December 1, 2025
The Mendocino News:
A Regional Paper by the People for the People
"Award Ceremony Caps Governor's Historic Mendocino Visit"
Governor Carmen Rosales Friday wrapped up an unprecedented week-long tour of Mendocino with a presentation of the coveted 'Best in State' designation. The county received the prestigious award for its innovative economic development and community design that have brought sustained prosperity to the North Coast.
The ceremony served also to dedicate the newly renovated County Library Center, the former county courthouse. Under a colorful canopy woven entirely from the medicinal and aromatic herbs that the region has become known for, the governor was presented with ample evidence of the plenty now bursting forth in Mendocino. The visit is a major milestone in the county campaign to achieve its ambitious vision begun over 20 years ago. A diverse group of community leaders, motivated by a sense of what was possible, led their county to act decisively and imaginatively in the face of looming global crisis. Armed initially with only a healthy dose of "can-do" Mendocino, the movement grew steadily from those early meetings, and utilized local resources, including people of all ages and cultures from every corner of the county.
The ceremony included a procession of school children from local learning centers, regaling those assembled with original songs and traditional dances. The Governor was presented with symbolic offerings showcasing the County's strides toward economic self-sufficiency. The gifts included such value-added Mendocino-brand products as Mendo-Merlo Grapeseed Oil Shampoo, an 18th century replica carpet woven from locally-grown hemp, and a copy of the newly-published "Mendocino Guide to Building a Sustainable Future Together." A community-team member quipped, "This is the perfect blueprint for any community that thinks it can't." Native elders blessed the new site and asked Creator to make it a place of great learning and reconciliation.
The new Library Center also houses the Institute for New Civics where numerous groups convene to plan their ventures, work out thorny issues and develop policy recommendations. Before leaving the Center, Governor Rosales requested to stop at the "Tell your Story Booth" recently featured on 60 Minutes. There, she recorded her memories that included the story of how her grandmother's cooking inspired her path to public leadership. The Governor took a copy of her story with her, and one was archived at the Library's Living Story Collection.
Asked what the secret of their success was, a founding member said, "we started by allowing ourselves to dream the future. We identified 'Glue People' across ages and cultures and made important connections by sharing our stories and discovering together what is unique about our place and its people. Instead of focusing on our problems, we built on our successes and tackled key projects that interested and involved lots of diverse people."
"Along the way we discovered that we could develop models for healthy ways to accomplish our goals, based on new thinking about productive civic process - it was so exciting to tap the collective wisdom in our people. Competition still motivates excellence but people know how to work together now. We have learned to communicate constructively through our differences based on strong relationships and shared values."
The Governor's busy week included visits to a number of successful eco-business sites.
At this point, we invite others to write their stories of "where the Governor stopped" around the County, in order to bring alive and make concrete the aspirations we have for our place. Possible "stops" that occurred to Anne and Kate are described below. For some, we suggest story tellers).
- What was once the old Masonite plant now houses a collective of energy-generating projects including numerous micro-enterprises all designing and producing non-carbon-based energy. Mendocino County is currently the largest producer of solar panels this side of the Rockies, and five years ago became energy self-sufficient, thanks to its plentiful sunshine and wind.
- The Governor was presented with a map of the newly completed transportation network that includes bike, rail, walking routes to key destinations along with an annotated guide to key historical places. (embellish? Suzanne?)
- A grain mill and state-of-the-art grain storage facility with bakery and cooking school attached. (Doug Mosel?)
- (Anne) After leaving the Library, the Governor shopped at the permanent farmer's/artisan market that lines Perkins Street up the block from the light rail station. Local producers view the busy market as a hub from which to dispense their goods directly to consumers. The number of small businesses in the county, including those collectively and cooperatively owned, has skyrocketed in recent years. Part of the rich array on sale includes Mexican produce/products by Latino farmers and retailers. Another market at the Mercado Central in South Ukiah was built around a traditional plaza, surrounded by residential, businesses, eateries and a Latino family community center. Other county communities have followed suit and plaza markets are now a standard "town core" in many outlying bergs. An outlying example?
- After enjoying a glass of local organic wine at the sidewalk Plaza Bistro, the Governor embarked on a walking tour, stopping along the way at specially marked sites to listen to "hear here" stories which are people's recorded descriptions of their experiences at these designated places. Sometimes these include a history of the place itself. At the Victory Theatre, she heard the story of how a Native American leader successfully sued to gain access for Indian residents in the general audience section of the theatre. The Governor at this point was joined by an international contingent from the Global Story Network, in town for the 10th Annual "Knowing Our Place" Digital Story and Film Festival.
- A block party lunch was put on by Wagenseller Neighborhood association to showcase their revitalized historic district, now functioning as a village within the city where access to all life's necessities are within walking distance. The Governor seemed especially taken with the student-produced mural depicting the total weight loss enjoyed by neighbors since walking became the norm.
- (Paul?) Develop a lite rail tour to show the Gov the "use every part" concept of agriculture? How this value added concept of viticulture, winemaking has created prosperity... how the landscape is dotted with the ag/living/cultural mix...
- Talmage Learning Institute (Kate)
Schools in Mendocino county are almost unrecognizable from what they were 20 years ago. Most now teach not only academics but have distinct local vocational emphasis. Produce is grown here, as at most of these learning centers, and is marketed to local schools, hospitals, restaurants. At the TLI and other satellite centers, students can choose to learn leather tanning, multi-species husbandry, sustainable forestry, mechanics, viticulture and accompanyng grape-based production and small business how-to's. And, of course, apprenticeships with local businesses are a core component of the school curriculum. According to one Talmage Institute teacher: "In our community we no longer worry about creating "drug-free alternative activities" for youth. They are so integrally engaged in making our communities work, they don't have TIME to get into trouble!"
- (Art?) Forests have rebounded from overharvesting in 70's and 80's thanks to sustainable practices utilizing innovations like grazing animals... This resurgence of harvested wood has spawned a wood products industry and various artisans are using hitherto wasted hardwoods to produce furniture and world class pianos.
- Stories from tour of north county, coast?
The Governor expressed delight and wonder at what she saw. "The beauty of the landscape takes my breath away. Seeing how nature and people can feed each other gives me hope for the State and for the world."
According to two newly wed octogenarians on the walking tour, "This steady growth of sustainable prosperity in Mendocino really started with the public participation process created when we looked at how to use the old GP site in Ft. Bragg. Concurrently we were re-doing the Ukiah Valley Area Plan. What resulted was nothing short of amazing!"
The old couple wheeled off together in their solar powered run-about, bound for the intergenerational care center where they volunteer each day telling stories of how it used to be in Mendocino.