The editorial staff at the Mammoth Times has gone to great lengths to aggressively cover the campaigns leading up to the election on June 3.
We arrived at our endorsements for the 2014 Election by interviewing each of the 17 candidates for at least an hour, with tough questions that gave them an opportunity to express their opinions freely.
In return, we promised each candidate nothing more than a glass of water and a hearty thank-you for entering into the political fray, both on the Town Council level and the Mono County level.
We went to many meet-and-greets, and attended the candidate forums.
We took each encounter with each candidate seriously.
We encouraged reader feedback in on-the-street, one-on-one conversations; we engaged in email exchanges with the candidates and readers alike; we leaned heavily on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and continued to encourage our readers to engage by writing to our letters section within the newspaper.
We established an Online Election Handbook on our website to keep an ongoing archive of general-interest stories, editorials, and profiles.
Each week (and sometimes several times a week), Publisher & Editor Aleksandra Gajewski conducted an editorial meeting with Managing Editor George Shirk and Staff Writer Wendilyn Grasseschi.
The purpose of these meetings was to keep our collective eye on the candidates, and to establish clear reasons for our individual thinking.
As a result of these efforts, we offer our endorsements for the June 3, 2014 Election.
MAMMOTH TOWN COUNCIL
John Wentworth distinguished himself early in the campaign as eminently worthy of a seat on the council.
He is a smart coalition builder, with an ability to translate big-picture vision and policy into the more mundane tasks of making those policies transform into realities on the ground.
That is not an easy thing to do. It requires patience, understanding and empathy for those whose passions have seemingly conflicted over the years.
Although not an elected or appointed official, as the director of the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation, Wentworth helped create landmark agreements between the town and the Inyo National Forest.
His efforts inspired breakthroughs in using technology and interpretive signage to assist residents and visitors to help maximize their Mammoth experiences, whether they manifest themselves in the warm months or the cold seasons.
Wentworth’s past history as a production specialist in the film industry in Los Angeles, combined with his work here, make him a perfect fit for a new style of government—one that is increasingly built on cooperation and action.
Colin Fernie is a local businessman (Black Tie Ski Rental Delivery) who became engaged with the community almost as soon as he landed here.
We have rarely seen this kind of engagement from the Young Set.
Fernie’s presence, both as a businessman and as a part of the Planning and Economic Development Commission, has given Mammoth an infusion of new passion.
His influence, particularly during his 12-month term as a member of the Mammoth Lakes Recreation Formation Committee, already has yielded results in helping the community adopt new ways of looking at our core strength, which, obviously, is recreation.
Fernie also assumed some complicated policy decisions as they relate to development and land use within the town, along with measures dealing with town beautification and town ordinance compliance.
Fernie has extensive experience with resort communities, having arrived here from Steamboat, Colorado. The Black Tie Ski Rental Delivery brand is in 14 other peer resorts, thus his networking is wide-ranging and valuable.
We think he’d be a clear asset on a Town Council that, for the first time in many years, is not being driven by overwhelming crises and same-old, same-old voices, and has a chance to start anew.
In Shields Richardson, the Town Council will gain a solid intellect, combined with many years of entrepreneurial talent.
We try not to let Richardson’s slick veneer hide the fact that he is crafty like a fox. He is comfortable engaging with the commanders of the group of “battle ship” (his phrase) developers, as well as the rest of us, belowdecks.
These developers, who move in mysterious ways that might be lost on less-savvy council members, also include local heavyweights such as Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory, and people such as longtime developer Chuck Lande, the leader of Chadmar Development and the Snowcreek Village Area.
Yet we believe Richardson also is very much an “of the people” kind of guy—a local business owner (Side Door Café, Village Properties, etc.) who has a love affair with the same things as the rest of us.
He is 60 now, but began visiting Mammoth when he was a young strapper, doing the things that all kids that age do: skiing, hiking, riding horses, swimming, you name it.
He’s still at it, too. He will give the Town Council political weight, seasoned experience and a needed voice of reason.
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
Like Wentworth at the Town Council level, Stacy Corless has proven herself to be an accomplished coalition builder.
She will bring to the board a proven record of practical work experience, both in the complex world of balancing budgets, and in the even more complex tasks associated with helping people with opposing points of view into compromise.
As director of the Friends of the Inyo, she (along with Paul McFarland) helped bring the nonprofit from the adversarial politics of “no” to the reasonable politics of “yes.”
She, along with McFarland, helped create a strong partnership with the Inyo National Forest and the FOI’s imaginative “Summers of Stewardship” program, which brought the public in to help take care of our wild lands as never before.
As director of the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation, she demonstrated a healthy commitment to education in our local schools and for visiting students involved with the ski area’s Ski and Snowboard Team.
She is married to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area executive Ron Cohen, and while some view her participation in public policy as a conflict of interest, we believe the laws governing such conflicts will provide the necessary checks and balances.
In the nearly 500 votes the board cast in the past year, only two related to Mammoth Mountain, and if there are others in the future, we respect her intelligence, as well as her ability, to do the right thing.
In the last four years while serving on the Board of Supervisors, Larry Johnston has accumulated an enormous wealth of knowledge on how the county works—and how it does not.
A former planner with the county and longtime Mammoth resident, he is well-versed in some of the mind-boggling tangles any supervisor faces when dealing with the relationship between the county and Sacramento, much less the often abstract issues dealing with the federal government in Washington, D.C.
Johnston is not afraid to speak his mind; he has a track record of innovative thinking and budgetary constraint, and any transcript of any Supervisors meeting will show that.
His vision is focused on Mammoth, as it should be, but his record shows an ability to understand and help shape county policy, from Chalfant and Swall Meadows in the South County, to Coleville, Walker and Topaz in the North County.
With another four years on the Board of Supervisors, Johnston will be able to hone his message—and his policy action items—even more.
Ingrid Braun should be the next Mono County Sheriff.
We did not make our decision lightly.
We were talking the other day with one of the Mono County Sheriff’s Department deputies, who had this to say about Braun:
“Don’t let her fool you. She’s as tough as they get.”
As a former officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, who could have advanced further than her lieutenant’s rank had she not decided to move to Mammoth and Mono County, we think Braun will bring the necessary—and required—toughness to the job, with an added helping of community outreach and involvement.
She supervised the Gang Impact Team in the dangerous Foothill Area of Los Angeles, which has the largest gang presence in the San Fernando Valley. She spoke at community meetings and police functions, assessed and developed strategies to respond to emerging crime trends, and evaluated and developed employees.
In her campaign, she advocated a series of Town Hall-like gatherings throughout the county, as well as promising a directive for the deputies to focus even harder on the outlying communities, whose people face dangers from within and without.
As a deputy with the Mono County Sheriff’s Department, Braun was let go with just five days before her one-year probationary period was to expire. She was not given a reason, nor was a reason required.
In spite of that, she ran an above-the-board campaign while also juggling her duties as a reserve officer (with her husband Mike, also a former LAPD officer) with the Mammoth Lakes Police Department.
She does not just talk the talk, either.
An avid ski racer and cyclist, we see her often, either on the ski hill or on the roads with the Eastside Velo Club and its women’s race team.
She will make an excellent commander, administrator and overall leader throughout Mono County.
Barry Beck should be the next Mono County Assessor.
He has worked in the assessor’s office for 11 years, but it is more than his hands-on experience that will serve him well.
Beck will bring a commitment to use sophisticated technology in the office, with the twin wins of achieving an efficient, paper-heavy task load, along with cost reductions in staffing and wasted time.
He will be a community-minded public servant, too.
A basketball and baseball coach in Lee Vining, Beck is active in the Mono County Search and Rescue operations, and dedicated peak-baggers in the area probably have seen him and his sons on one mountaintop or another during the warm-weather months.
He is an Eastside lifer, as we say, and holds community relations close to his heart.
Those are not critical attributes for a number cruncher, but they help when all else is practically a dead heat.