Bill Lynch, Sonoma's 2023 Honorary Alcalde

A man wearing glasses and wearing a blue striped button down shirt smiling at the camera with a stone wall in the background.
Bill Lynch

The City of Sonoma has selected Bill Lynch as Honorary Alcalde (“Alcalde” is the Spanish name for Mayor) for 2023. After considerable discussion, Mayor Lowe nominated Mr. Lynch in recognition of his ongoing efforts and contributions to the Sonoma community. Particularly of note was the many ways in which Mr. Lynch exemplified each of the selection criteria. Some of Mr. Lynch’s service included starting the youth soccer program, forming a committee to establish the modern Vintage Festival and developing the Field of Dreams, serving as a volunteer firefighter,  working on the fund-raising committee for The Boys and Girls Club development, and also on a committee to raise funds for the Sonoma Valley Hospital through many capital campaigns.


Historically, the position of alcalde has its roots in Spanish tradition and was used most extensively in Spain’s overseas colonies.  The alcalde acted not only as a mayor, but as a mayor with veto powers over town council actions, the chief law enforcement officer, judge, assessor, notary, tax collector, hide inspector, and in some cases teacher of the pueblo.  Historian Dr. Theodor Grivas in an article appearing in the California Historical Society Quarterly wrote: “Doubtless, the most important single officer in the administration of local government in California, both before and after the American conquest, was the alcalde.”

The alcalde’s symbol of authority was a silver-headed cane.  If the alcalde himself was unable to attend an official function his cane would be sent in his place.  The cane also served another less ceremonial function as a standard of measure. The alcalde, in his role as arbiter of land disputes and assessor, measured the land in question based on the length of his cane.  His decision in the matter was final.

The very first person named the City of Sonoma Alcalde was Mr. Richard Raoul Emparan, grandson of the Sonoma’s founder General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo.  He was honored with the title in 1972 under action taken by then Supervisor Ignazio A. Vella and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and was presented with the Alcalde cane.

In 1975 the Sonoma City Council decided to make naming of an Honorary Alcalde an annual process as a means of recognizing individuals in the community who had made unselfish contributions to the welfare of Sonoma.  At a luncheon held on December 16, 1976 Mayor Henry Riboni announced that August Pinelli had been named as the 1976 Honorary Alcalde for the City of Sonoma.  Mr. Pinelli received a silver-headed cane to carry during his tenure and plaque bearing a key to the City.  The City also established a perpetual plaque to display the names of all the subsequent Honorary Alcaldes.

Nominees shall embody several of the following criteria:

  •  A broad spectrum of voluntary community service to Sonoma Valley
  • Service in a leadership role in at least one non-profit organization
  • Has spearheaded at least one community-serving project without compensation
  • Is well-known for consistent behind-the-scenes good deeds
  • Does not seek public accolades or recognition for work done
  • Adheres to a high standard of moral and ethical values

Past Alcaldes and Alcaldessas


Name Alcalde Year
August Pinelli 1976
Henri Maysonnaave 1977
Jerry Casson 1978
Bob Lynch 1979
Dan Ruggles 1980
Paul & Adele Harrison 1981
Gail Fehrensen 1982
Chet Sharek 1983
Evelyn Berger 1984
Alan & Sandy Piotter 1985
Nell Lane 1986
Jim Metzger 1987
Helen Shainsky 1988
Jerry Tuller 1989
Ernest & Loyce Power 1990
Jo Baker 1991
Ligia (Li) Booker 1992
Jim Vanderbilt 1993
Nancy Parmelee 1994
George Watson 1995
Bob & Carolyn Stone 1996
L. C. “Pete” Peterson 1997
Peggy McAleese 1998
Helen Fernandez 1999
Howie Ehret 2000
Robert Cannard, Sr. 2001
Mitch Mulas 2002
Ellie Baker 2003
Sue Holman & Susan Weeks 2004
June Sheppard 2005
Al & Kathy Mazza 2006
Phyllis Carter 2007
Sy Lenz 2008
Elizabeth Kemp 2009
Niels Chew 2010
Mary Evelyn Arnold 2011
Whitney Evans 2012
Les & Judy Vadasz 2013
Suzanne Brangham 2014
Marcie Waldron 2015
Patrick Garcia 2016
Ted & Pat Eliot 2017
Marcelo Defreitas 2018
Karen Collins 2019
Simon & Kimberly Blattner 2020 / 2021
Steve Page 2022
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