Candidates Night in Downieville
Clearly I won’t be reiterating every statement by each candidate but some things stood out for me and I feel the need to mention them.
The event was organized by Cindy Ellsmore, and the Sierra County Democrats Party, Don McKechie was the Timekeeper and Bill Copren the Moderator. A great job accomplished by all, and thank goodness there were refreshments courtesy of Downieville High School Senior Alexis Whitaker.
The forum allowed the candidates to make an opening statement, answer four written questions from the audience and then a 90 second closing statement. There was a break to enjoy the cookies and coffee.
The first two candidates to speak were Heidi Hall of Grass Valley and Dan Levine from Butte County both running for U,S, Congress.
Heidi Hall lives in the almost rural area of Grass Valley and understands the problems we face, she is focused on the big picture of corporate power and big business affecting us all negatively. Dan Levine is a rancher from Butte County and also understands the problems of rural life. There will be separate articles on Hall and Levine elsewhere in the Prospect.
Next up were the Supervisor candidates. District 2 Incumbent Peter Huebner from Sierra City and challenger Craig Fassbender who resides on the outskirts of Loyalton were both present. District 2 is one of the most gerrymandered Districts in the County, covering Sierra City, Verdi and a small area on the outskirts of Loyalton and is a challenge for anyone. During the candidates statements and answers to questions it became apparent that Supervisor Huebner is very knowledgeable about all of District 2 and spends a great deal of time representing his constituents dealing with problems both large affecting the whole county and individual constituents’ personal issues that he will champion regardless of where they reside in the county. Mr. Fassbender is an affable guy who has little experience or understanding of county government, he freely admitted this and passed on a question about Secure Rural Schools, a critical issue for Sierra County. His willingness to step forward is admirable, however in the situation the county is in today financially we need a Supervisor who is willing to make it his full time occupation and understand the significance of actions by the State and Federal government and respond immediately and appropriately. I am convinced that should be Supervisor Peter Huebner.
Next were the District 5 contenders, Incumbent Scott Schlefstein from Sierra Brooks and challenger Don Yegge also from Sierra Brooks. Once again it was clear the incumbent had the edge as he understood the questions and how the county is affected by decisions made by the Board and exactly how much or really, often, how little ability the Board has to make things happen within the constraints of state and federal legislation, and he advocated for a proactive Board who keeps the county’s voice heard in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Supervisor Schlefstein elaborated on government’s role with business saying, “the county’s role is to not to develop business but to not be obstructionist and support and provide a process and atmosphere for business to develop themselves.”
Mr. Yegge is well known in the county and has worked very hard over the years making life better for county residents both young and old. He is a very nice man, and I personally consider him a friend. Yegge said, “I’m all about jobs”, and his main focus is on bringing “forest jobs” back into the county, talking about the need to not only create jobs but to have a healthy forest getting rid of the “duff” and thinning trees to enhance our fire safety. He is now working on trying to revive the Loyalton SPI lumber mill into an energy creating infrastructure for the county and has been attending meetings and speaking up for Sierra County as an individual and we should all appreciate his efforts. Maybe this time something will happen. Unfortunately the truth of the matter for forestry and mining is the Supervisors have little control, it is the State and Feds once again. But Yegge appears to be willing to continue fighting and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. So in the race for District 5, it isn’t as clear. I think Supervisor Schlefstein has demonstrated his ability to work with other Board members as a group benefitting the whole county while ably representing his District, I hate to have someone who’s doing a decent job get fired. If Mr. Yegge became the Supervisor, there would be a learning curve and he would have to recognize the realities of county government limitations but he probably would do an okay job. In this case I’m tending to lean towards the Incumbent Supervisor Schlefstein. Fortunately, I live in District 1 and won’t have to make that hard decision on my ballot.
The Sheriff Candidates.
The same format for the Sheriff was followed and there were definite differences in the three candidates.
Sheriff John Evans spoke clearly and effectively regarding his many years with Sierra County and his achievements as our top law guy. The crime rate is low ( by the way, have you noticed the copper pipe thefts have stopped since the SO arrested the perps), the budget is a handicap and his deputies and office staff are doing a great job in spite of low staffing. All of the county departments are suffering and everyone has had to tighten their belt and do the best job under the auspices of a budget that keeps dwindling. He talked about the County Jail and that the county Supervisors were discussing the issues of the financing of keeping the jail in the county. Sheriff Evans mentioned how presently the jail keeps 7 to 8 employed, the jail has a contract with the Western Sierra Medical Clinic which helps keep them viable, all food for the jail is bought from local grocery stores and if the jail was closed, actually the travel time of deputies transporting inmates to and from the county would decrease public safety patrols and activities, clearly he sees the Jail remaining in Sierra County a positive. Sheriff Evans is doing a decent job and the county is a safe place to live for the residents and visitors .
Challenger Sgt. Tim Stanley spoke about the low morale in the Sheriff’s Office and also how important it was for the Jail to remain in County. He mentioned how both he and Sheriff Evans remember how difficult it was transporting inmates to the Nevada County facility during the Sierra County Jail renovation in the early 90’s. One thing he kept repeating was as the Sheriff he would treat everyone equally no matter what their last name was. Which made me wonder what last name he was talking about and how do we get that last name for ourselves? I asked a few people but no one seemed to know what Sgt. Stanley was talking about, so hopefully he will let us know who is getting favorable or unfavorable treatment. On the issue of morale, having worked for the Sheriff’s Office from 1986 to 1998 under Sheriff Ken Alexander and then Sheriff Lee Adams, I’ve seen that there is always a division in loyalty. Half the staff dislikes whoever the Sheriff happens to be and half likes them. It seems to be a universal thing in law enforcement. It might be the type of personality drawn into the job, however when you think you can do a better job then step up and run for the position and that’s exactly what Standley has done.
Challenger Derek Beverly gave me the most food for thought. Derek lived here as a boy and graduated from Downieville High School. He worked for the Sheriff’s Office in the mid 70’s and since has worked with Placer County, the FBI and Department of Motor Vehicles. He didn’t mention all of the feats he has claimed in other venues but did talk about his vision for law enforcement in Sierra County. It quickly became apparent that Mr. Beverly doesn’t distinguish between big city policing and the rural area. He has no worries about losing the Jail and mentioned the possibility of a regional facility in the valley. He does worry about staffing levels as he feels public safety should be the main priority of the County. On the subject of sharing limited monies with other agencies, Derek replied “public safety is THE priority and as sheriff he would have to have SERIOUS chats with other dept heads.” He feels every other department should bear the layoffs as the Sheriff’s Office is the most important. He suggested 24 hour patrol coverage for the county and more presence in the schools. He felt a School Resource Officer should be assigned to the schools, walking through the halls, and “gathering information”. What? Did I hear that right? That is a little scary, he does have an FBI background, did he hear of the uproar over the NSA activities. I support law enforcement, the government and peace on earth, but a police state and deeming them the most important of county activities makes me nervous. What about the county roads, our ambulances, the Clinics, the parks, the general quality of a Mayberry type life where doors are unlocked and we all help each other. So despite Derek being a “local” guy who only returns to his Placer County home to “mow the lawn”, I’m thinking he wouldn’t be good for Sierra County.
Sheriff John Evans is doing a great job. He understands the county and his constituents he is the right guy for us now and I am glad I can vote for him.
So, that’s it for the second candidates night, of course you might have been there and had a completely different take on it, so we welcome your cards and letters. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org