Two on ballot for one council seat in Dunsmuir
For the first time since 2004, the special election this June for the vacant seat on the Dunsmuir City Council is contested. Candidates Ed Steele and Leslie Wilde are running for the term which will end in 2012.
During recent interviews, the candidates shared their backgrounds, expressed their goals for joining the city council, and explained how they will address some of the controversial issues facing Dunsmuir.
Steele has lived in Siskiyou County for 39 years and has been a Dunsmuir resident for over two years. He has owned multiple Dunsmuir properties since 1975.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and currently works as a building remodeling contractor.
Steele’s lengthy public service background includes serving as a Peace Corps volunteer the 1960s in Ecuador where he worked as a project engineer on a power distribution infrastructure project for a city the size of Redding.
After his Peace Corps service, Steele facilitated engineering training programs.
When he moved to Siskiyou County in the 1970s he held the position of production coordinator at the Siskiyou Opportunity Center.
For five years, Steele and his wife Joanne coordinated the North State Special Olympics, with included five northern counties.
For 11 years, he has co-coordinated and volunteered for the Dunsmuir/Mt. Shasta Emergency Food Pantry and Christmas Basket Project.
“I love this town and I am invested and committed to being a positive force in its future,” he said.
As a self-described problem solver, Steele has experience working on committees to achieve desired goals.
He is currently a member of the Water and Sewer Task Force, and he has sat on multiple church governing boards for building and improvement projects.
If elected to serve on the city council, Steele said his immediate focus will be to address water and wastewater infrastructure improvement projects.
He feels he has a leg up on this issue due to his participation on the task force. “We are working to achieve consensus regarding the need to improve our city’s infrastructure while keeping rates affordable,” he said.
While he acknowledged that utility customer fee increases will be necessary to address the projects, “We could work with smaller increases than what the city council is proposing,” he said.
He noted that the city has a limited-time opportunity to secure stimulus money in conjunction with a low-interest loan. “This is the cheapest time for water and sewer repairs. That does not make it more palatable. Nobody wants to pay more,” he added.
Mitigating the impact that the rate increases will have on the low-income elderly community “is a vital issue,” he said.
If elected, he would work with the other council members who are currently researching utility assistance solutions used by other communities and seek to implement those programs in Dunsmuir.
Steele said that he supports the city’s ongoing economic development efforts, and he is a member of the Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce.
“We need to look to our future and support our revitalized Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center in attracting visitors and new businesses. Tourism is an important economic resource. It is what attracts people who eventually move to the area and start businesses,” he said.
When asked if he would advocate for the Chamber to receive allotments of city TOT revenue, Steele answered “Yes.”
In addition, he would like to serve on the Economic Development Committee and work toward implementing loan security measures for local businesses.
Steele noted that Dunsmuir has had some difficulties with city-backed loans in the past, and that the council must demand more expert advice on loan issues from outside agencies.
As an active pilot, he said he would also like to serve on the Airport Committee.
Steele was asked if he supports a recently proposed project involving a downtown commercial space for the development of a medical marijuana nursery.
He responded, “I do not think that any commercial agricultural operation is appropriate for our downtown historic district.” He added that the general attitude in the community is that it would not be an appropriate business to showcase in the central business district.
“I think that my background and experience has prepared me to be a good advocate for the citizens of Dunsmuir,” Steele said. “I am willing to listen to anyone who has concerns. I will study the issues, I will tell you honestly what I think, and I will do my best to make common sense decisions in the best interest of us all.”
Wilde is also a long-time area resident. She has resided in Siskiyou County for 20 years and in Dunsmuir for seven years. She holds an associate’s degree in natural resources from College of the Siskiyous.
Wilde is the owner and operator of the Green Collar Compassionate Collective, and she is one of the movers and shakers behind the proposed downtown medical marijuana nursery – a project that she said will generate sales tax revenue to the general fund while providing organically-grown medical cannabis to members of her collective.
During her Siskiyou County residency, Wilde has been employed by the California Conservation Corps, the California Department of Forestry, and US Forest Service.
She worked as a firefighter, a timber cruiser, and a CCC crew supervisor.
While employed by the Forest Service, Wilde served on the Resource Advisory Committee where she reviewed grant applications.
She also served on the law committee of the Siskiyou County Grand Jury for two years when she first moved to Dunsmuir. Her research assignments included the district attorney’s office, Weed Police Department, Child Protective Services, and the Hammond Ranch Fire District.
In 2003, Wilde participated in Leadership Siskiyou County, a one-year program sponsored by the Shasta Regional Community Foundation designed to hone leadership skills.
For several years, she has volunteered as a precinct officer on Election Day at the Dunsmuir Community Building. Eventually, she was asked to become a precinct captain and manage the precinct on the big day.
Wilde also donates money to various animal rescue groups to pay for the feeding and shelter of homeless animals.
“I have always been interested and involved with my local community, and I believe if one truly wants to make a difference, then there is no better way to do so than as a member of one’s own city council,” Wilde said.
If elected, Wilde said one of her goals would be making city spending transparent by working to post the budget and expenditures on the city’s website. “The federal government’s expenditures are posted online. Why shouldn’t Dunsmuir’s be?”
She said she would seek to enhance communication between members of the city government and the community by encouraging citizens to e-mail questions and comments to the council members.
Her campaign promises are to work toward eliminating Dunsmuir’s water metering system and to never respond to a citizen’s question by saying, “Because that is the way we have always done it in the past.”
Wilde explained that Dunsmuir uses only half of its water allotment from Mossbrae Falls, and the water that is not used goes into the river.
“Due to the recession and the fact that half our water allotment goes unused down the river, I propose that if I'm elected I will diligently work to ensure free, un-metered water for Dunsmuir residents,” she said. Wilde added that eliminating meter reading will also offset water costs through savings from not conducting meter repairs and not paying city staff to read the meters.
When asked about her position regarding the city’s proposed water and sewer rate increases, she responded that if elected, she will work to secure grants and federal funding to pay for the sewer improvements so that the second and third year monthly sewer fee increases will not be necessary.
“I understand that the city council is feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the sewer and water increases and infrastructure improvements. But I still maintain that water in Dunsmuir is too expensive and should be subsidized for lower income folks and senior citizens. I believe water should be un-metered and free for everyone, but if that is not possible, then free for lower income seniors.”
Wilde said that if a citizen falls behind on water-sewer bills, she will strive to implement measures to ensure that the city does not shut off the water at the residence. She said that shutting off water is a health hazard, especially for families with children since they will not have water to bathe, wash dishes and prepare food.
“If elected, I vow to develop alternatives for low income families and seniors who cannot pay their bill rather than shutting off their water,” Wilde said.
She proposed that the city lease or buy the old water bottling plant, bottle Dunsmuir’s water, and sell “The Best Water on Earth” all over the country, with the profits going into the general fund.
If elected, Wilde said her goal is to join the Downtown Revitalization Committee and work toward expanding the business community and attracting more tourism.
“I envy that Mount Shasta has the annual Fun Run and Walk,” she said. “I wish we had an annual revenue stream like that.”
She said she would like to work with the River Center to highlight Dunsmuir’s world-class fishing. “Dunsmuir is thought of as a railroad town, but primarily, people come here to go fishing.”
In order to attract businesses to open in Dunsmuir, Wilde proposed that new businesses be exempt from paying water, sewer and garbage fees during their first year of opening their business.
If elected to the city council, Wilde also wishes to organize a law committee. She noted that crime rates seem to be an area of concern for local sheriff’s deputies. The crime in the arrest reports, she noted, is related to methamphetamine, alcohol, and domestic violence issues connected with their abuse.
She stated that she would like to look for a way to restore a City of Dunsmuir police force that could provide jobs to Dunsmuir citizens and create a 24/7 police presence that is familiar with the city’s residents and the its unique issues.