Meet Susan

Learn more – Susan Kirks for Mayor of Petaluma – priorities & background


Susan Kirks, a recognized leader in conservation, has a 20-year record of service and innovation. Her contributions to our Petaluma and Sonoma County communities include leading the 12-year advocacy to acquire and conserve the Paula Lane property in West Petaluma as permanent open space. She was the leader in initiating, funding and preparing all materials for the City of Petaluma’s application to receive the Ramsar Wetland of International Importance designation for Petaluma’s wetlands. She followed through for 4 years with the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture to ensure the designation was finally received in 2018.

Susan facilitated Madrone Audubon Society as a co-plaintiff in the anti-Dutra asphalt effort, Save Shollenberger Park, and for many years helped raise funds, obtain grants and provide input to sustain the advocacy effort. As a leader of Paula Lane Action Network (PLAN), Susan managed the fiscal sponsorship of two groups opposing inappropriate development proposals, The Eastside Neighbors in Petaluma and Citizens Advocating for Roblar Rural Quality (CARRQ). Susan represented Madrone Audubon Society in the 2013 litigation to hold Caltrans and the Federal Highway Transportation Administration accountable for needless and tragic migratory bird deaths at the Petaluma River Bridge; that litigation was settled, with plaintiffs achieving new exclusionary practices and materials for bridge and construction projects, resulting in a safer environment for migratory nesting birds.

Susan’s relationships with multiple organizations and agencies in Sonoma County, the Bay Area and State, developed over 20 years, represent positive actions and achievements for our environment. Locally, advocating for the Measure M – Parks for All initiative and for the Measure AA to establish and fund the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, resulted in streams of funding to help the City of Petaluma parks, open spaces and wetlands restoration projects. Such victories, achieved through collaboration and perseverance, are part of our San Francisco Bay Area high standards for environmental protection and appreciation.

Susan began her education in climate change and global warming many years ago and remains current with individual actions by citizens as well as organizational and government actions to address impacts of climate change and meet goals for GHG emission reduction by 2030 (Petaluma and California) and associated actions, including equity for good green jobs, clean air, fresh water and fresh food and open spaces, and important new energy approaches for housing, building and transportation.

For our educational and volunteer communities in Petaluma, Susan created and oversees an important citizen science project with 2 locations in Petaluma, collecting data and adding to the National Phenology Project, for life cycles and behaviors of mammals, plants and birds. This project is flexible enough to accommodate beginning and advanced citizen science researchers, and can expand to additional Petaluma locations, thus setting the way for data collection and interpretation to guide local decisions for planting, habitat restoration in a variety of ways, and a closer relationship for our citizens with Nature.

Participating in every meeting of the last General Plan 2025 update, Susan is intimately familiar with this plan and the challenges of providing community input and having it heard and included.  Susan has attended all current General Plan Update meetings and has given substantive input to the Work Group focusing on the Natural Environment, Open Space and Species Protection.  This General Plan Update begins with the Natural Environment as first and foremost – the lens through which all other General Plan elements such as Housing and Transportation, will be reviewed and considered.  Susan will be ready on Day 1 to support the current General Plan Update process and work with the General Plan Advisory Committee.

The Tolay Lake Regional Park so beloved in our Petaluma region, with vast open space, natural features and archaeological and indigenous history, began with a small group of whom Susan was a member, Friends of Tolay, formed to advocate for the Cardoza Ranch to be acquired and conserved as permanent open space, becoming the future (and now present) Tolay Lake Regional Park. And, Susan has authored numerous statements related to environmental impacts and community concerns and interests for the two nonprofit organizations she represents. To learn more about Susan’s action for our community, click here.

“I grew up in a political family and a family of educators and small business owners. My grandfather was the Mayor of the small town where I grew up in North Carolina. He and most members of our family were active in the Lions Club. We worked in the Lions’ Club food booth each year at the State Fair in Raleigh. My maternal grandparents owned the local independent insurance agency in town, and I also worked there on holiday breaks from school. My paternal grandparents in Missouri owned and managed an employment agency and a window-washing business.

Today, when I’m not attending a public meeting or volunteering, I’m taking care of and loving my two rescued horses, Coco and Chester, and communing with my cats, Gray Boy and Shy Simba. I honor Petaluma’s environment and natural features, which must become more of a priority in our community planning and decisions for pedestrian and bike trails and paths, community safety and emergency response, open and green spaces throughout Petaluma, connectivity for wildlife movement, fresh water, clean air, healthy food, and housing we can afford to rent or buy to live here, and access to affordable transportation sources.

Petaluma has many distinct neighborhoods and areas that can retain individual character and also benefit from straightforward climate change actions. This includes preserving grassland areas, planting trees with habitat value and shade creation (which will sequester carbon), practicing what many of our citizens already do – called regenerative agriculture and making yard habitats, and honoring privacy of our citizens while also creating community and neighborhood cooperation. I see that the Petaluma City Council will best serve our community with leaders who have common sense, experience, and vision that can translate into action. This is what I’m all about.

Our City Council also needs to demonstrate leadership, to review and streamline City government to better serve our community with integrity and transparency. We very much need that.”

Susan Kirks