Meet the City Council
Councilmember Laura Sparks was elected to City Council in November, 2020 for a four-year term.
Laura Sparks has lived in Cotati since 2016. After earning a B.S. in physics from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in Physics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she relocated to Livermore, California in 2006 to pursue a career teaching at the community college level. She had been able to attend state schools thanks to publicly-funded financial aid programs, and she wanted to work giving students the same opportunity to get an education and excel regardless of economic background. She was drawn to the California Community College system because its low tuition and support programs make it truly accessible to all. In 2009 she moved to Sonoma County to teach astronomy full-time at Santa Rosa Junior College, where she continues to teach today. During her time at SRJC, Councilmember Sparks has taken on a variety of leadership roles, including Academic Senate parliamentarian and department chair of Earth and Space Sciences.
Councilmember Sparks has been a frequent volunteer at science outreach events throughout Sonoma County, and served as a board member of the Sonoma County Astronomical Society. She is an educational affiliate member of the American Astronomical Society and a member of Astronomers for Planet Earth, an organization of professional astronomers, educators, and students who advocate for climate action.
Her priorities include transparent, inclusive, and participatory local government, working to combat and mitigate the effects of climate change, promoting affordable and attainable housing, anti-racism, and helping local residents and businesses to survive and thrive in a time of unprecedented challenges.
Phone: (707) 792-4600 Ext. 194
Ben Ford was elected to City Council in 2020. He earlier served on Cotati’s Planning Commission (2011-19) and Design Review Committee (2009-10). Some of his favorite organizations to volunteer with over the years have been Cotati Creek Critters, Transition Cotati, Daily Acts, and the North Bay Organizing Project.
Ford represents Cotati on the Boards of the Russian River Watershed Association and the Sonoma Clean Power Authority.
Councilmember Ford moved to Cotati in 2003 with his wife and their two kids. He teaches mathematics at Sonoma State University, where he has served as Chair of the Mathematics and Statistics Department and on two occasions as Chair of the University Faculty. He serves on professional bodies that help shape math education guidelines for the State of California. He tries to get outdoors on his bike or in his hiking boots whenever possible.
Phone: (707) 792-4600 Ext. 196
Susan Harvey was elected to the City Council in November 2009 and re-elected in 2012, 2016 and 2020. She was appointed as Vice Mayor in 2011, 2016 and 2022 and served as Mayor in 2012, 2017 and 2023. She served on the Planning Commission from November 2008 to November 2009.
Councilmember Harvey currently serves as Cotati's representative on the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency (SCWMA), Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Agency, Sonoma County Transportation Authority/Regional Climate Protection Agency, Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and Marin/Sonoma Mosquito Vector Control District. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Northbay Division of the League of California Cities and Sonoma Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) representing Sonoma County. She serves as an alternative representative for REMIF/CIRA Board of Directors and Cotati Chamber of Commerce liaison.
A long-time volunteer, Susan has worked on behalf of community activities such as the Cotati Accordion Festival, the Jazz Festival, Oktoberfest and Cotati Historical Society. In 2011, Susan was selected as Cotati’s “Citizen of the Year”.
Susan and her husband have resided in Cotati since 1978, where they have raised their three children. She enjoys sharing our community and its events with her grandchildren. Having lived 45 years in Cotati, Susan brings a deep knowledge and familiarity of the uniqueness of our community. Susan brings over 30 years of management experience from a major local employer. Difficult budgets, painful decisions and working through differences of opinion are all common occurrences when working in such an environment. She brings skills in team work and consensus building for the betterment of the community and its long-term sustainability.
Councilmember Harvey is devoting her energy to preserving community police, maintaining essential city services, recreational opportunities for our youth and seniors, fiscal responsibility, working to increase volunteerism, supporting policies that enhance existing business and attract new business. Additionally, Councilmember Harvey has seized the opportunity for our community to be well represented in Sonoma County efforts for sustainability of water, waste management, education for all and improving health outcomes.
Phone: (707) 792-4600 Ext. 193
Councilmember Sylvia Lemus was appointed to the City Council in 2022 for a full four-year term, ending in December 2026. Prior to her appointment to City Council, Lemus served as a Cotati Planning Commissioner starting in February 2020 and was the Chair of the Planning Commission in 2022.
Sylvia Lemus has been a resident of Cotati since 2008 and has been a lifelong resident of Sonoma County. Councilmember Lemus has been a founding member of community organizations including Los Cien Sonoma County and Santa Rosa Cinco de Mayo organizations. She has also served on several boards and task forces and volunteered for numerous organizations including Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, LandPaths, Community and Law Enforcement Task Force, Latino Alliance of Rohnert Park/Cotati, and the Sonoma Speedway Children’s Charity.
Councilmember Lemus has been in local county government for over 33 years, specializing in human resources and communications, and looks forward to retirement at the end of 2022. Her long career gave her a diverse and in-depth experience into how government works at all levels. Councilmember Lemus was also instrumental in the county’s racial equity efforts and was involved on related committees and provided input to the development of ongoing policies at the county level. Sylvia Lemus has also embarked on a new wine business startup in partnership with family. Through her appointment, Lemus has become the first Latina Councilmember in Cotati’s history, a source of great pride to Lemus, her family, and her entire community.
Councilmember Lemus’ primary goals include engaging our diverse community, anti-racist policies, climate issues, housing affordability, community safety, small business support, interjurisdictional collaboration, and keeping Cotati as a place where all residents can live and thrive.
Phone: (707) 792-4600 ex. 201
Councilwoman Kathleen (Kay) Rivers, Ph.D. was appointed to the City Council in 2022 for a four-year term.
Kay has served on multiple Boards in the local area, including Petaluma Pride, the Unitarian Universalists of Petaluma, and is a proud member of the Cotati Historical Society. Before joining the Cotati community, she served many progressive causes including: the San José City Library and Education Commission, Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center Board of Directors, and the Santa Clara County CEDAW Taskforce.
Professionally, Kay works as a public-school teacher at a continuation high school. She holds a doctorate in Psychology, a Master’s degree in Organizational Management, and a Bachelor’s in Spanish. Kay has authored, The Weight of Abuse: Releasing Fear and Feeling Safe in Your Body and contributed the chapter, "Lesbian Teacher Believes in You" to the best-selling book, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living. She recently completed her first novel, titled, After The Flash.
Personally, Kay is an out-lesbian mother of three, who's been married since 2000. She's raising chickens, cultivating herb and vegetable gardens, and researching how best to restore Cotati’s native flora and fauna. Kay's wife works for a local meditation center; her daughter graduated from UCSB in 2022; her older son is an active-duty United States Marine; and her youngest is attending Santa Rosa Junior College.
Having grown up in a small town, Kay is dedicated to building community, promoting conservation, supporting local small business, advocating for anti-racism, balancing affordable housing with maintaining a small-town feel, and serving as a listening member of our community.
Phone: (707) 792-4600 ex. 202