Local Elections, Part 2 – Sierra and Nevada Counties

By Duncan A. Kennedy

CALPINE – In our April 28th edition, The Mountain Messenger detailed what is taking place in the current Plumas County electoral scene. This week, we are exploring the state of the races in Sierra and Nevada counties as the June 7th general primary draws closer.

Sierra County

Nine public offices are up for election this year, but only one is contested. The races are listed below, with incumbents depicted by an asterisk(*):

Assessor: Laura Marshall*

Auditor/Treasurer-Tax Collector: Van Maddox*

Clerk-Recorder: Heather Foster*

County Supervisor, District Two: Lila Heuer v. Sandy Sanders

County Supervisor, District Five: Sharon Dryden*

District Attorney: Sandra Groven*

Sheriff-Coroner: Mike Fisher*

Superior Court Justice: Charles Ervin*

Superintendent of Schools: James Berardi*

In the one contested race, with no incumbent due to the retirement of Sierra County stalwart Peter Huebner (Supervisor for District Two since 1999), two candidates have emerged to replace him.

Lila Heuer, age 75, is a long-time resident of Sierra City and the proprietor of a motel, My Sister’s Cottage, there. She also drives the Golden Rays Senior Citizens bus from Downieville to as far as Reno and Sacramento for her fellow seniors. She spoke at the Gold Nugget Republican Women’s April 20th candidate luncheon, an event The Mountain Messenger covered, and she has also expressed interest in speaking at future Sierra County Democrats events.

Heuer’s opponent is Gerald “Sandy” Sanders, a native of Georgia whose parents met in Sierra County and spent time in Sierra County every year during his youth; in 2021 he was able to fulfill a long-time dream by escaping here from the Bay Area. The Messenger interviewed him recently and will publish his story soon.

Nevada County

In Nevada County, the most populous in this part of Northeastern California, a full eleven countywide offices are up for election this year; they are listed below, with an asterisk(*) denoting incumbents in races. Of the eleven, five are contested, as are two seats on the Nevada City Council.

Assessor: Gerald Bushore v. Rolf Kleinhans

Auditor-Controller: Rob Tribble v. Gina Will

Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters: Natalie Adona v. Paul Gilbert v. Jason Tedder

County Supervisor, District Three: Valentina Masterz v. Patti Spencer v. Lisa Swarthout

County Supervisor, District Four: Sue Hoek* v. Calvin Clark

Nevada City Council (two seats up): Lou Ceci v. Adam Kline v. Ken Merdinger v. Erin Minett*

District Attorney: Jesse Wilson*

Sheriff-Coroner/Public Administrator: Shannan Moon*

Superintendent of Schools: Scott Lay*

Superior Court Justice: Candace Heidelberger*

Superior Court Justice: Yvette Durant*

Treasurer-Tax Collector: Tina Vernon*

Although multiple candidates filed for both the Sheriff and District Attorney races, the incumbents appear on the ballot unopposed due to the disqualification of each of their opponents – one due to not having the prerequisite recent law enforcement experience, and the other due to not being a resident at the time of registration. Both Superior Court Justice seats are uncontested, as are the Superintendent of Schools and Treasurer-Tax Collector races.

The Assessor race is open after the retirement of three-term incumbent Sue Horne. Gerald Bushore, the County Chairman of Assessment Appeals and Vice-Chair of the Nevada Cemetery District, is running against County Chief Fiscal Officer Rolf Kleinhans. Kleinhans is currently endorsed by retiring incumbent Horne for the position.

In the Auditor-Controller race, local financial consultant Rob Tribble (not of Star Trek fame) is facing off against Assistant Auditor-Controller Gina Will for this open seat. Will has been Assistant Auditor-Controller since 2020, having previously served as Finance Director for the Town of Paradise before the 2018 Camp Fire. Retiring four-term incumbent Marcia Salter has endorsed Will for this office.

With the retirement of incumbent Clerk-Recorder Gregory Diaz, three candidates have entered yet another open-seat race – one with increased scrutiny ever since the 2020 election cycle. Assistant Clerk-Recorder Natalie Adona, community volunteer Jason Tedder, and “citizen auditor” Paul Gilbert are running for the position. Adona comes into the race as the most experienced and well-known candidate and likely has the backing of incumbent Diaz. Tedder is a veteran who has volunteered heavily in the community and is campaigning on improving security and transparency through videotaping of vote counting and increasing poll staffing. Lastly, Gilbert is running his campaign on supposed discrepancies in the 2020 election, and has become an “independent citizen auditor” of elections locally.

After an attempted recall by disgruntled local citizens against him and the rest of the Board of Supervisors, District Three’s Miller is retiring from office and leaving behind an open seat for a three-woman race. Former Grass Valley Mayors Lisa Swarthout and Patti Ingram Spencer, and local bakery owner Valentina Masterz are currently running to take Miller’s place. Spencer’s family edited The Union for three generations and her husband, John Spencer, has previously served as a Supervisor; she is endorsed by Supervisor Miller and U.S. Representative Doug LaMalfa. Swarthout cites her strong leadership record as Mayor of Grass Valley and is endorsed by Sheriff Moon and Nevada City Councilwoman Erin Minett. Masterz, the outsider candidate, is an Eastern European immigrant turned baker and natural foods proprietor whose motivations for running could not be found during the research for this article.

The District Four Supervisor race, in contrast, does have an incumbent running. Chair of the Board Sue Hoek is running for re-election to a second term as Supervisor, touting her role in projects such as completing the Bridgeport Bridge and opening low-income housing for seniors in Penn Valley, despite the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her opponent, Calvin Clark, was a major proponent of the recall effort against the entire Board of Supervisors in early 2022, and was the mastermind behind a similar recall effort against Supervisor Elizabeth Martin in 2001.

The last competitive race is the municipal-level Nevada City Council election, where the top two vote-getters out of a field of four candidates will win the two available seats on the council. Incumbent Mayor and Councilman Duane Strawser is stepping down, but fellow incumbent Erin Minett is running for re-election. Her opponents are retired teacher Ken Merdinger, publisher and software developer Lou Ceci, and Golden Shoulders singer-songwriter Adam Kline.

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