LIVERMORE — Planning Commissioner Gina Bonnano, who has spent nearly two decades in civic service and volunteering for nonprofit organizations, was sworn in Tuesday as the newest member of the Livermore City Council.
Councilmembers appointed Bonnano to the post unanimously Monday night during a special city council meeting, in which she and 16 other applicants stated why they were qualified for the position.
Bonanno, a retired Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist and program manager who has lived in Livermore for 20 years, will finish the remaining two years of the seat formerly held by Bob Woerner, who was elected mayor in November. Following the Monday night presentations, Bonanno came in first on each councilmember's "top 3" list. The council chose to appoint a new city council member instead of spending more than $1 million on a special election.
“Congratulations,” Woerner said to Bonanno after City Clerk Marie Weber issued the oath of office to Bonanno to open the online council meeting Tuesday. “We are really happy to have you join us.”
Bonanno expressed her appreciation over being selected. Later, she said she will be meeting city department heads over the next week and has much to learn.
During the candidates’ presentations, most focused on similar issues of concern in the city: the effects of COVID-19 closures on the economy, homelessness, the downtown revitalization, climate change, affordable housing and unity.
"Livermore has provided a wonderful quality of life for me and my family," Bonanno said during her Monday night presentation. "Community is something I've demonstrated my commitment to, and I would enthusiastically continue to do so as a member of the council these next two years."
At the conclusion, Woerner and councilmembers Trish Munro, Robert Carling and Brittni Kiick ranked their top three contenders for the post and required no further interviews or discussion when each chose Bonanno first.
Overall, in the ranked voting, Bonanno came in first with 12 votes; culinary arts teacher Evan Branning, who serves on the Livermore Human Services Commission, came in second with five votes; life and business coach Abigail Helfer; UC Merced student Faith Nordvik and teacher Kyra Pervere each received two votes.
"I was also very excited by the enthusiasm shown by many of the applicants," Carling said Monday before voting to appoint Bonanno. "I thought that Ms. Bonanno did the best, and that's why I and the rest of my colleagues picked her as the No. 1. Picking second and third was tough."
Bonanno joins the council with a lengthy resume. She has served on the city's Planning Commission since 2015 and on the City Asset Management Program Committee, where she currently is chair, since 2016. She previously served on the Library Advisory Board. A retired scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Bonanno volunteers with the Livermore school district and works with nonprofit organizations including the Pedrozzi Foundation, Sunflower Hills, Paws in Need and the Quest Science Center.
Bonanno told the council during her presentation and on her application that the body’s “overarching priority should be to provide effective inclusive and compassionate leadership, along with the theme of unity and community spirit.”
The top priority, Bonanno said, was leading the city through the pandemic and its recovery, focusing on public health measures, helping the community’s hardest hit businesses, and addressing the needs of struggling residents.
“We won’t know the full extent of the pandemic’s impact or the economic consequences for some time, but we should be prepared to respond to a range of possibilities with all the tools available to us,” Bonanno said.
Bonanno listed other priorities for the city in the coming years as asset management, maintaining infrastructure, and updating the 20-year-old general plan to incorporate changes that have occurred in the city and Tri-Valley since it was adopted.
She described herself as a “thoughtful decision maker and effective communicator,” and attentive listener.
“I believe my years in the Planning Commission, as well as on the Asset Management Committee, the downtown steering committee and the library are providing the broad and deep understanding of city governance, city services, finances and the complexities of a city whose population is nearing 100,000,” she said.
In her application for the post, Bonanno wrote that she came to the Tri-Valley in 1986 after living on the East Coast.
“It didn’t take long for me to set my roots here and feel like this was home,” she wrote. “My late wife, Kimberly, was born and raised in Livermore, and this is where we chose to raise our son who was born in 1997. We felt fortunate to live and work in a community where we were treated just like any other family.”