The board’s longest-sitting supervisor shares perspective
Sherrie Thrall is running unopposed for her third term as District 3 supervisor, representing the Lake Almanor basin.
During the Special District Association meeting held May 7, she addressed the same issues that were asked of the candidates for the District 5 supervisor race, sharing a perspective that more than seven years of serving on the Board of Supervisors brings.
One of those challenges for the county and all of California is the drought. She said the county must be vigilant to protect its water rights, but the drought is also presenting an opportunity for the county to market itself because the lakes are fuller in Plumas than they are elsewhere.
The topic of the transient occupancy tax (TOT) and whether it should be devoted to tourism was discussed.
“It all goes into the general fund,” Thrall said. “There is no regulation that says it has to go into tourism.”
While historically the supervisors allocated money to local chambers, Thrall said the downturn in the economy forced the supervisors to make “tough decisions.”
Looking forward, Thrall doesn’t foresee an increase in the county’s revenue stream, and hoped that the board could maintain the status quo this year.
Thrall sees the biggest responsibility when considering how to allocate funds is public safety.
As far as collecting TOT, Thrall is concerned that the county is missing out on the income from private home rentals.
An audience member asked how many hours the candidates would be willing to devote to the job of supervisor.
“I love this job,” Thrall said. “It’s challenging; it’s different.”
It’s also a job that’s “24/7,” according to Thrall, and she added that she hasn’t been out to dinner without talking to a constituent.
“I love it, but they need to be prepared that this will be their life,” she warned the other candidates.
Both of the candidates on the ballot for District 5 support hiring a county administrative officer (CAO) but are divided about whether this is the right time, given the tight budget.
“Having had both (a CAO and no CAO), I have mixed feelings,” Thrall said.
The job is more time consuming without a CAO, but Thrall said the experience has been a huge education for the machinations of the budget and the inner workings of each department.
“When I make a cut, I know really well who I will be hurting,” she said.
Thrall equates hiring a CAO, at a cost of approximately $150,000, to being able to hire two deputies.
Because the Plumas County Special Districts Association hosted the forum, the candidates were asked about their support of special districts.
“I’ve served on a number of special districts and was elected to those boards,” Thrall said. “It’s the most effective level of government because it’s closest to the people they serve.”
She’s frustrated that few boards are elected, and that most who serve are appointed.
As to whether special districts should join the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo), Thrall said, “I flip-flopped on this.”
As the former director of a special district she enjoyed the benefits of LAFCo without having to pay for them. But now as a supervisor, she thinks it’s important that the special districts “need to be represented at the table. Special districts have no voice.” She suggested that the cost of joining should be on a sliding scale based on the district’s revenue.
In response to a question about how environmental activism impacts the county, Thrall said lawsuits, like that filed against the general plan, cost the county money. “So now we’re taking funds to defend a lawsuit or work out a settlement.”
In delivering her closing remarks, Thrall said, “I consider it the highest honor I have ever been given.”