Editor’s note: In Rio Dell, there are three seats open on the City Council. Incumbent Debra Garnes is seeking re-election on Nov. 6. Joining Garnes on the ballot: Bryan Richter, Julie Woodall and John McManus. On Aug. 21, using contact information provided by Rio Dell City Hall, the Times-Standard emailed the candidates, asking them to provide some basic information about themselves in addition to answering five questions regarding their experience and their stance on important issues facing their community. The replies of respondents appear below.
Incumbent. 15 year resident of Rio Dell. Retired hazardous materials specialist. 58 years of age.
1. Please describe your experience and what you bring to the job. My experience is derived from 20 years working for a public utility, 10 years as a Hazardous Materials Technician/Specialist and four years serving on the City Council.
What I bring to the job first and foremost is the ability to set aside my personal views, listen to and reflect my constituents voices through my votes on the council. Further, I bring an openness to new ideas for revenue, the ability to compromise on issues allowing for progress rather than stalemates and the strength of character to stand firm on principle. I am a logical, reasonable and pragmatic person willing to work with anyone who is trying to improve and elevate the city of Rio Dell.
2. What are your priorities, if elected? My top priorities when re-elected will be: 1. To continue finding new revenue sources for the City that will enable us to make desperately needed improvements to our roads and infrastructure WITHOUT TAXING the citizens (e.g. begin FIXING roads rather than just patching them) 2. To represent Rio Dell as a strong, positive and safe community that welcomes partnerships with good businesses, good neighbors and good people willing to help elevate Rio Dell’s influence within Humboldt County. 3. To listen to the citizens and reflect THEIR voices through my votes on what is best for the City and in what direction we will head. The last priority I hope to achieve is through town hall meetings a few times a year so that I can really hear what people think, feel and hope for the future of our city.
During the past four years I have fought for the city and into the future I will continue (to) fight, through zoning, planning, ordinances and compromise, for ways to make investors look to Rio Dell. And, we have had some success; as is visible on 101 just north of town. I will also look for ways to improve our quality of life such as a skate park for our youth and a fitness park for the entire community. I humbly ask for your vote so that I can continue to fight for Rio Dell because, ultimately, I believe the citizens of Rio Dell are worth the fight.
3. The temporary closure of Eagle Prairie Bridge severely impacted local businesses. What can the city do to help these business owners? The City coordinated with CalTrans on speeding up the construction process and altering the signage for downtown businesses. The City helped research the process to assist local businesses in filing claims against CalTrans. We need to remain focused on downtown by continuing to make improvements and finding new ways to help bolster the businesses that were most affected. We need to work to find the most cost effective way to clean the remaining brownfields located downtown. A community center or community plaza for public events would be a boon for downtown as well. Also, we need to hold absentee property owners accountable when their properties fall into disrepair.
4. What would best stimulate the city’s economy? Cleaning up nuisances such as non working vehicles and blight, fixing our roads and improving our infrastructure in order to attract thriving businesses into our community. To that end, it is the hope that the Humboldt/Rio Dell Business Park, just north of the city, which will house the legal cannabis businesses will start to bring in revenue which we can use to begin fixing these problems.
We need to continue to work with our local businesses, the chamber of commerce and the community at large to make a downtown that is inviting to businesses looking for a new home and that would create an atmosphere of healthy competition as well as a downtown that is exciting for tourists to visit.
We need to brand ourselves to create an identity in the broader Humboldt County region; again, a reason for people from outside of Rio Dell to pull off the freeway. The cannabis industry represents an important element in jump-starting the local economy, but it cannot be the only thing we do. It is an important time for Rio Dell to think about that and ask ourselves: what kind of vision are we open to? We need to be open to ideas and let the world know we’re a good place to do business.
Creating a trail system along the river would attract more people to Rio Dell, thereby, increasing the likelihood of people being drawn to our local businesses and spending their dollars in our community.
5. What’s your view on the role of cannabis in the city? To enhance the city through well designed construction, to bring jobs and to bring revenue. This is the role of all businesses. As it stands in California the cannabis industry is now legally recognized which, from my point of view, means that if it is licensed by the State of California, the County of Humboldt and the City of Rio Dell it is as legal as any other business in the City and we should take advantage of the opportunities it will afford us. Our current ordinances ensure that cannabis businesses are restricted to the Humboldt-Rio Dell Business Park (the old sawmill site off of Highway 101 just north of the City).
Editor’s note: No photo submitted.
My name is Bryan Richter, and I have resided at my current address in Rio Dell for the past 26 years, however I have lived in this town for 33 years. I am a licensed building Contractor, owning my own business, Richter Construction, for the past 18 years. I am 48 years young currently and have lived in Humboldt County for 46 of those years, with a two year stint in Edna Bay, Alaska.
1. Please describe your experience and what you bring to the job. To describe my experience with regard to the position of Council member, I would like to refer to my current position as an alternate on the Planning Commission. I like to think that my 18 years of experience as a self employed business owner has a great deal of influence on my ability to aid in the guidance of Rio Dell for the next 4 years.
2. What are your priorities, if elected? My priorities if elected are first to work toward getting the water and sewer rates back under control as well as making sure that the infrastructure improvements are performed to bring our failing systems up to date, second to try to establish a more welcoming community in order to attract more small businesses into town.
3. The temporary closure of Eagle Prairie Bridge severely impacted local businesses. What can the city do to help these business owners? With regard to the Eagle Prairie Bridge closure and the impact it has had on the local business community, the City Council is already working with the Rio Dell Chamber of Commerce and Caltrans to aid the businesses directly affected by the closure. My position is to follow this current process through to the best outcome that can be arranged, which hopefully includes financial compensation to the businesses who have been hit hardest.
4. What would best stimulate the city’s economy? 5. What’s your view on the role of cannabis in the city? Questions 4 and 5 on your list, “What would best stimulate the city’s economy?” plus “What’s your view on the role of cannabis in the city?” are very much tied together as far as I am concerned. A new Dispensary located on Main street, ‘Wildwood Avenue’, would be a big help, as more potential customers would frequent the town thereby giving our local businesses more exposure. The role of Cannabis in Rio Dell is now the same as the role that logging had for the town in years prior to the Pacific Lumber Company closing down and selling out to Mendocino Redwood, financial stability and a source of income for the citizens as well as a source of tax revenue for the City.
Editor’s note: The Times-Standard received no response from Julie Woodall.
My name is John B. McManus. I currently reside in Rio Dell and have been a resident since 2009. I have lived in Humboldt County for the majority of my life. I am currently employed as the Executive Director of Alcohol Drug Care Services, Inc. (ADCS), and Executive Director and Co-Clinical Director of Waterfront Recovery Services in Eureka. I am 53 years of age.
1. Please describe your experience and what you bring to the job. I have 18 years of experience in administration and start-up of both non-profit and for profit substance use disorder treatment centers in Humboldt County.
In my current position as Executive Director of ADCS I have worked hard to provide an increased level of substance use disorder treatment services to our county, and to provide low income and transitional housing for those in need. Waterfront Recovery Services is an ambitious project that took much time and hard work to bring to fruition. Positive change does not come from sitting back and waiting for others to do the work, it comes from vision, hard work and dedication. That is what I intend to bring to the job.
2. What are your priorities, if elected? To establish an identity for the city that creates a positive atmosphere and climate for businesses, families, and our city, to thrive. For this to happen Rio Dell needs to reach a consensus regarding how we brand and market our town that is consistent with the culture and history of the community. How will we represent ourselves both aesthetically and culturally to create the most positive outcome financially for the residents of the city?
3. The temporary closure of Eagle Prairie Bridge severely impacted local businesses. What can the city do to help these business owners? I believe that if there is money on the table to assist with the losses incurred by local businesses due to the bridge closure, the city should pursue those sources. I also believe that we must develop an economy that is resilient enough to withstand the loss of one access point to the town.
4. What would best stimulate the city’s economy? Our city needs to be a destination point. We live in a beautiful community and we need to work hard to maximize its potential through capital CBDG grants, Technical Assistance Grants, etc. We need to improve the look of the town. We need to have a wider variety of businesses in operation.
5. What’s your view on the role of cannabis in the city? I believe that cannabis does have a role to play in the city, but I believe a cautious approach that takes into account the concerns of all residents of the community should be adopted. As dispensaries are now legal, I believe that allowing operation in the city makes sense.