by JUDY HODGSON
IF THE VOTERS
OF THE 5TH DISTRICT WERE HIRING A NEW EMPLOYEE and the résumés
of all six candidates were spread on the table, John Corbett
would easily top the list as most qualified. After all, he's
had the job before. In 1976, at the age of 26, he was appointed
to fill out the term of Supervisor Don Peterson, who had been
hired by the College of the Redwoods as an administrator.
Corbett, an attorney by trade,
also has served on the California Coastal Commission, was a federal
magistrate judge specializing in fishing rights, and currently
sits on the Regional Water Quality Control Board. He has successfully
managed not one but two very large businesses -- an $83 million
warehouse operation in the Bay Area and for the last 18 years
-- the North Coast Co-op, with more than $15 million is sales
last year. His list of community volunteer activities -- from
the Humboldt Child Care Council to the McKinleyville Land Trust's
new vernal pool project -- couldn't possibly fit on a page of
single-spaced type. One of his volunteer gigs this past 10 years
was serving on the county's budget task force. He understands
trust fund accounts and fund balance forwards probably better
than most the supervisors already sitting on the dais.
"My wife says he should
be running for state office," said Mike Harvey, a McKinleyville
insurance agent who is also running for 5th District supervisor,
in a moment of candor.
But fickle voters don't always
pick the most qualified candidate. Plus, Corbett entered the
race late, after he retired from the Co-op in December. And his
last few years of managing the large, sometimes unruly cooperative
grocery store were somewhat contentious. First, the remodel of
the flagship store in Arcata ran overbudget and once it reopened,
restless workers won a vote to unionize.
54, attorney, retired general manager of the North Coast Co-op.
4th generation Humboldt County; managed an $83 million food warehouse
in Bay Area; managed the Co-op for 18 years. Appointed by three
different governors to fill vacancies: Humboldt County Board
of Supervisors (1976), California Coastal Commission (1976) and
Regional Water Quality Board (2001). Community service: Air Quality
Hearing Board, County Budget Task Force, Humboldt Child Care
Council, Taxpayers League, Co-op Foundation, Union Labor Health
Foundation, College of the Redwood Foundation.
"It's the budget." Period. Deteriorating roads, lack
of rural law enforcement are budget problems. "Government
pretends to balance budgets by not doing maintenance. It's not
just the county; it's very clear it goes on in the school districts.
And it's wrong."
Headwaters money? Primary use should be infrastructure,
possibly airport improvement or a marine terminal. Venture capital
fund is too risky. "Bill Gates, Yakima ... couldn't get
the time of day until after they were successful. It's hard for
government to be as smart as business."
Railroad: "We should expend every effort to
make the railroad operational, but we need to monitor the economics."
McKinleyville growth: Need to continue good land-use
planning. Preserve agricultural lands.
McKinleyville incorporation: Favors incorporation
following positive vote of the people.
Parks/trails: "Parks and trails add significantly
to the quality of life."
Accepting CAMP money: If Humboldt County turns
down the funds, it loses control of enforcement. The feds could
step in. Keep the money and enforce strict airspace regulations.
"I really know budget issues at the county level. No other
candidate comes close to my level of experience and knowledge
of county-wide issues."
Expects to spend $17,500 ($10,000 of his own) in the primary.
Corbett said he stands on his
lifetime record of meeting budgets that included 11 major construction
"Only one went above the
budget," he said. "Every person running for supervisor
will be faced with a construction project going over budget at
some time. The issue is, was the problem immediately responded
Corbett says yes. Due to a newer
interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act --other
words, an elevator had to be installed after all --a board of
directors that tried to keep everyone employed no matter what
during the nine-month remodel, Corbett was faced with slashing
$400,000 out of the Co-op's budget in a single year. It was painful,
but he did it and today the store is back in the black and sales
have rebounded. As far as employee unionization, Corbett said
he is supportive of workers' rights, union or no.
If voters don't just pick a
candidate on qualifications, how about specific, measurable accomplishments?
That's the platform that Ben Shepherd is running on even though
he has had two unsuccessful tries for 5th District supervisor
in the past.
It is said that McKinleyville,
with its 14,000 citizens, is the largest noncity in the county.
Growing pains? Big time. But many who have followed the town's
growth over the last two decades give the community some high
marks for achievement. Water, sewer and improved drainage came
first, followed by expansion of the wastewater system. Parks
and recreation were built and financed along with the family-friendly
Hammond Trail. A nice senior center and programs were established
and expanded. A branch library built. McKinleyville has affordable
housing that serves as a bedroom community for Arcata, its growth-shy
neighbor to the south. And yes, those chain stores provide many
of the basic necessities of life -- like burgers, fries, hair
spray and socks.
59, retired elementary teacher, lives in McKinleyville.
Retired in 1998 from Trinidad Elementary after 32 years; owner
of Split Rock Ventures, economic and demographic analysis service.
Community service: 20 years on the board of the McKinleyville
Community Services District; 20 years on the Redwood Region Economic
Development Commission. Headed Measures A and B for McKinleyville
recreational and senior facilities, and library initiative.
"My highest priorities are roads and public safety."
Headwaters money: Use $5 million of the $22 million
for a venture capital fund; additional revolving loans to small
businesses through an agency such as the Redwood Regional Economic
Rural law enforcement: "We need to get the
McKinleyville law enforcement facility staffed."
Water issues: "We have to keep fighting to
get the water back into the rivers." McKinleyville
growth: "McKinleyville has worked to meet its needs
... parks, recreation, senior center, library, law enforcement
McKinleyville incorporation: "A feasibility
study would cost about $100,000. There doesn't seem to be any
source of funding at this time." Trails: "What we have
is a flawed process. 100 miles of trails [as first proposed]
was too much. The midtown trail is an example of a poor decision.
It polarized the community. We should do what we did with recreational
facilities, ask the community if they want an assessment to build
an urban trail system and maintain it."
Accepting CAMP money: Yes. "I am a rural property
owner. I had to call the CAMP team once."
"I have learned in my 20 years in elected office that you
must focus on the community good and you must not be paralyzed
Estimates about $26,000. Says his backers include nearly every
major private employer in the county including Simpson Timber
Co., Sierra Pacific, Sun Valley Floral Farms.
How about Ben Shepherd? He was
there on the board of the McKinleyville Community Services District
for 20 years, chairing the committee for Measure A to establish
recreation powers or pushing for Measure J, the library. It all
happened on his watch, which means he's taking credit for it
all in this election.
In addition, Shepherd was sitting
on the board of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission
for the same 20 years, and RREDC is doing nicely these days,
loaning money to marginal business ventures and helping to implement
the county's overall strategy for economic development.
But just as citizens don't just
vote solely on qualifications, they don't vote solely on accomplishments
either. Sometimes they vote on something intangible, like EQ
-- emotional quotient. Which brings up a discussion of a pair
of political newcomers nipping at the heels of Corbett and Shepherd
-- two 36-year-olds who went to school together at Morris Elementary
in McKinleyville -- Mike Harvey and Jill Geist.
Harvey and Geist are quite different.
Harvey's Humboldt roots, like John Corbett's, are four generations
deep. And he calls himself conservative.
"Technically, I'm the only
Republican in the race even though it's a non-partisan office,"
he said. He has an army of family volunteers who have been out
and about with petitions of support throughout the 5th District.
Personally, he has logged a lot of face-to-face time with clients
to whom he sells insurance.
Geist -- a bit of a rebel who
still rides a motorcycle and horses in her off-time but has reportedly
given up surfing and skateboards -- is more of a policy
wonk. She modestly boasts of her ability to read technical reports
and make sense of them. She says her science background is an
asset when it comes to finding solutions to public policy.
Both Geist and Harvey credit
outgoing Supervisor Paul Kirk with doing a reasonably good job
for the district, but said he didn't always listen carefully
to constituents, especially in the rural reaches of the large
Geist served for two years with
Shepherd before he retired from McKinleyville services district
board. She said she sometimes had issues with how people were
treated when Shepherd was chair.
"It was the manner in which
people were treated when they showed up before the board over
a hot-button issue," Geist said. "I believe we are
there to serve the public first and foremost."
One parent recalled the time
there was an controversy over skateboard damage in the park and
staff was proposing a ban on pretty much anything with wheels
in Azalea Park.
"We had an audience full
of kids and their parents," Geist said. "Rather than
going ahead and doing the decent thing, taking the item off the
agenda and moving it up earlier in the evening, [Shepherd] refused
to do it" and those who waited it out were there until past
10 p.m. on a school night.
Harvey, who is loathe to say
anything negative about anyone, agrees with Geist that the district
needs someone who "is a good listener and treats people
36, insurance agency owner with offices in McKinleyville and
Willow Creek, lives in Blue Lake.
4th generation Humboldt County; business degree from Humboldt
State; community volunteer, coaches basketball.
Adequate representation. "Eastern Humboldt is totally ignored.
It's the forgotten stepchild."
Rural law enforcement: "Safety, security is the
most important service the county provides. Decentralize services.
Put [law enforcement] in the markets where they need to work."
Headwaters money: Low-interest loans, possibly
some venture capital and/or infrastructure such as a small convention
County roads: "The budget's the budget. Maybe
we could try some cheaper overlays on the roads."
McKinleyville incorporation: "It's up to the
people. I can see some benefit and I can see one more layer of
government." Orick concerns: "There were
some issues camping on the beach, gathering wood in county parks,
fishing access and transfer of fishing rights. Communication
[should have been] open earlier."
"The most important thing is I am in touch with people in
every corner of this district. Why does Blanche Blankenship in
Orick support me? Gloria Thompson in Blue Lake? The majority
of the tribal council in Hoopa? The apple farm people in Fieldbrook,
Grant Ramey? They trust me."
Not taking donations of money in the primary only plywood and
paint. "I have my whole family working on this: my second
cousin, Carole St. John she's a Sutter my great aunt, Dorothy
36, environmental compliance analyst for the city of Arcata,
lives in McKinleyville.
From Los Angeles, moved to McKinleyville to attend elementary
school, high school and Humboldt State. Community service: Citizens
advisory committee for McKinleyville general plan update, McKinleyville
Community Services District, Redwood Region Economic Development
Commission, Humboldt Bay Shellfish Technical Advisory Committee,
Redwood National Park Association.
"Representation. Constituents are not being listened to.
Look at Walton Paving in Blue Lake asphalt trucks running day
and night. It wasn't until it reached a crisis. Same thing for
Redwood National Park. ... Agencies have a bureaucratic speak.
Public input is often from an emotional base. They have to connect."
Headwaters money: "Venture capital, no. Loans,
OK." Infrastructure? "Maybe, but it won't go far."
McKinleyville growth: "It's phenomenal, not
that it's bad as long as it's well planned. That's all you can
McKinleyville incorporation: "We need to look
at it. If it's something the community wants, we can raise the
money for a feasibility study. It may turn out to be a no-net
[revenue balancing expenses] and that could make incorporation
County budget: "It's under better control
than five years ago. I would like to see discretionary funds
returned to their original purposes, like the tobacco money [that
was spent partially on roads]."
Rural law enforcement: "I was mortified when
there was that meeting in King Salmon and no sheriff. We're got
to do more to pull together."
Water/river issues: "We need a [water] policy
coordinator like Trinity County. We don't have any one person
paying attention." Accepting CAMP money: Yes,
but the sheriff needs to be responsive to citizens' complaints.
"From a technical perspective, I have the ability to critically
evaluate plans. I can read through a report and say, that's not
going to work or, how do we implement this? A lot of times it's
about taking an existing policy, modifying it and making it honor
its original intent. "
Expects to spend $6,000 in the primary.
Also in the race are two men
who are relative newcomers to the district, as was Paul Kirk
when he first ran to succeed Anna Sparks.
Vic Taylor, who has been on
the county's Human Rights Commission, is often seen shaking hands
at chamber of commerce meetings or Lions Club breakfasts sporting
an American flag tie and a union pin on his lapel. Taylor happens
to have an insider's view of one big county department. After
he retired as an administrative analyst for Pacific Bell in 1992,
he went to work in a similar capacity for county mental health
and now works primarily for the new combined department that
provides social and health services to the county's youth.
And then there's Daniel Pierce
who says he was thrust into the race after an unpleasant encounter
with a pair of deputy sheriffs when they showed up at the wrong
house with guns drawn.
All the candidates said they
have learned a lot from each other and after two months of hard
campaigning, they've even formed a special bond.
"Everybody brings something
different to the table," Harvey said. "Ben brings a
broad range of experience, so does Corbett -- totally different
approaches. Vic's a nice guy. Daniel bring up some good points.
And Jill -- I like Jill. She's my friend. She was so nervous
at the KEET debate. They had to tell her to spit her gum out
before she went on the air."
Corbett was equally complimentary
"I learned a lot from him
at the forum in Orick. He's really good at connecting with people."
And win or lose, Corbett was philosophical:
"We've got some good people
in this race."
57, administrative analyst
for county mental health, lives in Trinidad.
Moved to Humboldt County in 1990; retired in 1992 as administrative
analyst for Pacific Bell. Currently a labor steward for county
employees. Community involvement: Trinidad Lions Club, Visitor's
Bureau, Human Rights commissioner. Worked on Paul Kirk's campaign
Improve the quality of the county employee base. "We have
a really high turnover. People find jobs that pay more, they
are frustrated. We don't have the training; we don't have supervisors
who understand the contracts. We need to focus on service improvement."
Rural law enforcement: The sheriff calls the shots.
"The board has no authority."
Headwaters money: Keep $14-$16 million to generate
interest; fund more revolving loans; infrastructure only after
Water/river issues: "County doesn't have a
lot of leverage. We need to continue to partner with others like
the Round Valley tribe on the Eel River."
McKinleyville growth: "I'm not sure I buy
into the talk that it is a boom town. Yes, it's different now
than 20 years ago, but it's also not referred to as Oklahoma
by the Sea very often anymore."
McKinleyville incorporation: "The cards are
probably stacked against it [financially]. I'd like to see an
Trails: "They're great, but they need to be
more along the roadways, less like the Silkwood subdivision where
we've had a lot of vandalism."
Accepting CAMP money: A qualified yes. No helicopters
too low "creating a war zone."
"I am the only one to advocate that we need to have a cultural
officer within the county to take away the stigma that the tribes
are in the minority, that they feel they have no access, that
they are invisible."
Plans to spend about $5,000 ($3,500 of his own) in the primary.
43, handyman, self-employed, lives in McKinleyville.
Born in San Diego, moved to Southern Humboldt in late '70s and
became a partner in a marijuana-growing operation on an 80-acre
parcel. "Everyone was growing. The people below us were
pornography people from San Francisco. The people above us were
Hare Krishnas." After a two-year trip to India, he returned
and became a truck driver and mechanic. Was employed at the Cummings
Road landfill until injured in 1988. Today, "I own my own
home, I grow my own food, I wheel and deal."
Marijuana. "If you don't know by now, I'm the one who is
trying to legalize marijuana and stop CAMP from wrecking the
community and taking away our civil rights." Besides, "It's
a religious-freedom issue."
Railroad: Open the railroad from Arcata to Scotia
Rural law enforcement: "Let's arm citizens
with video cameras."
Citizens police oversight committee: "Absolutely.
We are wasting our time prosecuting citizens who don't need to
McKinleyville growth: "There's no stopping
it. I like Kmart, except when all the mud went into Mill Creek."
McKinleyville incorporation: "It ain't going
to happen. There's no [tax] base. The only thing missing is police
protection, but we seem to be doing a good job of community watch."
Headwaters money: Plant trees. "Use it for
seed money and plant trees everywhere public property, private
property. Then in 40 years, we'll have trees."
Economic development: "Humboldt County needs
a [marijuana] cooperative just like Wall Street, with prices
going up and down, bringing people together who are buying and
selling cannabis. Now people use chemicals and pesticides and
buyers don't know what they're getting."
Accepting CAMP money: "No, no, no."
"God pushed me into this race. These other guys are looking
for a title, I'm looking for a job."
Says he has spent nothing on campaign. Paid his own filing and
candidate statement fees.
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