The 7 p.m. forum included the candidates for District 5 supervisor as well as candidates for county sheriff and assessor. Despite the stormy weather, the event was very well attended, with others watching on social media via livestream.
The evening opened with the two contenders for the position of supervisor for District 5, Incumbent District 5 Supervisor Jeff Engel and challenger Mimi Garner, a Realtor-broker. Each person was allowed two minutes to give an opening statement, beginning with Jeff Engel.
Engel thanked all for attending and the League for holding the event, noting how important the local election process was. Engel went on to express that he had been holding his position on the board of supervisors for the last seven years, and that he had strong roots in the area, with a business operating in Plumas County for the last 40 years.
“I’m kind of a hard nose on the budget with the county, and sometimes they call me the ‘no man’ but this is what you’ve got to do. I think that the county should be run like a business. I see it as the county is a corporation, and you are all stockholders,” Engel said.
Engel also stressed the importance of supporting local business and law enforcement.
Mimi Garner introduced herself as a businesswoman with 45 years of experience. Garner reviewed her work in developing Nakoma Resort and subdividing the Gold Mountain into 400 home sites. “I have been here since 1995, this is my home,” Garner said.
Garner went on to note that she was running for supervisor because she felt that District 5 is not getting the services it needs,” Garner said. “We are squeezed between Quincy and Portola without all the services underfunded and understaffed senior center. We have no sheriff or CHP station.”
Garner expressed that most of the housing in the district was second homes, so “the population is down 50 percent and we basically shut down six months out of the year.” Garner stressed her focus on tourism and getting better services for district five.
Next, the two candidates responded to handwritten questions on index cards that were collected and read aloud by members of the League. Each candidate was given one minute to respond.
“What do supervisors do other than attend meetings?”
Engel responded first, stating that a supervisors’ job never stops. “I don’t even know how to start to explain what a supervisor does. We are on the phone all of the time, it’s just non-stop.”
Garner said with a laugh, “I look forward to getting all of those phone calls. The supervisor needs to be on call to resolve any issues that come about.” Garner also noted that as a real estate broker, she was very familiar with fully researched deals and contracts, and it was not unusual for her to handle calls at all hours.
“What will you do to implement plans to ensure economic growth in Plumas County?”
Engel answered, “I work with a lot of different department heads in the county to streamline, working on economic development in the county. Our main task as supervisors is to enable businesses to start here,” he said.
Garner said that the only way to get people to come to the area was to advertise the county and make a larger investment into marketing. “We bring in property tax and TOT tax. That tax should go towards tourism and I would work towards implementing that, hopefully starting with a five-year plan with the TOT tax being invested to ultimately increase sales, property and gas taxes- it’ll all come back into the coffers.”
“How would each candidate deal with differences of opinion on the board of supervisors?”
Garner responded that it was easy to have a difference of opinion, but that the only way to close a deal was to come to an agreement. “You put everything on the table and get it out there and do your best for everyone to get a win-win situation,” Garner said. “I do this every day in real estate.”
Engel said, “I’ve done it for seven years and it’s not easy after running a business by yourself to have four different partners in a corporation. We’ve got our different viewpoints, but we don’t fight or argue or scream at each other- the worst thing that happens is that someone gets beat up in the papers a little bit.”
“Why is the Plumas County Board of Supervisors unable to increase funding to the sheriff’s department and what do you see as the biggest challenge for the sheriff’s department?”
Engel responded that first, the board wasn’t cutting any funding to the sheriff’s department. “The biggest problem right now that I see is finding more bodies,” Engel said.
“We want to make sure the department is fully funded and that they’ve got all the personnel they need-If we don’t have public security, we’re not going to have anything else folks. You can have all the tourism you want, but you need the sheriff’s department.”
Engel noted that current Sheriff Todd Johns was having trouble finding an applicant for the position of sheriff’s deputy, and that this problem was not limited to Plumas County.
Garner commented that when it comes to the sheriff, it was “obvious that we all support the police force.” She went on to note that on the topic of funding, she would like to form a grant writing department to go after grants for the community service districts.
“We need to make sure that we can fund the sheriff’s department,” Garner said.
“Has either candidate lost grant funds and if so, how did that affect the department?”
Garner responded that she had never lost grant funds, but as a member of the Eastern Plumas Recreation District she had attempted to put in for a grant and not obtained one. “You need to be an artist to write these grants, which is why I would like a grant writing department with people that know how to get the funding from the government,” Garner said.
She explained that she had pursued the idea of a commuter train for the future for Plumas County residents to come to and from the Reno, Nevada area.
Engel stated that he had never written a grant, and then asked the room, “You all know what a grant is, don’t you? That’s money that has been taken away from you and then given back to you in the form of a grant.” The room responded with mixed laughter and scattered applause.
“How have you set an example regarding the pandemic, that you have the county citizens best interests at heart?”
“My best interest was to keep everybody in business, keep the doors open, and keep your livelihood alive,” Engel said. “What is not essential about putting food on the table for your wife and kids?”
Engel went on to state that he felt that the whole thing was blown out of proportion, stating that “he was not and had never been afraid of anything.”
“To me, it was a big waste of time, a total devastation to a lot of small businesses, and I think that it’s been very detrimental to our children’s health and mental well-being,” Engel said. “Don’t get me started.”
Garner then responded that as an independent real estate agent, she had gone through a “total nightmare” of protocols to try and continue her work.
“It’s really unfortunate that we have had to go through this, and I think that we as a community have learned to stand up for our rights. The only mandate I want is no mandate.”
“What will you do to stop the flight of employees leaving Plumas County local government?”
Garner responded briefly that she felt the commuter train she had spoken of earlier could assist in keeping people in the area, expounding on the vision of a commuter train with four hubs between Plumas County and the Reno area to assist in the area transportation options.
“We could put that together over time,” Garner said.
Engel answered definitively that the county needed competitive pay rates.
“We’ve got dispatchers leaving to go work for the bank, and deputies leaving to work for the mill. The county has to go after the TOT tax on vacation and short-term rentals. This is not an easy solve, but I’m trying to keep the critical people we need in this county, and that they get paid what they deserve.”
At this time, each candidate gave a two-minute closing statement to the room.
Garner stated that community seniors deserved better services, and that she would like to see what could be done to get roads resurfaced again. “I’d like to get the Eastern Plumas Rec District up and running again as well,” Garner said. “It services districts one, two and five and we just can’t seem to get volunteers to make a quorum. A lot of the CSD’s have a lot of the same issue.”
Garner also noted that she would like to focus on the Plumas County Special Districts Association, which had been paused during the pandemic. “We need to really support our community service districts, our fire departments, and grant writing would help,” Garner said. “District 5 needs additional support that Portola and Quincy get.”
Engel asked the room if they remembered the ‘legalize cannabis’ issues, saying that they were “defeated pretty unanimously,” and he was proud of that. “This is a refuge to get away from what’s going on in places like Humboldt County. I have enjoyed this job and I take this job very seriously-I thank you for the opportunity folks.”
The forum also included candidates for county sheriff and assessor. Incumbent Sheriff Todd Johns is being challenged by Dwight L. Cline, retired sheriff’s sergeant. Incumbent Assessor Cindie Froggatt faces challenger Amy M. Hendrickson, county chief appraiser. Please see these candidates in a separate article on the Plumas News website, www.Plumasnews.com.