Sacramento Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell told her colleagues on Tuesday that she will step down after 16 years in office.
Pannell’s doctor told The Bee on Monday that the councilwoman suffers from primary progressive aphasia, a rare neurological disorder that can hamper speech and communication skills. Pannell said the condition has not hurt her cognitive abilities or mobility.
The veteran councilwoman has spoken less at City Council meetings and public events in recent months.
“I’m not going to tell you my story today,” Pannell told the City Council. “I just want to announce that I will be retiring.”
Pannell submitted a signed resignation letter to the city clerk earlier Tuesday.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of the city of Sacramento and especially the residents of District 8,” she wrote. “I am so proud of my community and the wonderful accomplishments we have made together over the past sixteen years and I want to thank them for their tremendous support over the years.”
Pannell also thanked city staffers and her “colleagues on the council, past and present.”
The councilwoman will serve until June 23. The City Council will be asked the following night to call a special election in November to fill the district representing the Meadowview, Parkway and North Laguna neighborhoods of south Sacramento.
The seat will sit vacant between the day Pannell leaves and the day her replacement is sworn into office in December. So far, only Pannell’s hand-picked successor – Florin Road Partnership director Larry Carr – has said he will run for the seat.
A member of the Pannell family has held the office for nearly 22 years. Pannell’s husband, Sam, was in office from 1992 until his death in 1997.
Pannell’s resignation from the City Council is part of a broader turnover on the council this year.
The most veteran member – Councilman Steve Cohn – is stepping down after 20 years to run for state Assembly. Councilman Darrell Fong is also stepping down to run for a separate Assembly seat after serving four years on the council.
Kevin McCarty, a councilman since 2004, is also running for the Assembly. He does not have to give up his seat to run for the statewide office, but would leave City Hall if elected. And Councilman Jay Schenirer is facing a re-election challenge from labor advocate Ali Cooper.
Councilman Steve Hansen, elected in 2012, said the growing number of new council members would “bring fresh energy.” He added that Pannell, whose guidance he has sought, will be missed.
“It’s a huge loss for the council,” he said. “Bonnie has brought tremendous experience, stability and heart to City Hall, and I think it’s an absence that won’t be easily filled.”
Mayor Kevin Johnson, with whom Pannell has had a sometimes strained relationship, said he wished the councilwoman “the best during her much-deserved retirement.”
“There is nobody that has been a bigger champion for her community than Councilmember Bonnie Pannell,” the mayor said in an email. “I grew up watching Sam Pannell fight for this City and I remember when Bonnie was first elected, carrying on the spirit of the Pannell name. We will celebrate the remainder of her time on council and her dedication and determination will continue to be a part of all we accomplish at City Hall in the days to come.”
Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at www.sacbee.com/citybeat.