Panel losing planner



Sonora Planning Commissioner Dean Zaharias will resign next month from the post he has held for 10 years.

At last night's Commission meeting, Zaharias told his colleagues that he and his wife are moving to Calaveras County to be closer to jobs they recently took.

"Sonora has been more than generous to my family," he said. "I'm going to miss everybody."

Oct. 13 will be Zaharias's last meeting.

The decision to leave Sonora after 14 years was "gut wrenching," said Zaharias, who is known as a liberal voice on the Commission. "It really hasn't sunk in."

Zaharias, who twice ran for Sonora City Council and served on the Opera Hall Committee, said he is proud of having helped maintain the character of downtown Sonora. He was first appointed to the Planning Commission in 1993 and was reappointed twice.

"It was my intent to preserve the historic flavor of Sonora," he said after the meeting. "It has been a battle, but I'm proud of what this commission has done."

Zaharias, 52, said he will be food and beverage manager at Rite of Passage, a boys' school near San Andreas. His wife, Wendy Hesse, took a job with Calaveras County government. They will live near San Andreas.

For 13 years, Zaharias and Hesse owned Wilma's Flying Pig, a cafe and saloon in Sonora. The two have also been active in the Tuolumne County Citizens for Peace group, which participated in the Sonora Peace March in February and sponsors speakers on subjects like Iraq and U.S. nuclear policy.

Although he does not plan to participate in local government immediately after the move, Zaharias said he would like to get involved in politics again at some point.

With his left-of-center perspective, Zaharias proved some balance to the Commission's conservative members, said Sonora Community Development Director Ed Wyllie.

"He helped to be able to bring an alternative point of view to the discussion, and that helped," Wyllie said.

The Union Democrat
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