inexplicably voted to double garbage rates in January, 2005. I started trying to answer the e-mails I was getting — more than two thousand: hate-filled, frustrated, uninformed and misdirected – because I had done everything possible to allow that to not happen. And the public didn’t understand what had happened. I was as frustrated as they were. Eventually the council got it right, but it took months to rectify the situation – and I still don’t understand why it happened.”
Switching gears, he talks about what it is that makes Petaluma so special. “The community is not all the same. There are different blends. I think that’s what makes it so fascinating. This community will give you a hand up rather than a hand out – they want to see people earn it. There’s a lot of charitable giving, people looking to give to causes where others are striving to make themselves better. John Records has built COTS on that theme.
“What really makes the town is the people themselves, the ones who deal with the day-to-day quality of life and challenges.”
Glass grew up studying and loving politics. “JFK, the Peace Corps, the exploration of space. To me, it was more than just a sound bite when JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
And he talks about looking at the history of Petaluma, studying situations from each angle to create the best possible long-term city. “You get one chance to do it right. The things that will stand the test of time after we’re gone so forty years from now if my daughter is in town and someone asks her, ‘Who did that?’ she can say, ‘My dad did that, he was a part of it.’ She won’t have to say, ‘Yeah, my dad screwed it up.’”
Of all the things you do in politics, he believes, “being mayor is most interesting. You see it all. “ He knows you can’t please all the people all the time. “Sometimes,” he jokes, “you can’t please any of them.”