ON MEETING MARIN County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, you may not see him as a politician when you meet him at his Civic Center office, let alone one from rural and rugged West Marin. His polished looks and clipped speaking style suggest more a college professor or maybe a church elder. Yet in November of 2016, with few endorsements from politicians or publications, Rodoni won 53 per- cent of the vote and was elected supervisor from Marin County’s sprawling 4th District, which includes
Corte Madera; portions of San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley and Larkspur; and nearly all of West Marin. While each Marin
County supervisor has approximately 53,000 residents in his or her respective district, Rodoni’s district encompasses by
far the largest land mass and the greatest number of voters from unincorporated areas.
Rodoni, 65, was a schoolteacher and then a general contractor before being first in his family to seek elective office.
But if heritage figures into political pedigree, he was made for the job. In 1863, his great grandfather left the Italian Alps
to become a dairy farmer in tiny Olema, the West Marin hamlet where Rodoni and his wife raised their two daughters
and have lived for the past quarter of a century. From the 1930s into the 1940s, Rodoni’s paternal grandparents owned
the legendary Western Saloon in Point Reyes Station, and his great uncle Sam Mazza and uncle Louis Bloom were Marin
County fire chiefs.
Rodoni’s initial electoral seat was on the North Marin Water Board in 1995; he was reelected five times. Recently he’s
been involved with the Point Reyes Village Association, Tomales Bay Association and Coastal Health Alliance. Since
elected supervisor in January 2017, he’s been serving on the board of Transportation Authority of Marin, the Association
of Bay Area Governments and the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT).
You are a relative newcomer, so let’s start off with your
political philosophy. I like to think I’m very progressive.
I’m also a problem solver who thinks outside the box. I have
strong environmental credentials, which counts for a lot in
Marin. But most of all, I’m a doer. I think I’m better at doing
things than I am at talking about what I’m doing. As for my
heroes, they’re folks who work for the nonprofits; the ones
who do what they do not for money, but to help other people.
These are the people who bring food to the food banks, who
see that seniors are safe and healthy in their homes, and people who help staff community clinics that serve those who
don’t have health insurance. As for my political hero, it would
probably be John F. Kennedy. However, I shy away from
selecting heroes because if you put someone up on a pedestal,
too often you get disappointed when they are knocked off.
Moving to local politics, why did county supervisors pur-
chase the San Geronimo Valley Golf Course? Early last
year, I became aware that the property was on the market
and thought it had great value as a public space and for
park uses. I also knew that two creeks, San Geronimo
and Larsen, that cross the golf course were tremendously
valuable to the restoration of coho salmon and steelhead
trout in the area. It was also a great opportunity for the
West Marin community to acquire a greenbelt to con-
nect all its little towns; it seemed like a natural fit. So
the county parks department reached out to the Trust
for Public Lands, or TPL, because it was more nimble in
negotiating these types of transactions and had the finan-
cial resources to purchase the property sooner. Then we
learned the course had been sold to an operator who’d
likely develop the golfing facilities by another 40,000
square feet. However, that transaction fell through and the
property owner went back to TPL and they subsequently
came together when TPL entered into contract to purchase
the property for $8.85 million. In October of last year, the
board of supervisors voted to purchase the golf course
from TPL, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, in the near future.
Please define “near future.” By “near future” I mean the
county would have 10 to 12 months to put together the
funding to buy the property from TPL. Meanwhile, the
county will look for someone to operate the golf course for
two years while a robust planning process takes place to
see what type of park and public uses the property can be
put to and what development, if any, will happen on the
clubhouse’s parcel. In my mind, that 23-acre clubhouse
parcel is the only parcel where development can take place,
as the rest of the property is severely limited by zoning and
setback restrictions. Possibilities for the clubhouse parcel
include a county fire headquarters, affordable housing and
a community garden facility — among many others.