No less than five candidates are vying for the one seat that has opened on the Lakeport city council due to the untimely demise of council member Dick Lampkin late last year. This stands in stark contrast to the fall election, when only incumbent Lampkin ran for the job, and the two other council slots up for grabs were also filled by incumbents who also ran unopposed. So not only are the voters blessed with an abundance of choices, but oddly enough are also favored with an unusually qualified group as well. Signs of gender balance are finally returning, with Kristine Groff and Kathleen O’Connor representing the girls and Todd Falconer, Ron Bertsch and Roy Parmentier insuring that the council stands a good chance of remaining an all-male institution.
Kristine Groff’s resume includes an MBA, a stint in the teaching business and current employment as a bank project manager. On the top of her priority list is “planned growth,” road repairs, and a better and a more informative city website. Groff also believes that the key to attracting new commercial development is to carefully select the right audience and then make a list of companies to target with a “come to Lakeport” pitch. Groff thought that another good economic development idea was for the city to combine its shoreline Dutch Harbor property with Natural High and turn it into a marina, though when that idea was recently floated the school district seemed sincerely disinterested. Like almost all the other candidates Groff is against big box and chain commercial developments and annexing the sales tax revenue generating South Main Street area as a way of balancing the city’s books. Having managed a public pool in Oregon, Groff feels strongly that the city should do what it can to keep the city pool open and accessible to the public. Groff comes across as a very intelligent, organized and experienced management type, who seems to have good people skills as well.
Ron Bertsch is a retired fire captain, who also has a teaching credential and has served as an ambassador for the West Sacramento Chamber of Commerce. One of Ron’s reasons for running is that “the council needs some fresh ideas, ways to help solve our financial worries,” but he doesn’t really say what those “new ideas” might be, other than suggesting bond issues, a hard sell for anything but the most beloved project. Ron has publicly aired some gripes that seem to be a bit out of the realm of city politicos, like trying to get the entire council agendas printed in the Lake County Record-Bee, or getting county supervisors like Tony Farrington and Rob Brown to butt out of the BMX track controversy. Ron could be characterized as the “status quo” candidate, since he thinks the current council is doing just fine, the taxpayer dependent Chamber of Commerce is just fine, and he just wants to “get along.” Bertsch has only been in Lakeport for three years, which could explain his lack of awareness of the city’s problems and his admission that he’s only been to a few council meetings. While Bertsch is likely a decent enough fellow, he’s not what you’d call a visionary or someone prone to giving the council a much-needed shaking-up and reality check.
Todd Falconer is a 42 year-old local businessman, who has commercial interests in the aviation field and owns a vineyard as well, and whose wife is the popular principal at Terrace Middle School. No doubt about it, Falconer has his reasons for running, starting with the requirement that many home improvement plans trigger an expensive sidewalks/curb/gutter/streetlight/storm drain upgrade rule which discourages home improvements. Falconer is also upset with the way he’s been treated by city hall staffers, who he claims have a “who are you and why do you want to know” attitude. Housing that local born and raised Lakeporters can afford is an issue that Falconer thinks is important, though he’s offered no plan to solve the dilemma. The city owned Vista Point shopping center/ghost town is another city-created disaster that only Falconer seems eager to do something about (like sell the white elephant, to be precise). Oddly enough, Falconer thinks privatizing city assets like the Westshore public swimming pool is good policy, but has jumped on the bandwagon of people pushing for the city to somehow accommodate the BMX racers in the new Westside park, in spite of the likelihood that a significant cash outlay will be needed to make that possible. Falconer has been on both sides of the development issue as well, successfully lobbying the county for a $1.6 million dollar sewer extension to Lampson field where his aviation business and its failing septic system is located. The main effect of the sewer project is to make a better sales pitch for Lampson as a business park to prospective tenants, and is bound to draw at least some of its customers away from Lakeport — and more importantly, their sales tax revenue as well. Falconer is the only candidate who has not ruled out letting big box stores and other chain retail commerce into the city, claiming (with some accuracy) that not having them here just sends Lake County residents over the hill to Ukiah, where the county loses the tax revenue and the workers lose local jobs. Falconer is endorsed by district four supervisor Tony Farrington, which may have something to do with them both being raised here, unlike the rest of the contenders.
Roy Parmentier has already served three terms on the council, and now freshly retired from his job as delivery man for Frito-Lay, he’s ready for another. In Parmentier’s public statements and campaign literature he makes a number of shaky claims regarding his past achievements on the council, much like his unsuccessful run for supervisor, where he also took full credit for things that would have happened with or without him. Like Falconer, Parmentier doesn’t like the way people are treated by the current council at meetings, though unlike Falconer he’s not afraid of butting heads with the Chamber of Commerce. Parmentier is definitely a “regular” guy, who has done a fairly good job of looking out for the little guy in the past, and who will doubtlessly give the current council members fits and heartburn if elected. He also had a good idea to solve the BMX dilemma, which is to move the whole operation to the city effluent pastures, where the BMXers could lease whatever land they needed. Parmentier wants to streamline the city’s permitting process, an area of frequent complaints, something at least two other candidates have described as a priority as well.
Last but certainly not least is Kathleen O’Connor, who could be described as the least political of the candidates, as well as being the youngest. Refreshingly honest and direct, O’Connor has the most working knowledge of local government, as she has served in the county assessor/recorder’s office as well as the county counsel and probation departments. O’Connor has the most progressive agenda, insisting that new developments be scaled for the existing city infrastructure, building a bike path through town, and using our environment as the centerpiece of city marketing efforts. Reducing late fees for the city water department (currently $25 a day after the due date) and keeping big box and chain stores out of Lakeport are priorities for Kathleen, along with simplifying the city permitting process.
While being an apparently decent enough guy, Ron Bertsch probably shouldn’t be running, as he has too little knowledge of Lakeport issues and politics. Bertsch also has few new ideas and a delusional view of the current council and chamber of commerce. Roy Parmentier is good on many issues, but has had his turns at the helm and may be getting a little old for the job. He’d certainly make an acceptable choice if there weren’t better people offering their services. Todd Falconer is another mixed bag, with some good ideas and instincts, and some very dubious ones. Falconer would definitely shake things up but could do considerable damage as well, and reminds one of the old saying “you can always tell a pilot, but you can’t tell him much,” a reference to his past days as an Air Force pilot and the headstrong attitude they oftentimes have. Kristine Groff is a good choice in most regards, though her development strategies regarding Dutch Harbor are questionable, and her ability to see things through the eyes of an average Lakeporter are also in doubt. Kathleen O’Connor lacks poise and polish but shines in all other areas, with top marks for honesty, fairness and common sense. O’Connor has the most consistently progressive agenda, and would do an excellent job of standing up for the common taxpayer. In short, there are three people who could do an acceptable job (Parmentier, Groff and O’Connor — Falconer has too many question marks), but all things considered O’Connor comes out on top, and truly deserves (and needs) your vote!