Folsom’s political maverick steps down

Roger Gaylord looks over planning documents for the city of Folsom. (Photo courtesy of city of Folsom)

Residents say they’ll miss Roger Gaylord’s independent streak and commitment to transparency

By Scott Thomas Anderson

One-term City Councilman Roger Gaylord, who many viewed as a buttress against the undue influence of special interest groups on Folsom, has stepped down and moved to neighboring El Dorado County.

Gaylord said that his change in residence was brought about by a flurry of unforeseeable events—and that Folsom leaders weren’t interested in working out a compromise allowing him to maintain two separate addresses to finish his term. 

Gaylord made his announcement June 10. By June 15, his photo and profile had been entirely scrubbed from the city of Folsom’s website.

Gaylord was elected in 2016, riding a tide of voter resentment against Councilwoman Kerri Howell and then-council members Steve Miklos, Andy Morin and Jeff Starsky, after it was revealed that developers for the controversial Folsom Ranch housing development had spent tens of thousands of dollars supporting those candidates through a political action committee run by the city’s chamber of commerce.

Former Folsom Mayor Bob Holderness is now working for Folsom Ranch developers, as is former Folsom city manager Martha Lofgren. Howell, Miklos, Morin and Starsky all voted to advance the Folsom Ranch Project, which broke ground in 2018.

Folsom Ranch, also known as the “South of 50” project, represents one of the largest developments of open space in Sacramento County in a generation. The city annexed 3,600 acres in 2012 for the project, which is eventually supposed to have 11,000 homes.

Gaylord campaigned on listening to Folsom residents’ concerns about what the massive, decades-long build-out would do to the city’s traffic, water supply, air quality and wildlife habitat. In the 2016 at-large council election, the security consultant defeated Starsky for a seat on the council.

In 2019, Gaylord publicly expressed concerns after an SN&R investigation revealed that a secret disinformation campaign was being launched to downplay the environmental and quality of life impacts from Folsom Ranch. No one would admit to funding or directing it.

“It’s been about reminding people that if you don’t stand up and get involved, then the city you love is going to be completely different.”

Former Folsom City Councilman Roger Gaylord

As a councilman, Gaylord took several consequential votes, including one to stop more than 80 mature trees from being destroyed in Folsom’s only nature preserve. Gaylord also focused on public engagement, keeping Folsomites abreast of what was on the council’s agenda via his large Facebook following. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gaylord helped coordinate efforts to get household supplies to older residents who were at risk for the virus.  

Gaylord told SN&R that he and his wife recently bought property in El Dorado County, but were still planning on living in Folsom for a while. When the COVID-19 lockdown began devastating the economy, the couple began debating whether it was financially wise to maintain two households. Eventually, Gaylord put his home in Folsom up for sale and it was purchased just 13 days later, which he wasn’t expecting. That left him with some hard choices, as Folsom elected officials are required to live within the city limits.

Gaylord decided to rent a room at the Folsom Hotel to finish out the last year of his term, but he says Mayor Sarah Aquino was opposed to that, opting to remove him from his all appointed boards and commissions.

“I had fully intended to finish my term,” Gaylord said this week. “But after she did that, I just resigned.”

Aquino told SN&R via email that she was just following the city charter.

“I wish him nothing but the best,” she wrote, “but one can’t be a resident of El Dorado County and a member of the Folsom City Council.”

During the 2018 election, Aquino received strong backing from the same political action committee that spent developer money supporting Howell, Miklos, Morin and Starsky.

While Gaylord has already been removed from the council’s page on Folsom’s website, the home page does include a four-sentence blurb about Gaylord’s departure, stating that he resigned “effective immediately” and that the city thanked him for his service.

Gaylord’s announcement on his public Facebook page was met with nearly 1,000 responses. Among the nearly 200 people commenting was Lacey Mason Neufled, who wrote, “We’ve appreciated your ability to speak candidly and without fear of retribution for the benefit of our community.”

Ken Smith wrote, “Your efforts in many ways of being transparent and supporting so many issues, while being very communicative to the residents of Folsom on Facebook, was a breath of fresh air to this city.”

Gaylord says he hopes that all of the residents he encouraged to follow Folsom politics will continue to keep an eye on local government.

“I think the biggest part of the experience was seeing people get engaged and be active,” he told SN&R. “It’s been about reminding people that if you don’t stand up and get involved, then the city you love is going to be completely different.”

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3 Comments on "Folsom’s political maverick steps down"

  1. It is sad that such a beautiful and small city could become what most people who live in a small city wanted to avoid or left in the first place. With all of the talk about defunding police, it seems viable to do the same to a city’s leadership if they are beholden to the sources that paid for their seats. We could save the resources and just allow the people pulling the strings to operate the city and save on the puppets.

  2. Chris Patterson | June 17, 2020 at 5:22 pm | Reply

    Roger Gaylord wasn’t a maverick, he was a manipulator who generated endless self-promotional Facebook posts he would share with a carefully cultivated group of followers. Gaylord was often dismissive and insulting of constituents with legitimate questions about his policies and political motivations, and he took regular pot-shots at the Council and Council members both in-person and on social media. After burning through his political capital with Council members, he would lament that it was unfair that he wasn’t considered for Mayor. This led to him defiantly telling the Council he was going to petition to change the City Charter to have a direct-elect Mayoral system. He never once entertained the notion that it might be his own behavior that led to his not being considered for the role. In the end, he never followed through with the petition, and he has now resigned his position on the Council. He continues to try to play the victim, blaming the Mayor for his early resignation, rather than his own missteps in establishing Folsom residency requirements that are mandated by law. It’s time for Folsom to move on. We need Council members who know how to interact constructively with each other, without all of the high school level drama we have seen during Gaylord’s time on the Council.

  3. We will miss Roger. He was so thoughtful and different from the status quo. South of 50 has once again asked and received more water despite sayin TV they didn’t need it. And so it goes…

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