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Forum Provides Early Look At District One Supervisor Candidates

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Sonora, CA — A luncheon hosted by the Tuolumne County Business Council and Tuolumne County Association of Realtors featured a conversation with candidates running for the District One Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors seat.

On hand at the TCAR office on Tuolumne Road were Mike Holland, Matt Hawkins, Tanya Carsner, and Mark Plummer. The conversation was moderated by business council president Tom Crosby and around 30 people were in the audience.

The District One seat covers the greater Sonora area and is currently held by David Goldemberg, who is not seeking re-election.

All of the candidates spoke about their backgrounds. Holland is a business owner, contractor and longtime school board member (Curtis Creek and Sonora High). Hawkins is a Sonora City Council member who has worked in various business sectors and he and his wife are raising six children. Carsner is a single mother and a businesswoman who is growing more and more concerned with local government spending. Plummer is a timber faller and the current Mayor of Sonora who has spent time traveling many parts of the world.

Many of the questions surrounded business and economic prosperity, and the candidates collectively agreed on issues such as the need to reduce hurdles to receiving building permits, the importance of an active tourism economy, increasing government transparency, and holding government officials accountable.

Holland, who has a background in building homes in the county, noted that it takes anywhere from 1-2 weeks to receive permits in Amador and Mariposa counties, but it lasts 10-12 months in Tuolumne County, noting it is “absolutely ridiculous.”  On that topic, Hawkins added that there is a “culture in the county that continues to say ‘no.” Plummer said issues like improving the building permit process need to be identified as a board goal with data analyzed to ensure that improvements are made.

One area that Carsner specifically criticized was the salaries of top government officials, noting that several of Tuolumne County’s leaders are paid more than the President of the United States.

One topic where the candidates had some disagreement was a potential $11 million remodel of the historic downtown Tuolumne County Courthouse. Hawkins was the first to bring it up, and said the building should be operational, but it is a “huge mistake” to spend money to plan and move aspects like the board of supervisors meeting room (fourth floor services) over. Carsner said the county shouldn’t be spending money it doesn’t have while “wishing for grants.” She said the courthouse overhaul spending is not necessary and opposes it. Plummer, meanwhile, said he is “thrilled” with the idea of seeing the courthouse repurposed and combining new with the old, if grant money becomes available. He acknowledged the project would be more challenging to accomplish without grant dollars. Holland countered that a long-term strategic plan needs to be conducted related to its properties. He compared the facility to the historic dome and efforts carried out by the Sonora School Board to find its best use.

Plummer, Holland and Hawkins praised the future of biomass as an economic generator with various projects planned over the coming years. Carsner, however, raised concerns, and said groups like Kodama, which she said is backed by Bill Gates, is clear cutting forests, and encouraged people to research the group online.

The candidates also all agreed that growing the local economy will be critical in the coming years as the cost of services continues to rise.

Additional forums, hosted by TCAR and the Tuolumne County Business Council, for the District Four and Five supervisor candidates, will be held at the end of the month.

Clarke Broadcasting is also planning upcoming radio forums for all of the Board of Supervisor races and Sonora City Council.

The primary election is on March 5. If no candidate receives over 50-percent, the top two vote getters will move on to the November General Election.