Kristina Lawson
Kristina Lawson (City of Walnut Creek)

WALNUT CREEK -- After publicly stating earlier this year that she had every intention of running, Mayor Kristina Lawson announced this week she will not seek a second City Council term in November.

A land-use attorney in San Francisco and thought of as an up-and-coming politician -- she even considered running for Congress earlier this year -- Lawson's announcement comes as a surprise to many. She sent an e-mail to her supporters Monday letting them know of her decision.

"Serving the city has been an honor and a privilege, and I want to extend my sincere thanks to those of you who inspired my service, shared my vision for the future of Walnut Creek and entrusted me to lead this community during its centennial year," she wrote.

And though the 36-year-old has sparred with fellow council members this year on issues ranging from levying a half-cent sales tax to the city budget, her decision not to run has nothing to do with council friction, she said. Instead, she maintains she is ready to move on to new opportunities and to focus on her family and her work, she said.

"I certainly had planned to run for re-election ... I had not started to raise money, and as soon as it got to that point I started thinking things through," Lawson said. "I still plan to focus on public policy, and there are other things I would like to do."


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The public policy work on transportation, land use and "big picture" issues is, and will remain, a focus of Lawson's work at her firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, she said. And as new opportunities come up, Lawson added, she wants the time to think about and explore the possibilities.

Exactly what those opportunities may be, Lawson said, she doesn't know. And though she does not have a grand plan yet, she still plans on a political future.

"Whether that be elected or appointed I still plan on serving in one way or another," said Lawson, a city planning commissioner before being elected to the council in 2010.

Lawson, a partner in her firm, is considered an expert in the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, and has worked on the state's tidelands trust, high-speed rail and emergency water supply projects.

As a council member, Lawson said she is most proud of her work this year highlighting Pacific Gas and Electric's plan to cut down 735 trees in Walnut Creek. She started an online petition to stop the project, designed to give PG&E easier access to its pipelines. Though that issue has not been resolved, she is proud of how city officials and residents responded to the threat of trees coming down.

She is also happy she was on the council when it approved the expansion at Broadway Plaza.

"The 250 million investment Macerich (Broadway Plaza's owners is making in Walnut Creek is remarkable, and it helps to secure our economic future," she said.

Next in line to be mayor, Councilman Bob Simmons said Lawson's decision is a loss for the council. Assuming she and Councilwoman Cindy Silva were re-elected in November, it would have been the same group that has worked together for the past couple of years, and that would have put them in a good position to tackle tough policy decisions, he said. He points out that Lawson and Silva came up with a three-part plan to figure out over the next year how funding for the city's pools, the Lesher Center and library hours should shake out.

"I think with Kristina on board she would have brought that experience to bear on policy initiatives," he said. "This past year we started moving on significant and controversial policy decisions."

A similar scene played out two years ago, when former Councilman Kish Rajan, who planned on running for re-election but instead took a job as the director of California Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development. Rajan, who still lives in Walnut Creek, agreed that losing Lawson is a blow.

"She is enormously capable person and very diligent and very seriously committed to the community," he said. "She really is the type of person we need on the council."

While Lawson had until August to file official election papers signaling her intention to run, she said she did not want to wait and play games, and wanted prospective candidates to be able to prepare to run for her seat.

Lawson, not officially done until December, plans to continue to work hard for Walnut Creek. It also means that she will continue to be a key vote. She does not plan to abandon her positions on any issues, including those that may have frustrated her colleagues, such as her opposition to a half-cent sales tax ballot measure. Lawson and Councilman Justin Wedel are both opposed to such a tax, and it takes a supermajority of council members (four of five) to get it on the ballot.

Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.