The Tribune has learned of three candidates who were given face-to-face interviews with the governor’s appointments staff in Sacramento, which means they are finalists for the job. The Board of Supervisors' 4th District includes much of the South County including Nipomo and Arroyo Grande.
Mike Winn of Nipomo, Mike Byrd of Arroyo Grande and Arroyo Grande City Councilwoman Caren Ray have confirmed that they are finalists. They described a lengthy process of applying for the job, which included filling out an online application, being interviewed by phone and ultimately traveling for an in-person interview in Sacramento.
“It’s pretty amazing the depth of their staff’s knowledge on the issues here,” said Byrd, a South County real estate agent. “They don’t take this lightly.”
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Officials with the Brown administration say no official details about the appointment process are available and there is no deadline for the governor to make a decision. Officials would not release a list of those who have applied.
“The administration does not release information about prospective appointees in order to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of the applicants,” said Jim Evans, a spokesman for the governor.
The three candidates and others who follow the process say Brown is nearing a decision. County Supervisor Adam Hill said he recently called the governor’s office to check on the process.
“I was told that they had completed their work and were simply looking to get a spot on the governor’s schedule,” he said. “And after that, it’s all up to the governor — who and when.”
Whoever is appointed will have to begin campaigning for election to a full term if he or she wants to keep the seat. The term expires at the end of 2014, and candidates will first face off in June in the primary election.
The process began with those interested in the job filling out an online application. Winn said it took him five hours to complete the application, which covered income taxes, employment history, education and community and military service.
A telephone interview with applicants was the second part of the process. The governor’s appointment staff asked about information in the application as well as standard job interview questions such as why they wanted the position and why they thought they would do a good job.
The applicants who were not invited for face-to-face interviews received a letter thanking them for their willingness to serve.
The in-person interviews covered some of the same information as the phone interviews, as well as questions about important issues facing San Luis Obispo County such as the Paso Robles groundwater basin crisis.
“My interview was about three weeks ago, and I haven’t heard anything since then,” Winn said.
Now, it’s just a matter of waiting.
“As is the case with all our appointments, our focus is selecting the best possible candidates,” Evans said. “That ultimately dictates our timing.”
The California Legislature recently finished its session, and the governor has a lot of bills to read and consider, so it is understandable that it would take him time to make a decision, Winn said.
“I don’t think there is any reluctance to make the appointment,” he said. “But he can only get to it when he gets to it.”
Others said they are glad that Brown is being deliberative about his decision.
“While we need an appointment as quickly as possible to get the people of District 4 represented again, the fact that it is taking so long should reassure citizens that the governor is taking this seriously and doing as much homework as necessary to get this decision right for the county,” Ray said.
A 1999 state Court of Appeal ruling upheld the governor’s power to withhold the names of applicants, said Jim Ewert, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association.
In that case, the California First Amendment Coalition sought names of applicants for a vacancy on the Plumas County Board of Supervisors after being denied the information by Gov. Pete Wilson. The court ruled that the governor has the right under the “deliberative process privilege” not to release the names, which could create a chilling effect by discouraging potential applicants, Ewert said.