What once was a foe is now a friend - The metamorphous of Elk Grove's Darren Suen

With the addition of two new city council members in 2022 and 2020, Elk Grove City Councilmember Darren Suen is now the dean of the five-per...

With the addition of two new city council members in 2022 and 2020, Elk Grove City Councilmember Darren Suen is now the dean of the five-person governing body.

Appointed to Elk Grove City Council in 2015, Suen won his first four-year term in 2016 and was reelected in 2020. In between, in 2018, Suen unsuccessfully challenged then Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly.

Suen has always approached his duties cautiously, sometimes with fear, and always trying to please everyone. That fear was expressed and displayed in the lead-up to the 2020 elections when the city was forced to hold by-district elections.

Suen supported the then-proposed California Northstate University hospital project in District 1. However, the massive project was wildly unpopular with many of Suen's District 1 constituents.

So deep was Suen's fear of backlash from constituents in the 2020 election, when new-by-district maps were being drawn, Suen suggested serpentine-like maps so CNU opponents would be taken out of District 1. Those maps were quickly and derisively tagged as Darrenmandered

Done in by their hubris, the CNU project left Elk Grove and moved to Sacramento, where it still has not started construction. Of course, being an incumbent, even in a by-district election, Suen easily won reelection. 

Back then, by-district elections were Suen's foe. Nowadays, however, by-district representation is Suen's friend.

This friendship was displayed during the April 26 Elk Grove City Council hearing on the proposed Pleasant Grove Estaste rural-area housing project. Suen, who in pre-by-district days would have been fearful of aggravating rural-area voters, was now, for him anyway, less fearful.

Suen expressed support for the project (see the video below). Those who have watched Suen through his tenure recognize this unambiguous support of a controversial and unpopular project is a departure from his normal behavior. 

It is ironic that Suen, who viewed by-district representation as a foe, now finds it is a friend in that it allows him independence. Those advocating for by-district representation delivered Suen a spectacular gift.

While Suen's metamorphous continues, more molting is needed. Metamorphous will be complete when he matures into a council member who doesn't walk in lockstep with Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen. 

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