By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
Local epidemiologist Dr. Flojaune Cofer is no stranger to City Hall. She’s there frequently, calling out elected officials and calling for transparency and accountability in how they move and respond to the community.
Dr. Cofer was outside the building last week, announcing her desire to be on the other side of the dais, announcing that she’ll run for mayor next year. While the city clerk’s office says it won’t begin taking applications for mayor and several City Council seats until November, Dr. Cofer’s early declaration was met with cheers and promises of support from a sizable lunchtime crowd.
Current mayor Darrell Steinberg has been in office since December 2016 and has previously said he won’t run for a third term.
The city needs new leadership, Dr. Cofer said in her speech. She vowed to shake up the “status quo” that she said is stagnating local government and those it serves.
“I think it’s important for elections to have real choices,” Dr. Cofer said. “I am offering a progressive choice. I’m offering a choice to bring a different flavor and culture to City Hall.”
Dr. Cofer serves as senior director of policy for Public Health Advocates. She describes herself as a consistent voice for “pushing for a Sacramento that protects our health and serves everyone.”
“She’s very intelligent, very capable. She knows her stuff,” said local dance choreographer and friend Venetia James, who attended the recent announcement.
“I think that she would be a great candidate for the mayor of the city representing women, representing Black people and people of color. I’m really excited that she’s running and I know that she will do the job properly,” James continued.
James and Tresla Gilbreath took selfies during the rally and posted them on social media.
“Whatever support she asks for I’m definitely going to be there because I believe in her and I will definitely be in the building in some way, shape or form,” James said.
“I am so excited for Flo,” Gilbreath added. “She’s a friend, a colleague and one of the most intelligent women I know. She’s an epidemiologist so when it comes to doctors, internal medicine and infectious diseases, this just transcends all over the city.”
Gilbreath served as Dr. Cofer’s stylist for the announcement, a role she’ll keep through the official campaign to keep her “Black girl magic” shining.
“I’ll be making sure that she is always top notch from head to toe when she steps out,” Gilbreath said.
Appearances matter, she said. “I think it’s important for the whole city, no matter who you are, to look at Black women in excellence whether it be in the boardroom or out in the community.”
“There’s nothing more powerful than a Black woman,” youth advocate RoLanda Wilkins said.
Dr. Cofer is the change Sacramento needs, Wilkins said. “We need someone younger, youthful. We need some woman energy. We need to turn that whole City Council into females and let them run it for a while. We know [Dr. Cofer] can do it. She’s able to bring all the masses together, all the different communities – Latino, Asian, white, gay, straight, whatever. She’s very balanced and fair.
Wilkins pointed to several tents erected nearby. “We need someone to help us with all this homelessness,” she said. “Someone who is going to help and not play politics with it.”
Dr. Cofer said she’s not one to play around.
“I say what I mean and I mean what I say.”
Dr. Cofer’s outspokenness got her appointed in April 2019 to the Measure U Committee, a group that was to oversee the city’s spending of monies generated from a new one-cent sales tax. She served four terms as chair of the committee and said she saw firsthand how city leaders broke promises to put money behind finding solutions to community concerns.
Many residents, she said, feel ignored and unheard. She wants to change that. “I know together we can create a Sacramento where all of us can thrive. I’m running for mayor because I know that more is possible.”
Educator and fellow community organizer Elika Bernard also attended the rally. Bernard, the executive director of Black Womxn United, previously told The OBSERVER about the time Dr. Cofer helped her through difficulties, providing meals to her when she was too drained to cook for herself. Bernard will be watching the campaign as a friend and as someone familiar with campaigns. She worked on Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign in 2019.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of just making sure people know when to vote, where to vote, have a plan to vote, and know who Dr. Flo is,” Bernard said.
“I think she’ll be successful as the mayor if she can get the city manager on board with her plan because the city manager is the person who controls a lot of the budget and where the money goes. The city manager hires and fires the police chief, the fire chief and so Dr. Flo, I think she’s going to have a lot of work in that area. So I’d like to see how she leverages all of her connections and power to get the city manager on board with her vision for Sacramento.”