People You Need to Know: Reinette Senum
Reinette Senum’s involvement and activism go far beyond the walls of City Hall. She founded the non-profit Power-Up NC, helped start the Farmers Market, is one of the founding members of APPLE, and created a Community Congress that brought the Center for Sustainable Living to downtown Nevada City.
Reinette Senum was the top vote-getter in the 2008 Nevada City council election. For the past six months, she has been doing a one-year stint as the city’s mayor. Senum’s involvement and activism, however, go far beyond the walls of City Hall. She founded the non-profit Power-Up NC, helped start the Farmers Market, is one of the founding members of APPLE, and created a Community Congress that brought the Center for Sustainable Living to downtown Nevada City. She’s a strong believer in conservation, sustainability and Nevada City
You’ve been on the Nevada City Council for nearly two years now. What have you learned since you were elected?
Choose your battles wisely.
So what are the most difficult and rewarding parts of the job?
The most difficult is debunking the myth that we are a divided community. The most rewarding is we have a lot of people dedicated to making this an even better community.
The jobless rate is around 13 percent in Nevada County and sales tax collections are down significantly in Nevada City. Is there anything the City Council can do to help local businesses and residents during these tough times?
There are many things our City Council can do and, fortunately, is doing. We recently unanimously approved our own “local stimulus plan” by supporting the idea of an “eco-district,” or a citywide, measurable sustainability plan.
You played a significant role in bringing the Farmers Market, the APPLE Sustainable Center for Living and Sierra Commons to Nevada City. How were these non-profit organizations able to get started here?
The volunteer-base in our community is exceptional and because of this Nevada City has a very strong and proactive track record. Funders are willing to invest in what they believe in.
What motivates you to work on these kinds of projects?
Our community is quite remarkable and considering the current economic state, I believe we are up to the challenge of setting a new standard for community.
Recently, you’ve been talking about eco-districts, which sound like a new concept or program. What are they?
This is a whole-systems approach where the community itself designs, implements and measures its own energy/water conservation, energy/food production, building performance and local job development, etc.
Why do you believe this will work here?
Nobody is going to save us. We must do it for ourselves or it won’t happen at all.
Would it mean more regulation for property owners?
This is not about regulating. It’s about tapping into our desires as a community, creating a plan from this and getting it done. It’s more incentive and collaboration based.
The California Preservation Foundation’s annual conference will be here for three days in May and the Amgen Tour of California bicycle race starts here for the first time on May 16. How important are these events to Nevada City?
We are extremely fortunate to have these events. They will boost our economy for the short run: just enough time for us to figure out how we will reinvent ourselves down the road.
How is a small community like Nevada City able to land them?
Nevada City stands out. Many a friend visiting from out of town will comment “The rest of the world is not like Nevada City.” I always reply, “I know. That’s why I live here.”
People You Need to Know is a regular feature of the Nevada City Advocate. Previous subjects for this feature include Duane Strawser, Gretchen Bond, Kathy Dotson, David Levin, Mali Dyck and Paul Emery. You can read their interviews by visiting www.nevadacityadvocate.com and clicking on the People button at the top of the home page.