The 2014 Election: It’s a wrap

The 2014 Election closed this past week, with a landslide decision in the race for Mono County Sheriff, a surprise victory in Supervisors District 5 and three new members of the Mammoth Town Council.

Ingrid Braun, 46, a 21-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who last year was dismissed from her deputy’s position by Sheriff Ralph Obenberger, won election against Obenberger Tuesday night, June 3.

Braun, currently a reserve officer with the Mammoth Lakes Police Department, won in a landslide, with 1,932 votes—a 64 percent margin. Obenberger won 1,085 votes (36 percent) in the signature race of the 2014 campaign.

Meanwhile, in Mammoth Lakes, Shields Richardson, John Wentworth and Colin Fernie won seats on the Town Council, forming a new majority by replacing outgoing council members Rick Wood, John Eastman and Matthew Lehman.

None of the incumbent council members entered the race.

In the Mono County supervisor race in District 5, Stacy Corless won a majority in a three-way race and will not have to go through a runoff election.

In the District 1 Supervisor race, incumbent Larry Johnston won over locksmith Bill Sauser by 49 votes.

Among all the races, the night belonged to Braun.

“I had no idea how it was going to turn out,” she said shortly after the votes were counted. “I hoped for the best, but was prepared for the worst.”

She said the voters sent a clear message.

“People are ready for a new way of doing things,” she said.

Braun’s victory came on the heels of her dismissal from the Sheriff’s Department last year, six days before the end of her one-year probationary period.

Neither she nor Obenberger brought up the details of her dismissal during the campaign, both of them taking the high road in dealing with the details in connection with that issue.

Under law, Obenberger, who was appointed to the post of Sheriff after former Mono County Sheriff Rick Scholl resigned midway through his second term, was not obliged to state the reasons for his decision to let her go.

Wentworth, 55, a citizen activist and leader of the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation (MLTPA), received 812 votes (21.7 percent) to lead a pack of eight candidates duking it out for the three open Town Council seats.

Richardson, 60, a real estate broker and small businessman, won 742 votes (20 percent).  

Fernie, who at 30 was the youngest candidate in the field, received 685 votes (18.3 percent). 

In fourth place was Karen Sibert, a former town staffer who currently works in the finance department of the Mammoth Community Water District. She received 596 votes (16 percent), followed by, in order, Cleland Hoff (9.4 percent), Elena Blomgren (7 percent), Deb Pierrel (5.27 percent) and Ken Murray (2.49 percent).

Aside from the volatile Sheriff’s race, the most high-profile county contest was in Supervisor District 5, a Mammoth-only district where Stacy Corless, 43, beat back both Greg Eckert and former Mammoth Town Council member and educator Kirk Stapp to win the seat outright.

Needing a majority to avoid a November runoff, Corless won with 289 votes—a 54.8 percent margin.

Eckert received 140 votes (26.5 percent), while Stapp gathered 98 votes (18.6 percent).

Both Corless and Eckert attended a “Candidates Night” party at Richardson’s Side Door Café on Tuesday evening.

“Greg Eckert was a total gentleman at the Side Door event,” Corless said. “We made a pact that if it was a runoff, we would both take the summer off.

“I feel great. I’m happy with the results all across the board,” Corless said. “I’m happy Ingrid will be the Sheriff, and I’m happy John (Wentworth) will be on Town Council. I’ve worked a lot with him over the years.

“I have a campaign promise—and I’m going to keep it—to the people in the motorized recreation community, to work with them to take another look at the (Inyo National Forest) travel management plan, to see if we can look at some of the roads that were closed or restored.”

She said her first priority would be to learn as much as she can during the next six months.

In Supervisor District 1, also a Mammoth-only seat, incumbent Larry Johnston won re-election over local locksmith Bill Sauser. Johnston, who won against Sauser four years ago with just a five-vote margin, this time won 177 votes (58 percent), while Sauser gathered 128 votes (42 percent).

In the Mono County Assessor’s race, Barry Beck defeated Robert Musil who was appointed to the position by the Board of Supervisors last September. Beck won 1,483 votes (53.5 percent), while Musil took home 1,272 votes (46.5 percent).

“I’m pleased with the outcome, of course,” Beck said.

 Beck said he thought the effort he put into campaigning in Mammoth helped him win, along with his experience with the new technology and software shared by the assessor’s office and other departments.

Braun, an accomplished amateur ski racer and cyclist, said her victory was gratifying.

Running on a platform that emphasized strict law enforcement combined with community outreach, Braun became the first woman to be the Mono County Sheriff in its history.

“I thought about [running] a long time ago,” she said in an interview before the election. “I gave it some cursory thought, but said at the time that I don’t need the headache and the heartache.

“But right before Christmas, I got some phone calls from leaders in North County, Mammoth, and South County, who had contacts—civic leaders and community leaders—asking me to run for sheriff, saying that we need a choice, we need a change, and asking if I would please consider it.”

Last November, she and her husband, Mike Braun, both retired from the LAPD, made a permanent move to Mammoth and signed on as Level One Reserve Officers with the MLPD.

She retired as a Lieutenant after 21 years of service, and Mike retired as a Senior Lead Officer with 26 years of law enforcement experience, according to a news release at the time issued by MLPD Chief Dan Watson, himself a longtime LAPD officer.  

Wentworth ran on a “Big Idea” platform under the slogan of “Mammoth First.”

“To really put the idea of Mammoth First, we have to keep it in our individual minds: How does this add up to a larger proposition that is Mammoth?” he said during the campaign.

After the votes came in, he said he was elated.

“I’m on Cloud 9-plus,” he said.

“I thought it was a good campaign, the voters had a good chance to hear a wide variety of views and showed extreme patience.”

First on his to-do list, he said, is help create a priority list for the council in the coming year.

Fernie, who came to Mammoth nearly six years ago from Steamboat Springs, is the co-owner (with Chamber of Commerce President Jeremy Goico) of Black Tie Ski Rentals and a member of the town’s Planning and Economic Development Commission.

Fernie, who also has been a part of the Mammoth Lakes Recreation Formation Committee, ran a nuts-and-bolts campaign, infused with an emphasis on youth.

“I would like to see this become a more vibrant, year-round resort,” he said in an interview last month, “and there are a lot of factors to changing that. But I think resting on our weekend, drive-dominated model hasn’t worked at this point and it won’t work in the future.

“There are a lot of components that go into that change.” 

After the final results were in, Fernie expanded his to-do list, at least for the short term.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “First of all, I’m glad it’s over, and I’m excited for Shields and John, too. I’m looking forward to a good council, but my first priority is to get the new council together, look at the org charts and open positions for the Planning and Recreation commissions, so we can all agree on the council priorities.”

Richardson, 60, who first came to Mammoth as a boy, then returned as a broker in the Intrawest expansion in the late 1990s, argued throughout his campaign for smarter development, along with environmental concerns, such as those associated with the proposed expansion of the ORMAT geothermal plant.

“I think it’s a good slate, and I think we’ll work well together. I’m glad the whole thing is over, so we can get to the next step.”

Richardson said the “next step” was “to sit down as a group, to sort out what our objectives are and to go from there. We need a game plan, so to speak.”

One of his priorities, Richardson said in his campaign, was to be aggressive in attracting all kinds of investments, from families to small businesses and large developers.

“We have to be proactive,” he said in an interview before the election. “We have to go out and ask people to come and take a look at what Mammoth has to offer.”

As of Tuesday, what Mammoth has to offer, at the very least, is a brand new Town Council, new faces on established commissions, a new Sheriff and an altered Board of Supervisors.

For now, that’s a wrap

With reporting by Wendilyn Grasseschi


How we voted

By Wendilyn Grasseschi

Times Staff Writer

Perhaps the biggest surprise to many observers of the 2014 election was the wide, winning sweep made by Ingrid Braun, the former Mono County Sheriff’s deputy, who was fired by her opponent, Sheriff Ralph Obenberger, with no explanation late last year just a few days before her one-year probationary period with the department was over.

Braun, a reserve officer with the Mammoth Lakes Police Department, is a former Los Angeles Police Department veteran of 21 years, and won the race with 1,932 votes to Obenberger’s 1,085 votes, or 64 percent to 36 percent.

She also won the majority of the county’s 13 voting precincts, with only three precincts voting for Obenberger; June Lake, Benton and Bridgeport.

The rest of the precincts belonged to Braun, who rose to the rank of lieutenant with the LAPD before deciding to move to Mammoth with her husband Mike, also a reserve officer with 26 years of duty with the LAPD.

Even the far northern Mono County precinct of Antelope Valley, which includes Walker and Coleville, voted for Braun, with 55 percent for Braun versus Obenberger’s 45 percent.

In state races, Mono County kept Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in the governor’s race for November, along with Democrat Gavin Newsom in the lieutenant governor’s race.

The county kept Republican U.S. Congressman Paul Cook as the 8th District Representative and Republican Tom Berryhill as its state senator for the 8th District.

Republican Frank Bigelow took the 8th District State Assembly seat.

Tom Torlakson took the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Mono County voted “Yes” on both Proposition 41 and Proposition 42.

For a full report of the vote, visit