With questions arising as to whether he plans to run for re-election in the coming year, District 2 Supervisor Hub Walsh decided to put any doubts to rest by scheduling his campaign kickoff this weekend.
Walsh, 61, was planning to announce his candidacy in January, but with his two fellow supervisors announcing their re-election plans earlier this year, many began to assume that Walsh, a Democrat, wasn't running.
"We were just waiting for the municipal elections to get past," he said.
If re-elected, Walsh expects the coming years to bring more of the same challenges the county has faced recently.
When he decided to make his first run for supervisor a few years back, Walsh said, he knew the economic climate was poor but didn't fully realize what the county was facing.
"It's been challenging times, clearly," he said. "When I was running, I knew that they were going to be challenging times. I don't think I understood neither the breadth nor the depth of the challenges that we were going to be facing."
To keep the county afloat, officials made significant cuts to public safety and other departments over the past year, though several layoffs were rescinded.
Departments withered and many people lost jobs as a 20 percent budget cut was proposed to deal with the county's $20 million deficit.
The budget forecast for the coming year isn't looking much better. The deficit stands at $10 million and could grow to $15 million, depending on state decisions.
Walsh thinks the county must be resourceful to combat the fiscal crisis, and uses department consolidation as one example.
Getting information out to the public and encouraging people to get involved are also important, Walsh said.
"I think we need to continue to be working at that," he said. "We're looking for creative and innovative ways to provide the services and live within our means. We'll still be looking for those."
Economic development is at the forefront of Walsh's vision for the county.
"Not that government does economic or business development, but we sure have to be working on ways to create a climate where entrepreneurs see us as an opportunity to come and do business," said Walsh.
Still in his first term as supervisor of District 2, which covers much of the city of Merced, Walsh has served two terms on the Merced City Council and two terms as mayor of Merced.
Before he was elected supervisor, Walsh worked for Madera County as director of social services.
Walsh's experience with county government, along with encouragement from people within his district, prompted him to run for supervisor.
Walsh hasn't heard of any challengers for the June primary, but the filing period is still open.
The campaign kickoff for Walsh will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at 2870 Rambler Lane.
Curtis Riggs, who's holding the kickoff, said Walsh does what's best for the county and understands the "big picture."
"I think, in contrast to our national politicians, Hub is a good example of someone who seeks compromise when necessary in order to move things forward," Riggs said.
District 1 Supervisor John Pedrozo and District 4 Supervisor Deidre Kelsey are also running for re-election.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.