MENDOCINO Co., 1/14/17 -- After an absence of four months due to mental health issues, former Third District Supervisor Tom Woodhouse resigned Jan. 3, leaving the the seat empty and the people of the third district without representation in county government. Now the frankly opaque process by which Governor Jerry Brown will select a replacement has begun in earnest, with the listing of the position as open for appointment online.
The governor’s office has indicated that the list of applicants is not public, however The Mendocino Voice is aware of four people applying (in alphabetical order): Willits Unified School District (WUSD) Board Member Georgeanne Croskey, Willits Teachers’ Association (WTA) President John Haschak, former Willits Mayor Holly Madrigal and former Third District Supervisor Johnny Pinches. We have recently become aware that Clay Romero, and Ellen Drell also applied.[footnote]Romero emailed after this article was published. Drell did not return a call.[/foonote] If you have applied, or know of someone who has applied please email [email protected].
Rather than do a traditional news article we’ve rounded up some interviews with the applicants, some background on the process, and other details so that you can be better informed about this important decision. Because while there is no election, residents are welcome to submit letters in support of an applicant. If you’re interested in statements from applicants scroll to the bottom.
WHAT IS A SUPERVISOR?
The Third District comprises the northeastern corner of the county, with Laytonville, Covelo and Willits being the main population centers. It also includes large less dense, but still inhabited, parts of the county, as well as a big chunk of the Mendocino National Forest. Though cannabis is grown across the county, it’s safe to say that the Third District sees some of the most intense cannabis production, and it has been a locus of organizing among politicized growers.
There are five supervisors on the board, representing this enormous county, endowed with both the legislative power and the executive power in county government, though day to day operations are handled by the county CEO, currently Carmel Angelo. Supervisor is a non-partisan position, meaning party affiliation is not listed during the election, or generally discussed. They are elected to 4 year terms, with a strong tendency for incumbents to be re-elected.
Woodhouse was elected in Nov. of 2014, beating out Madrigal in the general election. He began his absence in August of the second year of his first term, and resigned at just around the two year mark, meaning that whoever is appointed will serve until 2018. Given the likelihood that an incumbent will be re-elected, sources having some familiarity with the process have indicated that Brown may choose a placeholder appointee, rather than someone sure to seek the office in 2018. This, however, is contested, and in the end the decision is wholly that of the famously strategic Brown.
Rumors have also circulated that the governor will not appoint someone that has previously run for the position, that the governor’s office prefers not to receive letters of support, and that such letters will hurt a candidate's chances. Asked for comment a spokesperson for the governor’s office stated that, “We generally don’t comment on rumors, but in this case, I can tell you those are false.”
The process could take anywhere from two to six months, during which time the Third District will continue to go unrepresented. Pressed for a more specific timeline by various interested parties, the governor’s office has remained vague.
Beyond the requirement that applicants be residents of, and registered to vote in the district, the application asks for extremely thorough job histories, political office history, references, and political vetting. Questions include special background knowledge, complete disclosure of potential conflicts of interests and of property that might create a conflict of interest. It goes on to ask about child support payments, property liens, ethics breaches, disciplinary actions, and involvement in litigation.
The political vetting sections gets especially tough, asking:
Have you been publicly identified, in person or by organizational members, with a particularly controversial national, state or local issue?
Have you ever submitted oral or written views to any government authority or the news media, on any particular controversial issue other than in an official government capacity?
Have you ever had any association with any person or group or business venture which could be used, even unfairly, to impugn or question your character and qualifications for the requested appointment?
Do you know anyone who might take any steps, overtly or covertly, to oppose your appointment?
Is there anything in your background which if made known to the general public through your appointment would cause an embarrassment to you and/or the administration?
The Mendocino Voice spoke a bit with each of the candidates. Pinches needs little introduction, and his reputation and past are widely known with the voters. He told The Voice on Friday that he has decided to throw his hat into the ring — that he’s available and that “The Third District certainly needs some representation.” Pinches was District Three supervisor just before Woodhouse and represented the District on three occasions over the course of 20 years. He made one unsuccessful bid for state senate* and did not seek reelection in 2014, citing health reasons.
If chosen it is unlikely that he would run again in 2018. He noted that he is not a registered Democrat, while Governor Brown is. However, examples in other counties show that Brown has appointed non-Democrats to the non-partisan position of supervisor. He lives on his cattle ranch in the Island Mountain area.
Croskey is a veterinary doctor, currently operating her own large animal practice. She was appointed to fill current Willits City Councilwoman Saprina Rodriguez’s seat to the board of trustees of the Willits Unified School district, by that board, in October of 2015. She has indicated that she is being backed by former Third District Supervisor Hal Wagenet.
According to her online bio she graduated with a B.S. in physics from Miami University in Ohio, served in the Air Force for five years, including time as an intelligence officer, and after leaving the Air Force pursued a veterinary degree. She was also the 1996 Frontier Days sweetheart.
Asked why she wants the position Croskey explained that she was approached by “several different people,” who urged her to apply. She added, “This is not something that I ever envisioned for myself, I was approached about this when it started to look like there was an opening.”
She noted her own lack of experience, pointing out that other applicants do have more in-depth knowledge of policy than she does, and that her political background is limited to her year on the school board. She added, “I don’t want to just complain I want to be part of the solution...I’m here with my family I want this to be a great place to raise my kids.” She did say that her veterinary practice means that she is constantly traveling around the whole county, giving her broad exposure to different issues.
On policy questions she began, “I think most people would agree that the most pressing issue right now is marijuana, I think there’s a lot of interest in — how are we going to regulate and where do we go from here?”
She elaborated that, “My biggest concern is environmental protection for the county. I think we need to make sure that as we’ve legalized marijuana we have protections in place for the environment and the we make sure we have enforcement for those protections... If we’re going to have marijuana as a business here, we need to have a set of rules and they need to be followed and enforced.”
On the question of dealing with the changes in traffic that have resulted from the completion of the Willits Bypass she said, “I think I need to probably speak to more people to understand some of the impacts...I think overall the bypass is a good thing and will continue to be a good thing but we do need to make sure that Willits stays a strong community.”
Given the central role of cannabis in the county’s economy, the election of Donald Trump and his decision to nominate Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general, has created a climate of uncertainty. The county government has had run-ins with the feds in recent memory, and Sessions is on record as saying that the Obama administration was too lenient with states electing to legalize marijuana.
Asked what she would do in the event of such a conflict, or and how to handle relations with the federal government, Croskey responded, “At this point I don’t have an opinion on it, and I certainly would take the advice of the sheriff’s office.”
Though she acknowledges her lack of policy experience she stated that her year on the school board has taught her much, “You learn a lot about the county with how we are educating our students and where our students are going after high school...some of the issues we face in the school, I think, are issues that happen because of how things are dealt with in the county.”
She finished up saying, “My agenda is certainly going to expand and change as I learn more, but I’m excited to be part of the group that gets to shape the future of this county and I think that there are a lot of people in the third district and I don’t think they get represented well. I think it’s a challenging district to represent because there’s a lot of divergent opinions and I look forward to that.”
Madrigal spoke to The Voice on the day the resignation was announced. We will be following up with all the applicants for a more detailed interview in the coming days. Here is an excerpt from the original article:
“It is a critical time for the Third District and it’s vitally important that we have representation right now specifically on the cannabis issue, and really completing the timeline that the supervisors have started.” Continuing, “We need to continue to make progress cannabis policy and we cannot wait for the new federal administration to settle out.” She elaborated that she feels Mendocino is already behind on the cannabis issue and that what people on all sides of the issue is “a plan.”
She added that, “I don’t want to be hasty but I know that the supervisors have done a lot of work already on policy and I just think that we need to see that through, we do not need to start from square one.”
On the question of the bypass she said that she believes that insufficient signage is hurting businesses not only in Willits but on the coast, due to people missing the exit to the westbound 20. She noted that business owners in Willits have said that their sales are down 30%, and that Laytonville is being “inundated” by people missing Willits and stopping there.
In a Facebook post thanking her supporters Madrigal elaborated, “...The business community in Willits is hurting from the bypass and we need an advocate for better, more clear and visible signage. Laytonville is having the opposite affect[sic] and is having backups onto the highway from the lone gas station. Mental Health services, transportation infrastructure and cannabis policy all need our attention. I look forward to tackling these issues. Thank you again for all of the support…”
Haschak moved to Willits in 1969 with his family and attended middle school and high school in Willits. He then majored in history and poly sci, graduating from UCLA in 1981. After a stint in Guatemala working for the Peace Corp and some time organizing migrant farm workers, he returned to Willits. He’s been with the Willits Unified School district for 27 years, and has served as president of the local teacher’s union for 13 of the past 16 years. Currently he teaches English language development for third through fifth graders at Blosser Lane Elementary.
He believes that he has a strong chance at the seat given his involvement in Democratic Party politics through his role as a union leader. But added that he’d like to see many more people apply for the position, saying, “People need to take democracy into our own hands, otherwise we’re going to be led down a path by this Trump Administration that’s not good.” And he indicated that he’d be unlikely to seek re-election.
Asked what he views as the most important issue facing the county, he explained, “Protecting the environment is crucial, because we have such an incredible county here...especially with the bypass we’ve got to do something to protect our economy and to stimulate our economy especially in the Willits area and with the repercussions of the bypass in Laytonville. We’ve got to bring in quality jobs” He elaborated that as a union leader he is very committed to labor.
He continued, “Social justice is important to me and making sure that people — especially with the results of the last election on the national level — that all people feel safe that they have an advocate, for safety, whether they are immigrants or LGBT or women...we all need to be supporting each other and not tearing each other apart...I think the sanctuary movement is very interesting.”
On the question of federal power he said, “I think that with a lot of the president elect is saying we’ve got to stand up and really fight for our principles and our rights and whether it’s in the marijuana field or in women’s rights...we’ve just got to stand up on principle and not get blown over by federal action, because who knows where it’s going.”
And on cannabis, “I support legalization and regulation and we just need to have a balance, common sense approach to the whole marijuana issue because it involves everyone in the community...I think we need a balanced approach. I’m not anti-marijuana but I believe that we need to take into consideration the beauty and the environment of this county and also people’s concerns about the water usage, the light pollution, the odor pollution...certainly, growing is part of this community.”
As for his qualifications he points to his long tenure in the teacher’s union, working on union boards, and his role as vice chair of the California Teachers Association (the statewide teachers union) budget committee. He pointed out that a budget reflects the priorities and principles of an organization.
On a somewhat humorous note, according to Madrigal, Haschak taught both Madrigal and Croskey Spanish in high school.
UPDATE 1/16/17: Clay Romero has contacted The Mendocino Voice to say that he is applying. Romero ran for the position in the 2014 primary, coming in last place.
Here is an excerpt from his email:
I had heard that you were looking for people that had applied for an appointment to become the 3rd District Supervisor of Mendocino County. I had completed an application on January 5th.
I know I can bring a good knowledge base for representing the 3rd District.
I have been here for 42 years and graduated from Laytonville High School in 1978.
I have run my own business since 1994 producing precision parts for a wide variety of applications.
I’m quite familiar with Mendocino County concerns for small business, agriculture, fishing industry, law enforcement, mental health, budgeting, engineering, and tourism.
I also designed a health care funding system suitable for implementation in the United States. It may also be helpful in use for the county alone. It would save about one-third on over medical expenditures while allowing people to get the health care they need and pay health providers within five days.
I’m generally thought of as a hard working gentleman, with an easy going character, yet familiar with a wide range of topics.
Adrian Fernandez Baumann [email protected]
* An earlier version of this story erroneously states that Pinches had run for whenCongress in fact it was state Senate.
Here is the text of the full press release from the county CEO’s office:
Ukiah, California… January 4, 2017 GOVERNOR’S OFFICE ANNOUNCES SUPERVISOR VACANCY FROM MENDOCINO COUNTY’S THIRD DISTRICT The Appointments Office of Governor Jerry Brown has announced the vacancy of the Mendocino County Third District member of the Board of Supervisors. Mendocino County is comprised of five supervisorial districts. The Third District includes the communities of Willits, Covelo, and Laytonville. The Board of Supervisors, which serves as the legislative and executive body of Mendocino County government and many special districts, is comprised of five full-time members elected by their respective districts. Pursuant to the California Government Code, the Board enacts legislation governing Mendocino County and determines overall policies for County departments and various special districts, adopts the annual budget, and determines salaries. The Board also hears appeals from decisions of various planning related committees and commissions in addition to considering such planning matters as General Plan amendments. The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors' mission is to create and maintain a responsive and responsible government that enhances the quality of life of the people of Mendocino County. The County's mission is to deliver services that meet: Public safety, health, social, cultural, education, transportation, economic, and environmental needs of our communities. Interested parties are welcome to visit the Governor’s Appointments website located here: https://www.gov.ca.gov/m_appointments.php. At this location, interested applicants must: 1) Select the ‘Online Application’ link, 2) Be prompted to initiate the application process, 3) Select “Supervisors, Mendocino County, District 3” under the “Positions Sought” drop down menu, and 4) Then complete the remainder of the application. For more information or assistance with the application process, please contact the Governor’s Appointments Secretary at (916) 445-4541.