BiteClub, Farm Markets

Downing reinstated as Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market manager?

Downing returning to Santa Rosa Farmer's Market

A mysterious comment on one of BiteClub’s posts this morning tipped me off that Paula Downing had been reinstated to her position as market manager of the Santa Rosa Certified Farmer’s Market last night. Later this afternoon, food writer Michele Jordan posted in her blog that Downing had in fact, been voted back to work by members of the market — overturning the original decision of the market’s board members to remove her from her post on Sept. 30.
There’s clearly a lot more to the story than meets the eye, but here’s the official story that I wrote for the Press Democrat…

Paula Downing will return as market manager of the Santa Rosa Certified Farmer’s Market, less than six weeks after she was removed from the position.
In a surprise vote, a group of market members overturned the board’s decision to terminate Downing Monday night during a meeting at the Santa Rosa Veteran’s Hall, next to the parking lot where the popular market is held. The board was slated to discuss hiring a new manager, but invoking the market’s own bylaws, several members in attendance asked that a vote be held to reinstate Downing instead.
According to Elli Hilmer of Wild Rose Ranch, the vote was 53 to 11 to bring Downing back.  A committee of four market members and three board members, however, will convene next week to determine exactly what the terms Downing’s employment will be.
The decision to remove Downing by the six-member market board of directors was made because of her salary demands, according to board member Nicky Rutkowski. “She was not willing to negotiate with us, so we decided not to renew her contract. We’re a board elected by the membership and we presented her with a contract. This is not personal, this was in the best interest of the farmer’s market,” Rutkowski said.
Downing, when reached for comment last month, said she was “asked to leave”. Her departure has fractioned many of the 111 members — mostly producers and farmers who sell at the Wednesday and Saturday market, and emotions have run high since Downing’s departure on Sept. 30.
“There’s been a lot of turmoil around the market and I think that a lot of people have been turned off by it. The community and the market have been active in trying to bring the market back its vibrancy. We’re entering into a season that the community and vendors all thrive when we’re working together,” said Hilmer.

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