Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced on Friday afternoon that a vacant seat on the California Coastal Commission will be filled with another Humboldt County Supervisor, confirming that 3rd District Supervisor Mike Wilson has been appointed to the position nearly a week after the original deadline had passed.
“I’m grateful the governor’s office believed in what I can bring to the Coastal Commission,” Wilson said Friday afternoon. “I take the task of protection and promotion of our coastal resources seriously and I think it will be particularly challenging in these times of sea level rise and climate change.”
Wilson earned a master’s degree in environmental systems engineering from Humboldt State University and has spent his career working on water and coastal issues. Wilson said he was notified of the appointment Thursday and he realizes it will mean more work but it’s work to which he’s dedicated his career.
“This is what I studied and this is what I work at — this is what I enjoy in my professional life,” Wilson said. “I’m not naive about the time and travel it will take to do this. Coastal resources are important statewide issues and the Coastal Act was created to enhance and protect coastal public resources for all Californians, not just coastal Californians.”
Wilson fills a vacancy left by former 5th District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg, who vacated the commission seat after he lost his re-election bid in June 2018. Sundberg’s last meeting was in March of this year.
“I think we have to realize the two final nominees were from Humboldt County,” said board chair Rex Bohn. “It appears with the length of time it took to make the decision there doesn’t appear to be much separating the two. It almost feels like the governor threw a dart at the board.”
Bohn was referring to both Wilson and fellow supervisor Virginia Bass who was up for consideration for the seat as well.
Bohn thinks the governor’s choice may make life easier for Bass, who already serves as president on the board of the California State Association of Counties along with other duties and committees.
“I was talking to Virginia about this and, personally, I think she will be somewhat relieved,” Bohn said with a chuckle. “I think the governor realizes that her work on the board of CSAC and in Sacramento may have led him to believe she wouldn’t have enough time to devote to the Coastal Commission. I am glad that the two choices were narrowed down to supervisors from our board. It’s important for the county to have that voice.”
Bass wasn’t filled with joy at the announcement. She learned of the appointment after a representative from the Coastal Commission called her to tell her the governor had decided to go in a different direction.
“The decision has been made and the fact that it took so long makes it seem like it was really competitive,” Bass said by phone Friday afternoon from a Coastal Commission hearing she was attending in San Luis Obispo. “I think having someone from Humboldt County on the commission is extremely important. We have more coastline than any other county (110 miles) and the experience in say Del Norte is very different from what we experience. There are real differences in what Supervisor Wilson and I brought to the table, so it depends on what they were looking for. Hopefully, Mike makes me his alternate.”
Bass said she’d rather see a local representative on the commission particularly because of pressing issues such as sea level rise and issues on the bay.
For Jen Kalt, executive director of Humboldt Baykeeper, having a local representative on the commission is important in several ways, not least the fact there will be a Coastal Commission meeting in Eureka next month.
“This is definitely a positive, especially because Mike has so much experience with a wide range of coastal issues,” Kalt said. “He has 10 years or so on the harbor commission and he’s worked on a lot of different issues from coastal access to planning and development. I feel he will be a good fit for the Coastal Commission and it’s really good we have someone local. There are some pretty controversial issues on that agenda (in August) and it would have been terrible not to have a local representative for that meeting.”
Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528.