Mayors for building electrification: Windsor Councilmember and former Mayor Debora Fudge

A longtime environmentalist turned climate activist, Councilmember Debora Fudge is creating positive environmental change in the city of Windsor.

brick house with solar
ideeone |
brick house with photovoltaic array on the roof
Emily McCabe

Clean Energy Intern

With work on climate issues that spans her academic, professional and personal life, Councilmember Debora Fudge is the definition of dedicated. Fudge developed a passion for the Earth from a young age. This has blossomed into a lifetime of putting the environment first. “I started out as an environmentalist, and now, I want to be a climate activist,” said Fudge. 

In her leadership role with the town of Windsor, Fudge has used various policy tools to take action on climate, including requiring developers to install electric car chargers and solar panels in their projects. Now, she is engaged in a local fight for building electrification, which will reduce emissions in her city and lead the way for other municipalities to follow. As Fudge says, “if we can lead locally, that’s where change needs to happen.”

In each and every aspect of her life, Fudge has prioritized the environment. Her deep connection with the Earth began in childhood, where she spent time living on a farm and growing her own food. As a teenager, she went to her first Earth Day in 1970 and she told us she felt like she was  “with my people.” 

Then, she focused on the environment throughout her academic career. Fudge majored in Community Conservation Education at UC Davis and pursued a Masters in Environmental Planning at CSU Sacramento. Her focus on climate issues led to professional work on energy conservation with Pacific Gas & Electric. However, eventually Fudge felt that working with this company was no longer making a difference. Fudge said she felt that PG&E was “skirting things on safety and the environment” and so she left. Now, among other commitments, she is a Climate Reality Project Leader, which she says was inspired by Al Gore making climate issues a political priority. 

Along with the deep focus on environmental issues in her academic and professional career, Fudge brings action on climate to her work on the Windsor City Council. In 2019, she and her colleagues passed a reach code that mandated certain types of new residential construction be built all-electric. Windsor was set to lead the way for building electrification as “one of the first cities in Sonoma County to implement an all-electric reach code.” 

Unfortunately, a local developer sued the city over the reach code. The developer feared that one of his projects in the nearby city of Santa Rosa would be impacted by spreading electrification ordinances. “If one city was setting the stage, another city would follow – he didn’t want us to set precedent.” Fudge didn’t want to back down, but her city would have faced legal fees of over $400,000, which the small town couldn’t afford. Regretfully, the city council struck down its all-electric reach code to avoid an expensive lawsuit. However, when the developer sued Santa Rosa soon after, the city actually won. This result gives Fudge hope to keep fighting, and she says “we intend to bring our reach code back as soon as we get our town manager on board”. 

Fudge’s work on building electrification, however, does not stop with this one policy. Fudge helped create the utility Sonoma Clean Power, where she now serves as Vice Chair. This green utility serves 87% of people in Sonoma County with clean energy, including renewable sources such as geothermal, wind and solar power. With Fudge’s guidance, the SCP Advanced Energy Center storefront in downtown Santa Rosa now serves as a community hub for learning about building electrification. The center educates the community about electric technologies in the home, including a demonstration area for learning to cook on an induction stove. Fudge has made the switch to electric technologies herself: “I’ve got my home 96% electric. I took out my gas furnace, and installed an electric heat pump.” By pairing electric heating with clean energy from Sonoma Clean Power, Fudge has created her own clean energy home.

Even though Fudge is a highly committed individual, she also knows that collaborating with others is the key to successful action on climate issues.

There’s a climate emergency, and we all need to start working together. Debora Fudge
Councilmember and former mayor of Windsor, California

As a city official dedicated to serving the public, Fudge reaches out to other city officials for help in implementing climate policy. After Santa Rosa’s successful defeat of the anti-electrification lawsuit, Fudge called the city to bring that success to Windsor, too. With a lifetime of dedication to climate action, Fudge is not stopping now.

“I’m 66, and I really worry about the world we’re leaving for future generations,” said Fudge. “But you don’t feel as despondent when you’re taking action.”


Emily McCabe

Clean Energy Intern

Emily McCabe is an undergraduate at the University of California Berkeley studying Society and Environment. During her college career, she has worked to promote environmental education at high school and college campuses around the globe. Emily is passionate about a wide range of environmental issues, and has specifically worked on the issue of plastic waste from both a business and policy perspective through student research. Most recently, as a Clean Energy Intern with Environment America, Emily testified in support of climate policies for the state of California. In this blog series, Emily has worked to advance building electrification at the city level with outreach to local elected officials.

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