Susan Ornelas resigns from Arcata City Council

City of Arcata

ARCATA – City Councilmember Susan Ornelas has stepped down from her position on the Arcata City Council, effective Tuesday, March 10.

Susan was first elected to the Arcata City Council in 2008 and served as a Council Member over 11 consecutive years, serving as Mayor in 2011 and 2017. She has represented the region on the State Road Charge Committee and has served as chair and on boards for organizations including the Humboldt County Association of Governments, Redwood Coast Energy Authority, Humboldt Bay Municipal Water Quality Task Force, Humboldt County Indian Gaming Local Community Benefit Committee, Legislative Committee of the League of California Cities-Redwood Empire Division and the Arcata Foundation. Ornelas has also served as liaison to the Arcata Chamber of Commerce, Arcata Downtown Business Community - Main Street and Arcata/Camoapa Sister City Committee.

City Manager Karen Diemer describes Ornelas as, “a champion for the arts, trails, local agriculture, energy independence, public safety, recreation, innovative wastewater treatment and local infrastructure,” and added, “Susan always challenged us to think outside the bureaucratic lines and brought beauty and creativity to local government projects. She will be missed as an Arcata City Council Member, but I am certain we will continue to benefit from her leadership throughout Arcata."

Susan Ornelas

Susan's legacy projects include the Humboldt Bay Trail, Bayside Park Farm, the Samoa Marbled Murrelet Mural, the downtown public loo restroom, Plaza beautification, connecting on the issue with the local “Occupy” movement for peaceful dis-assembly and several affordable housing projects.

In a letter submitted this week, Ornelas shared the difficulty of her decision to resign made over a technical ruling from the state retirement system, CalPERS, regarding her work at two local government agencies.

Dear Arcata City Council and members of the Arcata Community,

It is with a heavy heart that I submit my resignation from the City Council seven months early. My reasons are based on a personal situation with CalPERS, and I want to assure the public that neither City that I worked for, nor I, did anything improper. We have all acted in good faith, but there are some misunderstandings still being discussed with CalPERS. I, and my family, are in good health.

I want to thank my former fellow Council Members and City staff, for all the efforts they work on daily, and for tolerating me, and my imaginative ideas. I know you all hold Arcata in your heart, and work diligently to make it a better place. As a private citizen, I will still lobby for more flowers in the round-abouts!

To the citizens of Arcata, I want to thank you for the 11.5 years, where I got to serve your interests. Maybe my leaving will inspire one of you to step forward and run in November?

Thank you to the greater community, HSU, Arcata Chamber of Commerce, and staff from HCAOG, RCEA, and others for the opportunity to work on quality projects with caring individuals. It is an honor to serve the community in local government.

I look forward to the day when I can ride my bicycle on the Class 1 Bay Trail between Arcata and Eureka - a project that symbolizes the hard work of local government!

Sincerely, Susan Ornelas

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