After two decades representing Marin and Sonoma counties in the U.S. House of Representatives, Petaluma resident Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey is hanging up her hat amidst the tense talks over the so-called 'fiscal cliff.'
The owner of an employment agency and a college professor, Woolsey got her political start as a Petaluma Councilwoman from 1984 to 1992. Then Congresswoman Barbara Boxer announced her candidacy for U.S. Senate, creating an opening for Woolsey, who won with 65 percent of the vote.
In her time in the House of Representatives, Woolsey tackled issues close to her heart, including childhood nutrition, poverty and the environment. Through her efforts, a national free breakfast program for school children was created and the Family Medical Leave Act amended, helping those caring for injured military family members get time off from their jobs.
Last year, Skaggs Island was transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service for inclusion in the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which Woolsey helped accomplish via an amendment she authored.
But the congresswoman’s biggest achievement may be her most recent one: expanding the Cordell Bank and Gulf of Farallones national marine sanctuaries, a biologically rich area stretching from Bodega Bay to Point Arena. The diversity of fish, seabirds, marine mammals and other life will now be protected, and ecotourism and sustainable fishing practices promoted.
Soon after the U.S. invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, Woolsey and fellow Congresswoman Barbara Lee formed the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus, urging for troops to be withdrawn from the region.
“Our leadership helped hasten the end of a major combat operation in Iraq,” Woolsey last year at an event at her B Street home, where she announced her retirement.
Asked about how she’d spent her time after retirement, Woolsey said that she was looking forward to spending time with her family, which includes four children and five grandchildren.
She also plans on focusing more of her energy on Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal political organization whose goal is to promote progressive policies and of which Woolsey is president.
And the congresswoman doesn’t plan on getting involved in Petaluma politics again, but always follows what was going on.
“Whatever I do, I will be doing useful things,” she said.
Replacing Woolsey is San Rafael's Jared Huffman, who beat Republican candidate Daniel Roberts by garnering more than 70 percent of the votes in November's election. He will assume control of California's 2nd congressional district which covers the North Coast from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.
From 2006 to 2012, Huffman was the Assemblymember for California's 6th State Assembly district. Huffman chaired the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee and also chaired the Assembly Environmental Caucus.
Huffman contacted Patch from his new offices in Washington DC over the weekend. "I understand I'm stepping into some big shoes," he said, adding that he admired Woolsey's "heart and passion."
"She's been an incredible friend to me," Huffman said of Woolsey. He said that he respected the fact that being in Congress for 20 years hadn't changed her.
As for Huffman, he said his constituents can expect similar policies as Woolsey's but he'd bring his own style to the job.
"I can't wait to get to work," he said.
What do you think of Lynn Woolsey's track record?
How will Jared Huffman fare in replacing Woolsey?