Local Elections to be Contested in June

By Duncan A. Kennedy and Carl J. Butz

Once again, a general election year is upon our nation. Ballots for federal, state, and local elections will go out to registered voters in June and November. Once the tallies of these ballots are certified, next January’s leaders of our governing bodies will be determined.

During the 2022 election cycle, the mass media will focus on runs for statewide offices or races for desks at state and federal legislatures. However, numerous county-level races here in the mountains are worthy of attention, too.

Therefore, between now and November, The Mountain Messenger looks forward to profiling contests for local offices. This week we concentrate on sketching out the scene in Plumas County, a jurisdiction in the midst of trying to recover from the devastation of two major wildfires in the past two years. We will extend our coverage of local elections to Sierra and Nevada counties in future issues.

Plumas County

Incumbents (*) facing contested races for elected office in June include:

County Sheriff-Coroner: Todd Johns* v. Dwight Cline

District Three Supervisor: Tom McGowan v. Kelley Cote

District Five Supervisor: Jeff Engel* v. Mimi Garner

County Assessor: Cindy Froggart* v. Amy Hendrickson

The candidates for County Sheriff-Coroner worked together at the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) before Cline retired from the force in 2017. As Cline told the Plumas News recently, when Sheriff Hagwood retired to become a member of the Plumas County Board of Supervisors in 2019, he considered applying for the appointment of Hagwood’s successor. Cline refrained, however, thinking another candidate – Carson Wingfield – would win the job instead of Johns. Now, Cline has set out to replace Johns and fix mistakes he believes the incumbent has made. For example, some “questionable hires” and allowing staff “morale” problems to deplete the Sheriff’s workforce.

As for Johns, almost immediately after his appointment, he found himself at the helm of a Sheriff’s Department forced to cope with COVID-19 pandemic problems and with back-to-back fire seasons wreaking unprecedented devastation on Plumas County. During his interview by Plumas News, Johns stated, “staff was working 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week. Sometimes more. [I] was working 16 to 18 hours a day to manage, as well. These have been the toughest two years for the county,” he said. “If people in the county knew what my staff did, they would be amazed.”

In the process, however, several members of the PCSO did locate higher-paying positions at other locations. So, now with positions for deputies and correctional officers to fill, he said, “The number one priority now is pay raises.”

The two faced off in forums sponsored by the League of Women Voters (LWV) on April 20 in Quincy and April 27 in Chester. Their next joint appearance is slated for the League’s forum tonight, April 28, at Taylorsville’s Historic Hall. On May 4, you will find them at the Graeagle Fire Hall. On May 5, they are scheduled to be present at the LWV’s forum at Veterans/Memorial Hall in Portola. All of these meetings will begin at 7 p.m.

The race for the County Assessor office is also an intramural affair following a retirement. The incumbent, Cindy Froggart, was appointed to the position by the Board of Supervisors after the retirement of longtime Assessor Chuck Leonhardt in 2021. She is running now to maintain consistent leadership in the Assessor’s office during times of local hardship and high paperwork volumes. Her opponent and one of her key staff members, Chief Assessor Amy Hendrickson, her election would bring better lines of communication between the Assessor’s Office, the county taxpayers, and the Board of Supervisors.

Both candidates for Assessor’s Office will be making presentations at the LWV’s meeting schedule for April 28, May 4, and May 5.

With Sherrie Thrall (Lake Almanor) retiring from her seat as the Supervisor for District Three, two candidates have stepped up to contend for the office: Tom McGowan and Kelley Cote.

McGowan, a member of the Glenn County Board of Supervisors from 2001-2009 and a retired businessman, is currently Chairman of the Plumas County Planning Commission. He says his consistent attendance at Plumas County Board of Supervisors meetings over the past several years gives him a strong connection to the Board’s current membership. He also touts his very active membership in the Lake Almanor Chamber of Commerce as a strong argument for his election.

His opponent for the open seat, Kelley Cote, has been Director of the Lassen County Department of Child Support Services since 2014. A native of Chester who now resides at the northernmost corner of Plumas County in Westwood, Cote believes Lake Almanor’s interests have been represented poorly at the Board in recent years. She also touts her implementation of a “visionary [departmental] policy” during COVID to ensure uninterrupted child support income as an example of her “futuristic leadership skills.”

As for Plumas County’s District Five, incumbent Supervisor Jeff Engel has found himself challenged by local realtor Mimi Garner in the wake of his vote against extra marketing funding for the local Chambers of Commerce. Engel believes in maximizing the government’s fiscal efficiency and cites his record of securing new infrastructure for Plumas County over the last three years as a good reason for his re-election.

Mimi Garner, who ran against Engle in the 2018 election, sees her her role in the initial development of Gold Mountain and the Nakoma Resort as an excellent example of what she can do. Garner also credits her efforts to promote tourism within the region as a reason for people to support her candidacy.

Both of the District 5 candidates for Supervisor are expected to participate in the LVW’s forums scheduled for Graeagle and Portola on May 4 and May 5, respectively.

Other Plumas County incumbents – Treasurer Julie White, District Attorney David Hollister, Clerk-Recorder Marcy DeMartile, and Superintendent of Schools William Roderick – are unchallenged in their re-election bids. Moreover, nobody filed to run for Auditor-Controller despite the filing deadline extension.

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