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Reinette Senum will be your ‘champion’

Zuri Berry
Staff Writer

Nevada City’s Reinette Senum is a power player for local sustainability efforts – although her role is largely indirect due to possible conflicts of interest as a city council member.

As Senum steps into the mostly ceremonial role of mayor, the offspring of her sustainable endeavors are coming to fruit. The latest of which, the Alliance for a Post Petroleum Local Economy’s (APPLE) Sustainability Center, is an offshoot from the Community Congress which Senum spearheaded. She also championed the Nevada City Farmer’s Market with Mountain Bounty Farmer’s Angie Tomey, co-founded PowerUp-NC and is on the city sanctioned Energy Solutions Task Force.

When needed, she’s been a lending hand to many in the community.

“Mostly, what she’s so good at, is she’s a volunteer,” said Mali Dyck, executive director of the APPLE Center and marketing manager for Nevada City’s Farmer’s Market. “She just puts her energy behind whatever she can to help her community. She’s very well connected in the community which makes starting something new so feasible.”

As a self-employed businesswoman, Senum has ventured through many professions before becoming a city council member last year. She did odd jobs, painted houses, studied film in Los Angeles, was a commercial fisher, a nanny and the head of development for a film company. Nowadays, her focus is on her passion, sustainability.

“I feel it’s really, really important,” said Senum, who was an original board member of APPLE.

Said Dyck: “(Senum’s) an amazingly hard worker. I can’t imagine starting the APPLE center without her help. But I also am just so grateful. If I need help with something, I can call her and she’ll be there help. She’s just such a great supporter.”

Working on sustainability and as a council member forces Senum to live her life more simply. She doesn’t get paid as a council member, have health insurance, carry a cell phone, travel, go shopping or out to dinner often. Her one frill, she says, is her Netflix subscription.

“In all honesty, I live way below the poverty level,” Senum said. “The reason I made that choice is it would allow me to do the things I want to do without the salary I need to do it.”

As Senum transitions to her new role on the council, she has the opportunity to reflect on her role as a public servant and what she can do to advance the sustainability movement while not creating an awkward position for the city.

“In many ways, the mayor hat is token,” she said. “But in some ways, you do speak for the council and city hall. Once I’m mayor, I am not speaking for myself. That’s a balance act.

“I know that I will make mistakes or as soon as I open my mouth I’ll know I shouldn’t have,” Senum continued. “With that said, it’s not about how badly you mess up, but how well you recover.

“It’s a responsibility and I’m sure it will cause some grief. The biggest key element I can bring to the council is what is our vision? And if we make a decision, is it aligning to that vision? By doing that we’ll be expeditiously moving from point A to point Z.

“Once you have a vision, you can hold your public officials accountable to it.”

Senum offered her philosophy on how she helps members of the community, while balancing her public servant role. Using Dyck as an example, she said “Mali Dyck wrote up this business plan and asked for my help. My job is not to override her. My job is to be her champion. And if anyone else has an idea, that they think will work, I will be their champion.

“I think some people get really competitive,” she said. “We’re all in the same boat, here together. Boats don’t sink halfway. Especially in this small community. If Grass Valley tanks and the county takes we’re all not going to do well. I’m here to ultimately support everyone in the long run.”

With sustainable projects in the community already underway, including the Farms to School program and the Farmer’s Market, Senum is excited about the potential of Nevada City and its impact on the region. But knows that there’s still much to do.

“You should always leave a place better than you found it,” she said. “For lack of better terms right now, we’re crapping our own beds right now. And we’re doing it for generations to come.

Instead, she says “Live simply.”

“And have a small impact.”

To contact Staff Writer Zuri Berry, e-mail zberry@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4244.

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