Donald Williams | Feb 13, 2020
I appreciate your editorial board interviewing candidates for county supervisor. Thanks to you for that service, and to them for running. The editorial explained that your board’s default position is to favor incumbents because of their experience. (“The choices for Napa County supervisor
,” Jan. 26).
But two principles powerfully antithetical to incumbency are just as important as experience. One is a new supervisor’s fresh perspective. Anyone in any job after a while can become stale. Supervisors, too, can stall out. New people bring new ideas and different approaches. Defaulting to incumbency, by contrast, discourages innovation.
There’s another reason to favor newcomers. A change of supervisors means even more and different people are in service to our community. I dream of a day when strolling the street I encounter everywhere people who’ve taken their turn at local government. But broader participation won’t happen if we reflexively favor incumbents.
Challengers offer an opportunity to connect with people whom the incumbents couldn’t reach (even the most earnest incumbent can’t reach everyone). When more people connect and feel involved, democracy thrives.
Elected officials in our county are a small group. Protracted tenure makes it too easy to become clubby with special interests, with one another, or with staff --- public excluded. Not good. The remedy is to open the elected-official club, rotate its membership.
Incumbents leave office, yet counties manage to survive. Every incumbent was once new to the job. If experience was the crucial criterion for success in legislation, we’d just hire people to sit there for lifetimes. But let’s not fantasize that holding office bestows any special skill or aptitude.
I wish it did. I sit on the city council in Calistoga. I’m conscientious and try to be responsive to Calistogans. But the experience I’ll offer after eight years (if I’m there that long) won’t be as valuable as the fresh perspectives and approaches of a new council member. Holding office can become a bad habit. Would you like our presidents to serve more than eight years?
Incumbent Supervisor Ramos did not impress your editorial board. If a challenger had presented herself the way Ramos did, the editorial board would probably dismiss her. Still, your panel couldn’t bring itself to endorse Aboudamous---a “bright” and impressive alternative---so prejudiced were they for “experience”!
Only that prepossession could explain the editorial board’s unfathomable reluctance to endorse the other challenger, Amber Manfree. As you noted, she is “intelligent, personable, and passionate,” with “refreshing authenticity.” (Already she deserves our vote.)
But there’s more: “She is a scientist . . . and understands the issues at stake in development of wild lands as well as anyone on the board.” And she’s not endorsed? You gotta be kidding. Manfree is a rare and precious opportunity that Napa cannot afford to let slip by.
Instead you offer faint praise for Pedroza’s “policy points” on transportation issues -- ironically, since this incumbent government has superintended massive traffic miseries on Napans. That’s not to mention the precipitation of an alarming identity crisis: Are we authentically ag or are we Disneyland?
Now, now, now is the time for change on the board of supervisors. What in the world are we waiting for?
NVR version 2/13/20: Fresh perspectives are needed in elective office