Economic development, jobs and preserving El Dorado County’s rural nature were the major themes of the evening as the first candidates forum for those running for the District 2 Supervisor took place Wednesday night.
Sponsored by the Shingle Springs-Cameron Park Chamber of Commerce, all of the candidates were present with the exception of Jennifer Nutting.
Using a format in which the candidates spent the bulk of their time responding to written questions from the audience, the snappy one-hour forum still gave everyone an idea of which way the candidates would lean if elected to the Board of Supervisors.
Tending more on the side of those who think additional development would benefit the county was Chris Amaral, who is a program leader for a consulting firm. Stressing his background working with government agencies, he told the audience that business was near and dear to his heart and would play a big part in his campaign. “I think we can do better,” he said, “and I have ideas for how we can do so.”
Amaral emphasized he is a results-oriented person with years of experience helping government agencies save money. Noting that the business park in El Dorado Hills is a “ghost town,” he said the county needs to be brought into the 21st century with incentives offered to get businesses to move here. A satellite university could also help incubate businesses, he added.
Also leaning more towards the development side was Claire McNeal, who has been in business for 36 years and is a past vice chair of the El Dorado County Republican Central Committee. Stressing her business experience, McNeal said it has taught her how to use procedures, communicate, solve problems and work with others — all skills she would use as a board member.
Saying there is a need to balance the rustic nature of the county with the need to have some growth, McNeal said no new homes means no jobs either and the lack of infrastructure, particularly in the south county, prevents businesses from locating here. Responding to a question about what could be done to improve how the county is run, she recommended an end to departmental fiefdoms. The county also needs a stable and diversified tax base, she added, as she promised to be a strong voice for jobs and the community as a board member.
Coming in more in the middle as the most pragmatic member of the group was Dave Pratt, the owner of the winery dkcellars and a current member of the El Dorado County Planning Commission. Pratt stressed his prior experience in the private sector as well as his years on the Planning Commission as he talked about his familiarity with the county General Plan, sorting out land-use issues and making decisions.
Commenting on the economy, Pratt said more needed to be done to bring employment to the county. The county needs to fill its business parks in order to improve the job situation as well as have places for businesses to expand, he said. Thanking the audience for turning out for the debate, he promised as a supervisor he would break down the barriers of communication between the different communities in the county.
Leaning slightly to the other side of the debate was Shiva Frentzen, a business owner and board member of the Cameron Park Community Services District. Frentzen stressed that the county needed to focus more on jobs and less on large developments, saying they would take away jobs as too many people already have to drive out of the county for work and to shop, which drains the county of tax revenue. The county needs to create more jobs in the county, not necessarily more roof tops, she said.
Frentzen said the biggest change needed in the county is a vision of what is best for it in the long term. She promised she would do that as far as jobs, economic development and agriculture, adding that she is one of the supporters of a growth control initiative on the ballot this fall. “I am not a politician and am running to make a difference,” she said, adding that what separates the candidates is who has actually done something to protect the community and its resources and who hasn’t.
Also leaning on other side was George Turnboo, who is a business owner and a member of the El Dorado County Solid Waste Advisory Committee. Touting himself as an eighth-generation resident of the county, he told the audience he is a supporter of the 1-2-3 growth control initiatives that have been circulated in the county over the past few months.
Saying he wanted to protect the rural nature of the county and bring back honesty and integrity to government, he talked about starting his own business at the age of 19 and the work he has done as a member of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, which he said won a state award. “We need to think outside the box,” he said, as he went on to note the high unemployment rate in the county and the need to bring in jobs and fill the empty business parks. Seventy percent of the land in the county is national forest, he said, and more needs to be done to use that resource for recreation, tourism and industry.
Repeating a theme that ran through most of his comments was Turnboo’s question to the audience of why they had moved to the county in the first place. “You did it because you like the rural atmosphere,” he answered, adding he didn’t want the county to look like Folsom.
Commenting on the forum afterwards, attendee Sharon Durst thought the forum was better run than the one for the presidential election. Bill Sullivan said he had some candidates in mind when he entered but the forum changed his mind. Stanley Price said he would have liked to have heard more extensive answers.
The room was filled with an audience of at least 50.
Voters will have another chance to hear the candidates at a forum scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14. It is being hosted by the Shingle Springs Community Alliance and will be held at the Discovery Hills Church, 4270 Shingle Springs Drive.
A different candidate’s forum, sponsored by the Pleasant Valley Grange and run by the League of Women Voters, is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 17. The location is the Pleasant Valley Grange at 4765 Pleasant Valley Road.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.