These three Shasta County residents with law enforcement ties are running for office
In Redding and around the nation, activists are focused on bringing about police reform.
At least three retired law enforcement officials believe their experiences have given them the perspectives they need to pivot to a new profession — politics.
Two former law enforcement leaders are in the November race for the Redding City Council, where two of the council's five seats are up for grabs. A third former law enforcement professional is seeking a seat on the Shasta College Board of Trustees.
All are fresh faces who are taking on seasoned incumbents.
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Why do these law enforcement-trained political newcomers think they've got what it takes to get elected?
For their stories, read on.
Jack Leroy Munns II
Retired from Reno police force and Redding City Council candidate
During his nearly two decades as a police officer in Reno, Redding native Jack Munns said he kept seeing a persistent problem — homelessness.
Back in the mid-1990s, Munns was among the police officers who investigated several incidents involving unsupervised small children and their parents, who often suffered from substance abuse.
“So, we made a plan to go start checking on all these kids,” said Munns. The effort led to the launch of a police-run program that extended health care and other assistance to vulnerable youth by linking their entire family to community resources and services.
“The greatness, I think, of the program is that it was not enforcement based. We didn’t care if you spoke English or if you were late on your rent or anything like that. We wanted to help you,” said Munns.
His time as an officer in Reno provided "a whole lot of insights on how to deal with the homeless population," Munns said. In Redding, he said, "I think that's the biggest challenge . . . we're not doing enough for homelessness."
As far as what has equipped the 62-year-old for elected office, Munns points to his many years in public service as a police officer, his passion for the city and his willingness to bring about change.
Now retired from the Reno force, Munns has lived in Redding since 2010 with his wife, Vanessa, their two sons and other extended family.
Last year, he became one of the 19 members of the Shasta County Grand Jury watchdog group.
But, said Munns, it was seeing little progress being made on solutions to house Redding's homeless residents that sharpened his desire to run for elected office for the very first time.
“Things are getting worse. I want to help make them better,” said Munns about why he’s aiming for a City Council seat. “Two things I think I can make significant impacts in is crime and homelessness.”
Munns also believes it’s crucial for city leaders to attract more jobs to Redding. “You can’t have a prosperous community on the back of a family of four making $44,000,” he said. "To increase our tax base we need more jobs, we need more housing."
One approach he urged was to lower taxes and fees to help boost the city's attractiveness to business owners.
The former police sergeant also expressed support for Redding’s law enforcement community. “You got to have good people to get good results. We may increase our training, we can use our tools properly. But there's no substitute for good character.”
Munns acknowledged that although some problem officers "slip through the cracks every now and then ... there are thousands and thousands of use of forces and issues that go on every day without a hitch.”
The Redding Police Department recently faced a prominent use of force issue.
In 2019, the family of a man who died after a brawl with Redding police in 2013 was awarded $1.5 million in an out of court settlement. At that time, city officials said the payment to the family of Steven Motley was "absolutely no admission of liability" and was simply a "prudent business decision."
Stephen B. Bell
Retired from California Highway Patrol and running for the Shasta College Board of Trustees
Distance education isn’t a perfect way for Shasta College students to learn, says Stephen Bell, who is in the race for a seat on the Shasta College Board of Trustees.
"From what I'm hearing from a lot of students, the whole online experience is woeful at best," he said of Shasta County's plunge into online education earlier this year.
But that’s one of the challenges that Bell, a 59-year-old retired law enforcement official, says he’s ready to help solve if elected to the community college’s seven-member board in November.
The Shasta County resident said he came to the North State in 2007 after getting a promotion to assistant chief with the California Highway Patrol and ultimately rose to become chief and commander of the entire northern division.“The bottom line is I’d like to serve,” said Bell, who retired in 2012.
The Board of Trustees race will be the first run for political office for Bell, who has a 20-year-old son who is autistic. Bell has held appointed positions in various groups that seek to assist people with disabilities and, in 2018, was tapped by Gov. Gavin Newsom to join the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities.
Bell said his 28-year law enforcement background has equipped him with the tools needed to navigate the many issues facing Shasta College, hurdles including making distance learning a positive experience for students and faculty, as well as determining whether to make changes at some of Shasta College's campuses.
The college has a total of about 7,250 students, with 91% of them attending classes online due to COVID-19.
He said his mission would include “planning to see how the college can be impactful — not only through education, but as an asset to the region as we emerge from pandemic. I think I can bring ideas and thoughts and processes that can help us make that very successful. The world is changing and we have to change with it."
Bell is running to represent the college's Region E, an expansive area including portions of Shasta, Trinity and Modoc counties as well as the cities of Shasta Lake, Weaverville, Lakehead, Hayfork and Trinity Center.
Bell said he doesn't want to pinpoint the exact changes he'd pursue if elected to the Shasta College board until he's had an opportunity to meet with “students, faculty, staff, business people and community members” to hear “what they’re saying and hear what they want and what they think is needed."
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Mark Brent Mezzano
Retired from the California Highway Patrol and Redding City Council candidate
Mark Mezzano first spoke before the Redding City Council on a hot community issue more than a dozen years ago, in opposition of a Costco Wholesale store that was proposed to be built on Oasis Road at Twin View Boulevard.
Recently, the retired CHP sergeant decided the time was right for him to make a run to join the council himself.
"My law enforcement background is very much needed on this council, in these times, with what is going on," he said.
Mezzano said homelessness is a major problem for Redding and pointed to cities that he said are forging solutions, including Sacramento, which recently unveiled a multi-million dollar assistance program for homeless people there.
“I believe everybody deserves a roof over their head and I’m going to work something out to make it happen” in Redding, Mezzano said.
One strategy he said Redding might follow is the approach taken by Salt Lake City, Utah, which solicited help to build permanent supportive housing for the homeless from a coalition of public, private and religious groups including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
While Redding leaders looked at Salt Lake City's 'Housing First' model, the city council rejected it in 2016.
Even so, Mezzano asked, “why can’t we do that? Why can't we get our local churches involved? And certainly the city, the county? I think if you if you put the right people together that have a desire to make it better, we could come up with some solutions.”
Redding has received financial assistance from religious groups on public service matters. In 2017, the city's acceptance of a $500,000 donation from Bethel Church — earmarked to keep the city's Neighborhood Police Unit afloat — drew criticism from some community members who charged the church with overstepping its influence with city officials.
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Mezzano, though, said such targeted donations aren't a concern for him.
"Is it's a viable purpose and it benefits the people of Redding, I’m all for it," he said. "If you want to bring a program into this city and the people of Redding will benefit from it, you get my support. I don't know how else to say that."
Mezzano's other ideas for the city include:
- Hiring more firefighters. Money for the new positions could come from reallocating funds now used for department overtime, he said.
- Offering financial incentives to attract companies or telecommuters that want to relocate to Redding.
- Place greater effort into attracting businesses to the city-owned Stillwater Business Park, first opened in 2010 but still unoccupied.
Redding City Council candidates
- Adam McElvain, incumbent
- Mark Mezzano
- Jack Munns
- David Robbins
- Monique Welin
- Julie Winter, incumbent
Shasta College Board of Trustees Area E candidates
- Stephen Bell
- Rayola Pratt, incumbent
Michele Chandler covers city government and housing issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. Follow her on Twitter at @MChandler_RS, call her at 530-225-8344 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support our entire newsroom's commitment to public service journalism by subscribing today.