Latest News

Meet the supervisor candidates

Merced City Councilman Jim Sanders and former Merced Mayor Hub Walsh are in a run-off election for the District 2 seat on the Merced County Board of Supervisors. The following article was initially published prior to the June election.

JIM SANDERS

Age: 60

Occupation: Merced City Councilman; Founder and President, Merced Community Action Network

Political affiliation: Democrat

Education: Merced High School graduate, attended Merced College

Family: two sons, one grandchild

Hobbies: spending time with family; founding member of the Beatles Project, a Beatles tribute band

Web site: www.jimsanders2008.com



Q: Why are you running for supervisor?

A: The issues before the county -- public safety and economic growth -- demand that this election offer the people a real choice for real change. That is why I have declared my intention to run. It is the goal of my candidacy to bring my 15 years of experience working directly with the residents of Merced through working with police, residents, other city departments and the business community to reenergize the Neighborhood Watch program. I am the co-founder and developer of Tag Busters, the graffiti abatement program in Merced that helps rid the community of the visual blight of graffiti. I am in my second term on the Merced City Council where I have actively worked to provide solutions to the problems Merced has faced. In June 2004, I presented to the City Council and the community the initial plan for hiring more police officers and firefighters that was later approved by the voters as Measure C.





Q: What are the two most important issues you can address – and have an impact upon – as a member of the Board of Supervisors?

A: Merced County is one of the top agriculture producing counties in the nation. Yet, our county is better known throughout the country for its manufacture of methamphetamine and other illegal drug activity. We are better known for our criminal gangs and gang violence and for our higher-than-average teen pregnancy rates, low wages and mortgage foreclosures. If our communities are not safe and our residents live in fear, they aren't safe for business. To move effectively in eliminating crime, drugs and gang activity while improving the climate for more economic development, job creation and a better quality of life, public safety has to be the top priority. Better-paying jobs and bigger paychecks in the hands of our workers are how we can add the fuel to drive Merced County's economic engine and thus reverse the negatives that plague our county and drive down the quality of life. Without more sheriff's deputies, more resources for the District Attorney and Probation Department, businesses will continue to pass us by and take their better-paying jobs somewhere else. Public Safety: this is where we start to transform Merced County! These are the reasons I am running for supervisor. I believe the government belongs to the people. It should, without question, be open to the people. As your supervisor for District 2, I will work to make sure the computer paper and supplies are put in the back room and not our decision-making.





Q: What's your campaign strategy? How much do you expect to spend campaigning?

A: As a candidate for the City Council in 2001, I knocked on about 2,000 doors prior to the election. It is my intention to do the same this year with my effort being supplemented by volunteers. With respect to expenditures, my campaign will raise enough to be competitive.



Q: How would you rate the performance of the current board? Is there anything it should have been done differently?

A: Hindsight is, of course, 20-20. Having said that, had I been a member of the board when the pay-for-performance idea was proposed, I would have voted against it. And, had I been a member of the board when the issue of sick-leave pay for board members was adopted, I would have voted against it. Supervisors are not county employees and shouldn’t be compensated for a benefit to which they are not entitled. Finally, had I been a board member when the Riverside Motorsports Park was proposed, I would have demanded a more complete and thorough environmental impact report and urged staff to more thoroughly check the background of the raceway’s sponsors. As a member of the board, I will propose that board meetings be televised live as another way of making county government open to its residents.





Q: What distinguishes the needs of your supervisorial district from the others?

A: Since much of District 2 is within the boundaries of the city, the supervisor representing it need to have effective working relationships with key city staff and departments. Recently, it came to light that employees of a county facility within the city were using a neighborhood’s streets as a high-speed shortcut to work. This problem could have stopped before it started with a couple of phone calls to the right people. Also, the homeless issue and the delivery of county social services within the city requires that the 2nd District supervisor and the city work together in a way that expedites the delivery of services.





Q: The state's looming budget crisis will undoubtedly affect counties across California. If elected, how will you approach the county's budget to ensure the public is well served in times of cutbacks?

A: The state budget crisis demands that the county’s budget process be open and accessible to county residents. After all, the budget belongs to the people it serves and should reflect their priorities and values. Across-the-board cuts won’t work. Instead, I propose that budget hearings be held throughout the county to involve residents in the budget process. Further, while the county puts the budget online, that effort should be supplemented with an executive summary of the county’s spending program written in plain English.





Q: Merced County has seen unprecedented growth in the last decade. Have the county's public officials done an effective job managing that growth?

A: The current housing crisis demands that the board manage growth in a real hands-on fashion. Too many county communities have blocks of new houses that are vacant and nothing more than contemporary slums – empty houses with fresh paint and new stucco. And since Merced County’s economic engine is driven by agriculture, we need to make sure that we are not unnecessarily paving over productive land just for the sake of growth. The expected growth in the San Joaquin Valley in the next 20 years requires a commitment to regional planning on a host of issues including water, air quality, ag land preservation, transportation and our infrastructure. The county’s long-range planning needs to properly reflect these future demands.





Q: One of the most important tasks of any public board is to hire a nonelected chief executive. What is your take on the performance of County Executive Officer Dee Tatum? What qualities would you look for in his successor once he retires at the end of this year?

A: The board should look upon the forthcoming retirement of Dee Tatum as an opportunity to involve county residents in the selection process. The next county chief executive should be someone familiar with the Central Valley and its issues, a successful manager and an outstanding communicator who believes that government should be open and honest.





Q: Anything else you want voters to know?

A: The Sanders family has lived and worked in Merced County for more than 100 years, experiencing the changes and challenges that have confronted the county for most of its history. My service as a city council member and as founder and president of the Merced Community Action Network follows a long tradition of community service by members of my family. My experience as an elected official and community activist gives me, I believe, a unique perspective on how government makes decisions. My record on the City Council shows I am not afraid to make tough choices and that people will always know where I stand on the issues.





CASEY STEED


Age: 45

Occupation: Owner, Steeds Electric Service; State of California licensed Electrical contractor

Political affiliation: Republican

Education: high school graduate, attended Merced College

Family: two children

Hobbies: home improvement, raising cattle, dirt-biking, fishing, restoring Opel GT cars



Q: Why are you running for supervisor?

A: I see an opportunity for new leadership to guide my district and our county through some very difficult times ahead. The old way of doing things has not necessarily served the public well. I have the ability to listen to people and develop consensus among differing views. Being a Merced County supervisor is a full-time job, and I will treat it as such. Carrying out the duties of this office will be my only focus for the entire term. I have a new vision for our future.



Q: What are the two most important issues you can address – and have an impact upon – as a member of the Board of Supervisors?

A: We tend to get the short end of the stick when it comes to state funding. We need to craft our general plan to be even more supportive of self-sufficient enterprises, focusing less on the growth of our county's cities and more on sustaining and diversifying our agricultural base. The UC Merced campus and its surrounding community will have a huge impact on the county. The UC administration and the county will have to work together to bring about the best outcome for the public. I feel I can have a positive impact on this process.





Q: What qualifies you to serve on the Board of Supervisors? Why are you better suited to serve than your opponents?

A: I have had experience running my own business for over 15 years. I have managed various types of projects for the last 25 years with multimillion-dollar budgets. As a county resident, I have experienced the lopsidedness of an outdated general plan that has been encouraging sprawl. As a newcomer to Merced's political scene I have no baggage or obligations. I am a clean slate and a new broom. I have been learning new skills all my life. To now put them to use to get some specific things working better in Merced County has become a passion for me.





Q: What's your campaign strategy? How much do you expect to spend campaigning?

A: I'm on a pretty steep learning curve with regard to becoming a supervisor. I have a campaign manager who is in charge of getting my name out there. Interestingly, I find the Internet is probably going to be a great tool in this race. My IT guys are always coming up with ideas. I don't know how much it's going to cost, but I want to do intelligent advertising and not a carpet-bombing exercise. The most valuable thing I can receive is the people's vote. It's priceless. I just need to distinguish myself from my opponents on issues that matter to the people of Merced County and not worry so much about raising money.



Q: How would you rate the performance of the current board? Is there anything it should have been done differently?

A: The current board has certainly been irritating to me in some of their decisions over the last few years. Obviously, I feel I would have voted differently on any number of issues. I think that the board does so many routine things where there is no public input and many times are voted on at once. When a vote on something divisive comes up, there is a tendency to vote in lock-step rather than taking input from the public. Of course, I will have to experience that interchange from the other side of the dais before I say for sure that things should have been done differently, but when I'm elected I will be dealing with what is on my plate at the time. I understand that much of this position has a life of its own, but I'm anxious to add my influence to the mix.





Q: What distinguishes the needs of your supervisorial district from the others?

A: The UC and the issues of sprawl and growth. The supervisors are like the mayor and city council of a couple of areas in the county, like Castle and the future UC Community between the campus and Yosemite Avenue. As UC Merced is in my district, there is a greater emphasis on smart growth and intelligent transportation solutions between the growth centers we have developed and nurtured during the housing boom. I'd like to see a light-rail system connecting Castle/Atwater, Merced and the UC Merced campus.





Q: The state's looming budget crisis will undoubtedly affect counties across California. If elected, how will you approach the county's budget to ensure the public is well served in times of cutbacks?

A: I'm a conservative person and would deal with the budget conservatively. I would have to give specific thought to each budget item in order to be able to say that cutting or leaving that particular item would best serve the residents of the county. I've never looked at every item in the county budget yet so I haven't made up my mind how to best serve the county in times of cutbacks. I don't believe an arbitrary percentage cut across-the-board will be the answer. I don't have the institutional history of the county to hinder me from entertaining new ideas about budgeting.





Q: Merced County has seen unprecedented growth in the last decade. Have the county's public officials done an effective job managing that growth?

A: The growth in Merced County was artificially stimulated by the location of the UC and the perceived under-value of land by developers and speculators compared to other areas of the state. While a few have benefited from that growth, for the rest of us, it's been a mixed blessing at best. I'm not happy with the trend towards gentrification and gated communities, especially unfinished ones. I would have required the promised public improvements, such as bike trails and parks, to have been completed prior to breaking ground on the first house of a subdivision. I watched the board bet the ranch and lose, gambling with slick developers who ended up broke with unfinished projects. The public deserves better.





Q: One of the most important tasks of any public board is to hire a nonelected chief executive. What is your take on the performance of County Executive Officer Dee Tatum? What qualities would you look for in his successor once he retires at the end of this year?

A: I have met with Mr. Tatum and believe that he has tried to improve the county and its customer service over time. No one disagrees that more work needs to be done. The hiring of a new CEO who will continue to facilitate these much-needed changes is necessary if we are going to attract business and keep our existing customers satisfied. The new CEO will need to be able to help guide the board with the assistance of the county's legal staff.



Q: Anything else you want voters to know?

A: I have the ability to work with others to obtain results and will always seek the best deal for the public good. If the voters have any questions of me, they can contact me via e-mail (steed4supervisor@att.net). I look forward to meeting them at some point down the road. Please vote on June 3rd.







HUB WALSH


Age: 57

Occupation: Director of Social Services, Madera County

Political affiliation: Democrat

Education: associate's degree from Merced College, bachelor's degree in psychology and sociology from UC Berkeley, master's degree in social science from Pacific Lutheran University, master's in business administration from CSU Stanislaus

Family: married 32 years, two children, one grandson

Hobbies: playing with grandson, sports, golf, yard work, community and church activities

Web site: www.hubwalsh.com



Q: Why are you running for supervisor?

A: I am running for Merced County supervisor because I want to continue my public and community service to the residents of Merced County.



Q: What are the two most important issues you can address – and have an impact upon – as a member of the Board of Supervisors?

A: Public Safety, especially as it relates to gangs and the drug epidemic. And planning for growth, not only the process, but also making sure required infrastructure and services are included in the discussion.





Q: What qualifies you to serve on the Board of Supervisors? Why are you better suited to serve than your opponents?

A: I have over 30 years of community and public service experience. This includes volunteer service and leadership responsibilities in local groups and organizations. I also have 10 years of elected policy-making experience on the Merced City Council as both a council member and as mayor. I have professional work experience in two counties. In both professional and elected roles, I have worked on county issues at the local, regional, state and federal levels.





Q: What's your campaign strategy? How much do you expect to spend campaigning?

A: The campaign strategy is to seek opportunities to engage residents of the community and to listen to the concerns of those in District 2 as well as other county residents. I hope to talk to as many people as possible about the issues we are facing as well as those we are anticipating, and about how we might shape our future together. We have not established an exact amount, but plan to spend what is raised in support of the campaign.





Q: How would you rate the performance of the current board? Is there anything it should have been done differently?

A: Hindsight is always 20-20. There are areas I would have, as a board member, proposed to have been done differently. I will work to make county government more open and transparent. This would be not only in Board of Supervisor agendas but also in other community interactions and communications. One specific area is in county planning. For instance, as a member of the board, I will work to see that public meetings are held at more convenient times. To the degree possible, the general plan and other planning meetings will not overlap each other. Documents under consideration will be made available in more places in a more timely manner by increasing the use both digital and print delivery methods. Public planning meetings will be set so that there is sufficient time for public input before deadlines for decisions begin to impact the process.





Q: What distinguishes the needs of your supervisorial district from the others?

A: District 2 is more urban and rural residential than other districts. Residents have more needs related to urban living and related to the rural agricultural and urban interface. Their needs also reflect the needs of residents county-wide, which include improved public safety, improved roads, water quality and quantity, as well as improved access to county services. Additionally, the University of California is also in District 2, and there are many issues surrounding the development of the campus.



Q: The state's looming budget crisis will undoubtedly affect counties across California. If elected, how will you approach the county's budget to ensure the public is well served in times of cutbacks?

A: As a board member, I will approach the development of the budget by thorough review of county expenditures and revenues. This will also include the revenue implications that local cuts might have on state and federal funding resources. I will work with the board and county staff so budget reviews are held so that not only county staff but also county residents can talk about the budget. I will propose that we establish a process where ideas from employees and county residents along with those of elected officials are collected and reviewed. I feel the broader involvement on how to make the county leaner while also meeting the challenges and priorities will be critical to our success through these challenging times. I will work to ensure that vital services are the least impacted, especially public safety.



Q: Merced County has seen unprecedented growth in the last decade. Have the county's public officials done an effective job managing that growth?

A: The county has struggled to accommodate growth, and if the process to update the general plan had started earlier, this challenge may have been easier to face. As a supervisor, I will work to improve communication and collaboration between the county and cities and agricultural and other business and economic stakeholders. I will work to see that the information and resources available through the regional blueprint planning process be used to assist in making planning decisions. As stated earlier, I will work to have a more open planning process. And I will work to see that growth pays for itself, particularly in terms of the ongoing costs of public safety and infrastructure.





Q: One of the most important tasks of any public board is to hire a nonelected chief executive. What is your take on the performance of County Executive Officer Dee Tatum? What qualities would you look for in his successor once he retires at the end of this year?

A: Again, hindsight is 20-20. County Executive Officer Dee Tatum has worked closely with the current board and is accountable to them. An area where I would suggest improvement is in the area of communication with the community and other jurisdictions as well as county staff. As a supervisor searching for a new county CEO, I will look for a person with a proven record of leadership in government; a demonstrated understanding of the complexity of California county government and its relationships with other counties, the state and federal government; a track record of government budget management; a history of seeking and receiving revenues from governmental and non-governmental sources; a demonstrated record of excellent communication with communities and related local jurisdictions; and a commitment to excellence in public service.





Q: Anything else you want voters to know?

A: These are challenging times, but I believe that Merced County has a bright and prosperous future. I am proud of our community’s past, and I still believe Merced County is a wonderful place to call home. I will work hard to make a difference in the future of this county.








  Comments