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Election forums schedule over the next month

Feather Publishing

The League of Women Voters of Plumas County will hold a series of election forums over the next month:    
Monday, April 19, Greenville Town Hall
Thursday, April 22, Graeagle Fire Hall
Monday, April 26, Quincy Library
Thursday, April 29, Portola Memorial Hall
Thursday, May 6, Chester Memorial Hall
All forums begin at 7 p.m.

Countywide races include sheriff Greg Hagwood facing challenger Bob Shipp. County assessor Chuck Leonhardt is in a race with real estate broker Mike Gardner. The candidates for District 5 county supervisor are J.P. Kennedy, Richard Lundy and Ralph Wittick.

Elected officials who face no opposition, and will not appear at the forums, are District 3 Supervisor Sherrie Thrall, school superintendent Glenn Harris, clerk-recorder Kathy Williams and auditor Shawn Montgomery. Assistant county treasurer Julie White will run unopposed for the position of treasurer-tax collector, and there’s no contest for Deputy District Attorney David Hollister’s bid for district attorney.
Elections for Portola City Council, city clerk and city treasurer will be held in November.
Vote-by-mail ballots for the June 8 primary election will be sent out by the elections clerk’s office May 10. May 24 is the final day to register to vote in the primary.
Following is an introduction to the candidates for contested countywide seats. Candidate’s statements are presented in alphabetical order by last name.

Name: Mike Gardner
Occupation: Real estate broker, general contractor, certified access specialist (CASp), former restaurant owner
Years in Plumas County: 21

What qualifications do you bring to the job of assessor?
My name is Mike Gardner. Times are tough on everyone and the last thing you need is to pay more property taxes than your property is worth.
Following my service in the military I became a real estate broker. I have extensive experience in land and real estate appraisal with a full understanding of all facets of the real estate business having been a broker for 30 years. I owned and operated my own real estate office with 13 agents. Also, became a general contractor in 1984, building homes in Plumas County since 1989. I understand the costs and hard work associated with building. After moving into Plumas County, I worked with developers establishing values and selling property for over 15 years. We own several properties in the county. In the ‘90s my wife, Eli, of 25 years, and myself, owned and operated Gumba’s Pizzeria in Blairsden, where we met many of you. We learned the hard reality of taxation and how hard it is to make it under the burdens of government. I believe “we the people” are the employers and not the employees.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the office of assessor?
As I see it, bringing the office back to the people where they become the prime focus. This means listening and responding to them.
Being fiscally responsible as the head of the department. Making sure we assess properties to current 2010 values so the taxpayers aren't paying more than their fair share. If you have bought property in the past 10 years, more than likely you are paying too much in taxes. Real estate has not been selling in this county and comparables are a challenge due to the devastating downturn in the economy. I have the experience to make those decisions fairly and with accuracy and inform the taxpayers how we come up with their new assessment.
This brings me to changing the attitude in the assessor's office. I will work hard to inform and work hand in hand with the people so we work as a partner instead of as an adversary. Since elected office is not a place to make a lifetime career, my focus will be upon you, the people.

How do you propose to meet those challenges?
As assessor, I will listen to you. I will keep in touch with my board of directors, which is you the people. Being responsible for many employees over the years and being the one responsible for whether or not the business succeeds, I know what it takes to deal with any challenge. This is not the first time in my life I have seen a downturn in the economy. I will be proactive in solving problems, not slow and reactive.
My perspective on being fiscally responsible comes from me risking my own hard earned dollar in order to make a dollar under the burdens of government taxation. This has been lost on today's government. Staying conservative and working within a budget is important. You do it at home. I will do it as your assessor.
As one who believes that elected office should not be an entitlement position and a career I believe I'm the new blood needed for Plumas County. There is one answer that accomplishes all challenges. Hard work!
I will bring new ideas and lots of energy to the assessor's office; you may find you will share my enthusiasm.
Vote for me June 8; thank you.

Name:  Charles W. (Chuck) Leonhardt
Occupation:  Plumas County assessor
Years in Plumas County:  45

What qualifications do you bring to the job of assessor?

Our family has been involved in ranching and local businesses in Plumas County since 1938. I have 33 years experience in the real estate, banking and professional appraisal fields. In my 22-year tenure as a professional appraiser, including being a staff appraiser with Great Western Savings, Bank of America and as the owner of Appraisal Services, I have performed professional appraisals in 13 counties in northeastern California and western Nevada.  This experience included the Truckee and the Lake Tahoe Basin, Reno, the Nevada City/Grass Valley market and the Yuba/Sutter region. I have worked predominately in the Plumas County area since the early 1990s.   I have performed appraisals in multiple economic cycles and have experience with declining market conditions. My job experience includes the valuation of complex real and personal property. Beginning in 1986, I have instructed real estate principles, appraisal and finance courses at Feather River College. I hold or have held licenses or certificates as a real estate agent, broker, real estate specialist, preferred banker, certified appraiser, certified appraiser for property taxes and an advanced appraisal certificate issued by the California State Board of Equalization. For the past 13 years I have served as the Plumas County Assessor.    

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the office of assessor?
The current volatile real estate market and the reductions in staffing that have occurred over the past few years due to the county’s need to adjust to the economic downturn.

How do you propose to meet those challenges?

Since becoming assessor, I have made significant investments in technology and training.
Our mapping department has converted from pen and ink drafting to a state-of-the-art digital mapping system with GIS components. In 1999 the office converted from a legacy computer program to a state-of-the-art integrated property tax system.  That system is currently being used in 22 counties in California.  This is the largest network of counties on a similar system in the state. Plumas County enjoys features and efficiencies that would not have been possible without that network of counties.   I have developed a website to make property tax information available on the web. This includes needed forms, reference materials and recently, we have added property search information and maps.
In coordination with Placer and Monterey counties, I have implemented an automated method of making value changes on large scales where our valuations models allow.  
I have developed an organized method of receiving, tracking and processing requests for “Decline in Value” reviews tendered by taxpayers and made the applications available both in the office and on the Internet.   
I have made a significant investment in the assessor’s office staff, promoting ongoing professional training and when possible cross training. I have retained experts in specialized fields to assist us in areas such as golf course appraisals that require a more regional scope. I meet with staff on a weekly basis to review current market trends on a national, regional and local basis. My staff and I are currently organizing and analyzing the market activity from Jan. 1, 2009, through March 31, 2010, to determine the appropriate trending for the 2010 property tax roll.

Name: Gregory Hagwood
Occupation: Plumas County sheriff
Years in Plumas County: Resident since 1975

What qualifications do you bring to the job of sheriff?
As I enter my 22nd year at the Plumas County Sheriff's Office, I have accumulated extensive experience, with increasing levels of responsibility, including administrative and supervisory roles. I have held the positions of deputy, D.A.R.E. officer, reserve deputy program coordinator, investigator, patrol sergeant, investigations sergeant, chief deputy coroner, acting undersheriff and appointed sheriff.
I have a proven record of success in establishing and maintaining productive relationships with the sheriff's office employees, county department heads, the Board of Supervisors, the district attorney's office and allied agencies.
My experience, my bachelor's degree in criminal justice from California State University, Sacramento, and specialized law enforcement training and certification have provided me with the foundation and expertise to effectively enforce the law and protect the community while also ensuring that citizens' rights are preserved and respected.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the office of sheriff?

One of the biggest challenges facing the sheriff's department is the same issue that is currently affecting all county and state agencies: providing an excellent level of service to the community while addressing the harsh realities of limited financial resources.
Because of financial restraints, the sheriff's office currently has unfilled positions, including several at the administrative level. Establishing the sheriff's office as a trusted institution in our communities is essential.
Another major challenge is establishing a mindset in the agency that service to the community is above all else. Creating and maintaining a cooperative, constructive relationship with the employees’ association is absolutely necessary to ensure that fair, equitable treatment is the expected standard. Restoring the employees’ trust in the sheriff's administration is a process that I have been actively addressing for the past year.

How do you propose to meet those challenges?
As your sheriff, I am already facing, addressing and overcoming these challenges. The challenge of providing service to the community while addressing budget issues is difficult, but achievable.
The department can save money by temporarily leaving the vacant administrative positions unfilled. Taxpayers have every right to expect that the sheriff will devise and implement ways of handling administrative responsibilities when funding will not allow the agency to fill those positions. It specifically means that I will be at work every single day, meeting administrative obligations.
Equally important, our first staffing priority is making certain that our service positions — deputies and dispatchers and others — are staffed before administration jobs are addressed. I must lead by example and embody those qualities and traits that I expect of others. It is essential that the agency staff be supported and developed and that I show confidence in the men and women of the department. One of the ways to meet these challenges is to continue, and further develop, community involvement. For example, I established, and will expand, our citizen liaison committee to promote community involvement with the sheriff's office and communication with the Board of Supervisors.

Name: Bob Shipp
Occupation: Retired from law enforcement
Years in Plumas County: Two decades

What qualifications do you bring to the job of sheriff?

I have 36 years in law enforcement, having worked 18 years in the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office and 18 years in the Plumas sheriff’s office. I have worked in all three divisions; patrol, detention and investigation. My experience includes specialty assignments, such as, but not limited to: training officer, training officer coordinator, narcotics investigations, SWAT team member, SWAT team leader, Tri-County SWAT team coordinator and trainer, hostage negotiations training officer and defensive tactics instructor (weapon defense, firearms and baton).
I also have over 11 years as a sergeant including patrol sergeant, detention sergeant, administration sergeant, search and rescue coordinator and narcotic sergeant. In these assignments I was responsible for tracking of budget, grant and undercover “buy money” as well as the purchase of related fixed assets.
I know the job and I know the weaknesses and strengths of the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office. I believe I can lead the sheriff’s office into a new era of greater responsibility and accountability.
I will work with the men and women of the sheriff’s office to build on its strengths, improve on its weaknesses and create an environment of trust and cooperation with the public.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the office of sheriff?

We are in a serious economic downturn and it has impacted most of us. An environment where one governing body has control of the money and everyone else is dependant on how it is divided up is a formula for contention and dissention. The trick is not to let it become hostile and divisive.
I have worked with several types of budget processes, such as program based budgeting, zero base budgeting, line item budgeting, which is what the county uses. Working with any budget process presents a challenge. It always takes a lot of study and hours of work to be presented correctly for the best results.
I have the skill and the personnel to accomplish the very best results.
But there are other issues as well. When I talk to people in the different communities, it becomes clear that they have trust issues with the sheriff’s office. When I talk to personnel at the sheriff’s office, they also have trust issues with the sheriff’s administration. I am told morale is low. The solution is leadership, responsibility and accountability. I will bring new leadership in the form of experience, wisdom and dedication to these problems.

How do you propose to meet those challenges?
Dealing with the budget is a difficult process. However, knowledge and preparation are vital. You can’t sit down and talk about the budget without a thorough knowledge of what you need as well as what is available. I will create a partnership where both parties understand the capabilities and needs of the other and both are willing to work for the benefit of the citizens of the county. This is how to reach a solution that benefits all parties concern. Certainly that is what I will bring to the table.
On the issue of citizen trust and personnel morale, I believe I have the knowledge and character to lead this office in this area as well. You won’t find anyone more passionate about improving the sheriff’s office image in every community. I have talked to citizens, school personnel and business people all over the county. Each wants a sheriff’s office that in fully involved in a partnership with them to make their community safer.
Every member of the sheriff’s office wants an administration that has the integrity to treat them honestly, fairly and with the respect they deserve as committed employees of this sheriff’s office.

Name: John Kennedy
Occupation: Bank manager
Years in Plumas County: Born 1965, in Quincy

What qualifications do you bring to the job of supervisor?
In addition to my experience as a business owner, mediator, parent, firefighter and involved member of the community, I believe my most significant qualification as county supervisor is my concern for others and the successful future of our county. I bring a lifetime of diverse knowledge that will enable me to work cooperatively toward improving local business, representing Plumas County on statewide issues, resolving county matters in a practical manner, advancing our children’s education and fighting to keep our police, fire and emergency medical services as effective as possible.
I intend to devote my time and expertise, for many years ahead, to preserving and improving Plumas County. My pledge to Plumas County is a long-term commitment.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the office of supervisor?

I believe the single most challenging issue facing Plumas County is the current state of the economy. One of the principal challenges the supervisor will face is developing methods whereby our economy can be improved upon. Some additional challenges the supervisor will encounter are improving education, ensuring private property rights, providing for public safety, and maintaining quality emergency fire and medical care. Additionally, it will be extremely important to assist the General Plan working group in developing a viable, cohesive, updated General Plan.
Further, it is important to me that I demonstrate to the citizens of Plumas County that the Board of Supervisors will continue to be accessible and accommodating.

How do you propose to meet those challenges?

If elected supervisor I promise to recognize that it is the citizens of Plumas County who will have the seat at the board, not just me. I will establish monthly forums whereby the citizens of Plumas County will be solicited to share input and opinions on current issues.
I will work diligently to improve our local tourism and to ensure the transient occupancy tax is being utilized to effectively market our county. I will encourage business, private and public, on the importance of local financial support.
I will work hard to create a more defined boundary between Sacramento and our county. I will use my resources to stay current on proposed legislation being introduced that may negatively affect our local economy.

Name: Richard (Dick) Lundy
Occupation: Semi-retired civil engineer
Years in Plumas County: 38

What qualifications do you bring to the job of supervisor?
I have over 30 years experience as a professional engineer, managing my own business, working in the land planning and project management fields.
Most of this work has been here in Plumas County thereby giving me a working relationship with several Plumas County departments, primarily public works, planning and environmental health. I have also presented and represented numerous projects before the planning commission and Board of Supervisors.
I believe this private sector experience will prove valuable in the transition from the private to the public.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the office of supervisor?

There are numerous issues, too numerous to mention here. The general state of the economy coupled with new state mandates and ongoing litigation make it very difficult for our local government to function efficiently. The challenge is not only dealing with these issues but dealing with them during a period when tax revenue is decreasing.

How do you propose to meet those challenges?
I am pursuing information regarding a multitude of issues now before the board. However, I will seek, and need, the assistance from the other board members before I would consider myself up to speed and capable of making rational informed decisions on any of the issues.
I am a strong supporter of the special districts. Efficiency in this area solves many problems. They need to be properly managed and financed.
As a board member I would continue to support the Plumas County Economic Recovery Committee as it pursues all viable means to help the local community.
I also would support and pursue a seat on the larger coalition called the Sustainable Forest Action Coalition. This is a growing coalition of several counties, organizations and businesses within these counties attempting to form a base strong enough to influence both state and federal legislators and legislation. I believe this necessary for the counties to recover and reach self-sustainment.
Litigation involving the General Plan is a tough one. There is case after case involving the contents of General Plan and the requirement that there be no conflicts between elements. Updating our General Plan is a formidable task that I wish to follow closely.

Name: Ralph Wittick
Occupation: Realtor, retired radio station owner
Years in Plumas County: Nearly 40

What qualifications do you bring to the job of supervisor?
My ownership and managing radio stations from 1973 until 1996, in Plumas County, have given me great insight as to how this county works. I have lived in this county for almost 40 years, and love the quality of life we have here, and only want to make it better. I definitely know how to manage, to budget, to lead and to make things happen in a positive way.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the office of supervisor?
Number one: jobs.
Number two: we are spending too much money; we have to live within our revenues.
Number three: the new hospital for Quincy.

How do you propose to meet those challenges?
I will do all I can to work with and protect existing private industries within the county, and where possible, help them to grow and expand. I will also strive to attract new industries with tax incentives, and other amenities where possible.
The year 2011 will be crucial in our history insofar as the budget goes. The board must meet immediately at the first of the year, and confer with all county employees and unions, to discuss how we can all work together to balance the budget, with the least amount of inconvenience to our valuable county employees.
Plumas County has three hospitals for a little over 20,000 residents. Under existing government rules and regulations, it is virtually impossible for our hospitals to meet current and future mandates. Quincy needs a new hospital; however, the proposed facility is not feasible under present economic conditions.
As your supervisor, I will get with other counties that have similar problems, and ask the state to pass a "Best Efforts Law" that will allow small hospitals to provide the best possible health care, considering the funds that are available. The state must recognize that smaller counties cannot comply with big city mandates and continue to provide quality healthcare.

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