I went to the Board of Supervisors meeting this week. That may not seem remarkable for someone who covers local government, but I wasn’t there for work. That’s also not remarkable, because the chambers (at least early on) was full of people attending on their own time.
What distinguished this meeting from others since August 2019 is I was there as a participant. I appeared on the agenda under item 4.01-A-3: “Appointments to the Vina Groundwater Sustainability Agency – Domestic Well User Stakeholder Director Primary and Alternate Positions.” I’d served four years on the GSA board; my term having expired, I sought reappointment.
Serendipitously, I sat next to Claudia Rawlins, the other applicant. We had a friendly conversation before the meeting began, and I mentioned this when addressing the supervisors a couple hours later, as she needed to return to Chico.
I don’t tend to make prepared speeches. Out of curiosity, I went into the county clerk’s online archive and found the recording of the session in which I first got appointed. It worked once, after all!
In any case, the supervisors reappointed me and appointed Claudia as alternate. (They also reappointed agricultural director Jeff Rohwer and alternate Steve Koehnen.)
Among the things I mentioned: a passion for public service. Between the Chico Planning Commission, Inspire school board and Vina GSA, I’ve spent a month’s worth of hours on the dais (literally and figuratively). I still find it rewarding (figuratively, not literally — no stipend for any of these roles).
It’s also taxing. Coming to a meeting prepared requires, well, preparation. Decisions have consequences and often result from compromises that can leave colleagues and constituents displeased. Thick skin helps.
But that’s the trade-off — responsibility that accompanies authority. (The latter, often narrower than people think.) Believe it or not, I take the same oath of office as the governor; to wit:
“I do solemnly swear or affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.”
I’m not sure how much a water board member could do in defense of two constitutions, but a pledge is a pledge …
Anyway, back to the appointment. In this case, it’s a quadrennial application and decision by elected officials who’ve had to do a lot more than I to get their seats. The prospect of campaigning, especially fundraising, lacks appeal to me. Not to say I never would run for office — I did once (Paradise school board; fell 2% short). At this point, I’d rather do other things with the time that takes.
I’m happy with civic volunteerism on a local board. Highly recommend, as the expression goes. A few tips:
• Find something that stirs interest.
• Brush up on background.
• Attend meetings.
• Reach out to people making the appointments.
• Listen and learn.
• Step up for a reason beyond the title.
The city and county have board and commission vacancies; so does the groundwater agency, for the advisory committee. Like many things, government can be only as good as the people involved.
Evan Tuchinsky is weekend editor of the Enterprise-Record. You can reach him at email@example.com.