Approximately 15 interested residents and five members of the Plumas League of Women Voters attended a public candidates’ forum April 26 in Quincy.
Candidates for the District 5 supervisorial position incumbent supervisor — Jeff Engel, Tim Driscoll and Mimi “Peggy” Garner — were available to answer questions from the audience.
Also attending were incumbent District Attorney David Hollister and incumbent Auditor/Controller Roberta Allen, both running unopposed.
Roberta Allen said she has served as the Plumas County Auditor/Controller for six years.
“It’s busy job,” she said, and a challenging one.
Her department is in charge of paying claims, managing payroll for Plumas County departments, ensuring that departments are sticking to their budgets and tracking grant funding, among other tasks.
“It’s a big job,” she said.
“We’re the ones who have to say ‘wait a minute.’” Allen’s department tracks all departmental requests on paying bills, including anything to do with the board of supervisors’ spending.
District Attorney David Hollister told the audience this will be his third term in that position.
And, for the first time in six years, his department is fully staffed. “It’s a young staff,” he added, but they’re dedicated and energetic.
Hollister said that as district attorney, he represents the people of Plumas County in all criminal cases. “We can’t be popular, we have to be just,” he said.
This is Hollister’s 25th year as a criminal justice attorney. Prior to moving to Plumas County as an assistant district attorney, he worked in Oakland.
“Our work is to make sure that justice is served,” he said. And it’s never been harder to accomplish that, as he sees people changing.
District 5 candidates
The moderator gave each supervisorial candidates a moment to introduce themselves.
Mimi “Peggy” Garner announced that her last name will soon be changing to Bates. She is getting married.
Garner has a variety of experiences to draw on as a supervisor. She helped develop Gold Mountain, is a Realtor, and has experience in marketing and tourism development among others, she said.
Jeff Engel kept his remarks brief, as he did with many of his answers to audience questions during the forum.
He said he’s lived in Plumas County since 1963, graduated from Portola High School and attended Feather River College before moving on to the College of the Redwoods.
His background includes business management as well as finishing his first term as a District 5 supervisor.
“I’m not a blowhard,” he said before ending his comments.
Tim Driscoll is a transplant from the East Coast and said skiing attracted him to the Sierra. He lived for a time in the Truckee area before moving to Calpine, and now resides in Clio.
He is a contractor and owns rental properties in the Portola and Quincy areas.
When his children attended school in Loyalton, he said he was on the school board and gained a lot of valuable information that he believes will help him as a supervisor.
Question: What are the duties of a supervisor? With the hiring of a CAO, do you believe your compensation should be reduced?
Driscoll said he believes a CAO is necessary for accountability and oversight. The job of a supervisor is to work with other supervisors to craft projects and programs for the county.
A CAO is to provide oversight for the budget and to keep an eye on what’s going on, he said. The CAO is an important position and the county needs someone with experience, he added.
He thought the existing salaries now paid to supervisors are adequate.
“I’m the one that championed a CAO even before I got elected,” he said.
He sees government like a corporation and believes it should be run like one.
He said that supervisors are not making large salaries, at least not commensurate with all the duties they perform.
Every corporation needs a CAO, she said and noted that it took the board of supervisors three years “to get it” that they needed one.
She said she thought the salary received by supervisors is fine. She said that she is used to doing a lot of work and her accomplishments show that.
Question: With the initiative for commercial marijuana being put before the voters in November, how will you vote and why?
“I’m against commercial marijuana,” he said. While he realizes that can’t stop the full intent of the state initiative approved by voters, he is still concerned about people’s property rights and home values. He said people don’t want that “skunk smell” that is produced by maturing marijuana. That’s “not fair,” he said.
People have a right to their civil liberties, she said. But she wants to see commercial marijuana growers heavily taxed at the state level and at the county levels and that money should go into the county’s coffers.
In November, she said she’ll see what the people want.
He is against all commercial grows in the county, he said.
He’s watched as the state of Colorado has to contend with the expense of the clean-ups from all the chemicals that have been used in commercial growing.
“I don’t think it brings good things,” he said.
Question: To Mimi Garner. People in Graeagle are saying that your signs are being taken down. Is that true?
Some are missing, was Garner’s response. “I didn’t take ‘em down!” Engel quickly interjected.
Question: For Jeff Engel. When you were elected you promised town hall meetings every six months. Did that come to pass?
Engel said he held some, but he talks to people from all over the county and he believes he’s aware of their issues and concerns. “I promise to try to have more town hall meetings.”
Question: What are your future plans for Plumas County?
“I think there’s a lot of ideas out there,” he said and pointed to what Truckee’s done to attract people.
He said there needs to be more affordable housing. And there’s an elderly crisis. People need more services and housing.
He said the county should offer incentives to developers to bring about what’s needed.
Tourism is a great way to stimulate the economy.
He said that his son is attending college in Boise, Idaho. What is promoted there is a way to draw the residents out to enjoy what they have. It helps build a sense of community.
“We need to market ourselves.”
“Tourism is the thing I’d like to expand on,” she said and discussed the need to collect transient occupancy tax.
She also wants to see the Johnsville Ski Bowl finished. Currently there are a number of groups that use it and they don’t pay a dime to support it. As a member of the Eastern Plumas Recreation District, she said she hears promises of funding, even from supervisors, and it hasn’t materialized.
He said that recreation is bigger than tourism. He wants to see a marketing program that gets people here, like the bike races at Lake Davis.
Engel said that the promoter of those races was denied a permit to hold them by the Forest Service. He said he got together with Barbara Drake from the USFS and she talked to the right people. Now that promoter has a permit not just for one year, but for five years.
And then there’s High Sierra Music Festival that brings in about $75,000 a year to the county.
Question: What are your views on/if Plumas County were to declare as a non-sanctuary county?
Mexicans are great people, she said, but they need to get in line and sign up to become citizens.
When she was working in Mexico raising specialized vegetables for a select market, the first thing she did was to sign up to qualify for that country’s regulations.
She said she didn’t support a sanctuary state.
Driscoll said he’s seen the words that the founding fathers wrote. “I really believe that federal laws trump state laws.”
He believes it’s wrong to have a sanctuary state.
He said there’s a resolution on the upcoming Board of Supervisors’ agenda about whether Plumas County should be a non-sanctuary county. “I’m voting no.”
And the reason why he’s voting no is because of the $25 million grant the county received from the state to build a new jail. He doesn’t want anything to interfere with that grant process. He believes it could be taken away if the state doesn’t like what the county is doing.
Engel said there’s a consent decree involved with the grant and he doesn’t want to do something to lose it. He also said that the resolution is a “paper tiger.”
Question: What will you do or what have you done to get a redemption recycling center in Quincy?
“I’m really into recycling,” he said, but the state is making money and Plumas County isn’t getting its share of the redemption funding returned.
Right now there is only one redemption center in the county.
China’s refusing America’s garbage, she said.
She sees this not as a state or local issue, but as a national one.
He said that one of the problems with redemption centers is that they don’t get paid what they’re owed from the state. He sees this as a state problem and we need to find a way to get recycling. “We hide it over in Nevada,” but we need to find a solution.
Question: Tell me what you think about the children walking and protesting gun control. Do you stand behind them?
He said he was a shotgun shooting coach and teaches kids how to safely and wisely use guns. “It’s a tool,” he said.
He believes that a lot of fear and misunderstanding has been generated by political groups and he stands behind the Second Amendment.
He said that the kids have become political pawns.
He said that he’s a life long member of the NRA. He traditionally has a can of Copenhagen in one pocket and a gun in the other.
He said that guns aren’t the issue; that mental health is.
He sees the Second Amendment as the most important amendment to the Constitution.
Engel said that it’s the video games that are allowed to be produced. They’re extremely violent and promote shooting people. He sees the problem getting worse.
Garner said that she understands that our children are afraid to go to school, but they’re not old enough to understand the issues.
She believes that there needs to be education in the schools about the proper use of guns. “Kids are under extreme emotional stress,” she said, but this would help.
She said she’s been a firearm owner most of her life and that parents need to be responsible for their kids.
Question: Are you in support of universal wired communication for Plumas County rather than wireless, which has been proven to cause cancer?
She said that as a Realtor and a business person she couldn’t do business without the advantages of today’s technologies. She said that she realizes that some people are more prone to getting brain cancer from cell phone use than others. She recommends using the speaker whenever possible.
She doesn’t believe that Plumas County can get around not having towers. And underground is very expensive. She said she will have to look at it all if elected.
“There’s growing evidence about EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies)” and people should act cautiously.
He said that this is very important to Plumas County. People wouldn’t want to move here without it. He said the county must keeping expanding in this area to keep going.
“I don’t want to see a bunch of cell towers,” but there are ways to improve them. For instance, in Arizona they look like palm trees, he said.
Question: For Jeff Engel. Why haven’t you been attending Eastern Plumas Recreation District meetings? Where is the money you promised them?
Engel said he didn’t promise them any money. He added that the district is going in a direction that he doesn’t want them to go in.
He would like to see the Johnsville Ski Hill return. He said that when he was a kid he could take the bus there and spend all day. When he and others returned home they were too tired to get into mischief.
Question: What qualities would you bring to serving as District 5 supervisor?
“I’m a doer,” she said. She likes creative projects and looking to the future to see what they will bring. She likes the idea of a project and how it can succeed, not how people failed at it in the past.
She said she knows marketing. When she was farming in Mexico, her company created 600 jobs. Gold Mountain has created 200 jobs. She said she knows how to do an environmental impact report.
He believes that his time on the school board was great training. “I always showed up prepared,” he added.
He said he’s not polarized. He listens to both sides and tries to find a meeting place.
He believes that leadership is important. “You can’t sit on the fence.” Decisions must be made quickly. “And I stick to it,” just like his decision on sanctuary counties.
He also believes that it’s important that all of the board is convinced of an issue, not just 20 percent.
Question: For Jeff Engel. You say you voted no to salary raises. How much does a supervisor make a year? Did you turn down your pay raise?
Supervisors make about $46,000 a year, he said.
He called himself a nut for saving money and he declined to take a raise three times. “I haven’t taken one,” he said.
He said that he also doesn’t turn in mileage. “That’s how much I care about Plumas County.”
As a wrap up, each candidate was invited to speak once again.
She said that she’s been in the county since 1995. She calls Gold Mountain quite an achievement, although everything has suffered through the recent depression.
She’s interested in Lake Davis and seeing it restored to its pristine condition.
She ended with the quote about the best man for the job is a woman.
He said that he’s had a lot of good department heads to work with. Getting a CAO will help.
He pointed to the Tobin water community development block grant program that nearly failed because of one small problem. He used his contacts with Congressman Doug LaMalfa’s office and got it taken care of.
“I want to be your supervisor.” He said that he’s proud of the way he’s raised his kids and now he wants to help with his county. These are the important things, he said, not how much someone has. “I love it here.” He’s glad he left the East Coast behind.