Q&A with City Council Candidate Tom Ramsey

Ramsey is one of six candidates vying for three seats on the City Council. This is his first time running for public office.

What is your age and how long have you lived in Piedmont?

I’m 59 years old and have lived in Piedmont for 25 years.

What you do for work, either in or out of your home?

I am a California licensed architect and a vice president with a national real estate project management company.

Have you worked or volunteered in the Piedmont community (or elsewhere) previously? If so, in what capacity(ies)?
  • Planning Commission: 7 years; Chair for one term
  • Public Schools Seismic Advisory Committee
  • Design Guidelines Committee
  • Measure A1 Committee
  • Piedmont Community Service Crew: Led low-income housing repair projects with Piedmont students (10+ years)
What inspires you to run for office?

I like to solve problems and I’ve spent my career building and leading teams. Like my neighbors, I value a safe community and expect fiscal responsibility. I want to leverage my professional experience and my service on the planning commission to help my town with the planning and building issues before us such as: Building a pool in a time of escalating construction costs. Tackling the deferred maintenance issues of our critical facilities and navigating the difficult task of managing the state mandates for housing in a small town that is fully built out and full of beautiful historic homes and civic buildings.

What are your qualifications to be on the City Council? Any special skills or experience the voters should know about?

In addition to my volunteer work listed above, I’ve been a California licensed architect since 1990. I was an owner of an architectural firm for 18 years and today I am a vice president with a national real estate project management company. I am an owner’s representative managing teams and overseeing the client’s scope, schedule, and budget. I’m fortunate to work with forward thinking companies and talented groups of architects, engineers, and contractors on large, impactful projects around the Bay.

What do you see as the most challenging issues currently facing the city?
  • I want to help Piedmont navigate the State Housing Mandates. I want to do it in a way that is transparent and keep as much local control as possible. We can control what is built, where it’s built and what it looks like.
  • It’s also time to address the condition of our police and fire stations and city hall. Our critical facilities do not meet minimum building and life safety code requirements. Let’s fix that.
  • And thanks to many people in this town, we will soon be constructing a new pool. I want to help get the project across the finish line.
What do you see as strengths of the Piedmont community?
  • The people. We have an engaged, talented, friendly community. 
  • The schools. This is what drew my family here.
  • The services. We have an average police response time of 4 minutes, a fire station in the center of town and a hardworking city staff. Like many families here, we came for the schools, we stayed for the quality services.
What will be your top priority if elected?

For several budget cycles, our City Administrator, our Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee and City staff have listed critical infrastructure as a top priority for Piedmont. I agree. It’s past time to make needed upgrades to Piedmont’s aging infrastructure and facilities. Our critical facilities need to be safe, so our first responders can keep us safe. I also agree that our financial stewardship includes an obligation to plan for the substantial repair and/or replacement of our facilities.

The facility upgrade process will take time, robust public engagement, careful consideration of the phasing of work, and a commitment to seamlessly deliver excellent public services during the work.

I’ve spent 30 years working as an architect tackling this type of work for commercial clients. I’ll put that experience to work for Piedmont.

Do you see yourself being especially involved in any particular city issue or program, whether or not it’s your top priority?

Planning, design and getting projects built is what I do. Issues around housing, planning for our infrastructure improvements and dealing with construction challenges that we may see with the pool are what interest me and where my architectural and project management experience could be put to good use.

Talk about any leadership roles you’ve held and what you learned from them.
  • For over a decade, I’ve volunteered leading low-income housing repair projects with Piedmont Community Service Crew students. I learned not to underestimate our youth.
  • I’ve served on the Planning Commission for 7 years, with one term as Chair. I learned to listen to every comment and read every letter before making a decision.
  • I was a small business owner for 18 years. I learned the value of relationships.
  • I’m a vice president with a national project management company. I learned the value of building a good team.
Share an example of your decision-making style.

I‘m a fan of a collaborative decision-making process that combines input from all stakeholders. When my company was brought on to help manage the design and construction of a new facility for a local utility, the early programming process that was already underway was difficult. We quickly realized that the users and workers of the proposed facility did not have a seat at the table during the utility company’s programming meetings. We changed that. We identified points of contact from each user group, toured other facilities with them, and made them part of the design team. There were still challenges but the engagement improved the final product and improved the process.

What project have you worked on that you are especially proud of?

I worked on the committee that updated Piedmont’s Design Guidelines. It had been 30 years since the document was last updated. We met with local architects for their input, gathered data on variance applications to see what was and was not working well, reviewed design award projects, reviewed guidelines from other jurisdictions and presented drafts of the document in public forums. We surveyed the public, consolidated information, and added lots of photographs. The result is a user-friendly document with a focus to accommodate growth while preserving the existing character of our town. As a resident and an architect, that’s important to me.

City Council members must navigate a wide range of community opinions and demands. How will you handle those pressures?

A wide range of community opinions and demands are a sign of an engaged public and Piedmonters are not shy about engaging. My experience serving on the Planning Commission has not only made my skin a bit thicker but has taught me to encourage participation. Because public engagement improves our decision-making process. Our town is home to an impressive depth of expertise. This collective wealth of experience is a great resource and I’ll leverage that resource as much as possible.

What should the city’s priorities be when it comes to upgrading city infrastructure?

We have great public services in Piedmont with dedicated staff and first responders. However, our essential services buildings do not reflect the same quality.

Our police and fire stations do not meet minimum building code requirements for essential facilities. For example, a 2020 review revealed that fire apparatus could be trapped inside the garage following an earthquake. Our work ahead should include:

  • Updating our Civic Center Plan
  • Evaluating existing conditions, options, costs, and phasing.
  • Evaluating efficiencies by combining redundant support facilities.
  • Working with the Budget and Finance Committee to determine appropriate funding options
  • Evaluating a Public Private Partnership approach.
  • Implementing the proposed Emergency Operations Center Improvements.

As an architect, I’ve spent my career tackling these issues for commercial clients. I’ll put that experience to work for Piedmont.

Piedmont is required by the state to meet new affordable housing goals. What is your view on the approach the city has taken so far to comply with the law?

Piedmont has been updating the State required affordable housing goals every eight years since 1969. This time around, the State assigned high target numbers to all jurisdictions. Should we have fought the assigned numbers? 27 other jurisdictions spent time and public dollars to challenge the numbers and 27 other jurisdictions failed. I agree with our town’s approach to save our resources and work together to create a plan instead of fighting the State.

Piedmont is committed to submitting the State required planning documents (referred to as the Housing Element) on time. The Housing Element is a plan and does not require owners of privately owned land or publicly owned land to develop their property if it is not in their best interests. If we do not submit the Housing Element on time, we risk losing local control over our planning process to the State. I agree with the approach to comply with State law and keep Piedmont in control of our planning process, not the State.

What would you do to promote diversity in Piedmont, including among City staff?

We have work to do, but I do see actions that the city is working to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. Among other things:

  • We need to “own” our collective history of redlining.
  • We can lean on our local home-grown community groups for facilitation and outreach.
  • Let’s continue and expand training to recognize implicit bias.
  • Let’s continue anti-racism training for City Council members and consider expanding training to various city committees and commissions.
Piedmont has recently received an award for its sustainability accomplishments and goals. What would you do to further Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan?

I’m proud to live in a town that is a leader in Sustainability Best Practices. I’ll continue that progress.

Our city facilities reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 12% from 2010 to 2019 and city wide our community reduced emissions by 30% – that’s great news – but the next 12% – 30% reduction will be more difficult.

I support Piedmont’s commitment for the new community pool to be an all-electric facility. And I support the city’s effort to explore funding options through State or Federal grants.

I support Piedmont’s adoption of REACH codes for existing facilities and believe we should look for ways to incentivize residents to convert to all electric services.

I think the city could do a better job of communicating to our residents what we’ve done and what specific steps still need to get done to reach our Climate Action Plan 2.0 goals

What do you think about current recreational opportunities in Piedmont, and do you have other ideas for adding, subtracting or changing programs?

I can’t wait for the new pool to open. Next door to the pool and with some minor improvements, the Piedmont Recreation Department Building could be better utilized opening more space for more programs. That would really add to the pool’s design concept of providing a recreational hub in the center of town.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with voters about your candidacy?

I’ve found that the best part of this campaign has been getting to meet new people and reconnecting with neighbors. I appreciate the opportunity to use this forum provided by the Exedra to help community members learn more about me and my candidacy. Please feel free to reach out to me at tom@vote4tomramsey.comwith any additional questions or comments.

Thank you and be sure to vote on November 8th.

Do you have a website and email to share with voters? If so, please add below.

https://sites.google.com/view/vote4tomramsey | tom@vote4tomramsey.com

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