Twelve applicants, six finalists, eight votes and 3½ hours later, Cambria’s services district still doesn’t have a director to fill the seat vacated last month by the departure of Michael Thompson.
Eleven men and one woman threw their names into the hat to succeed Thompson, and the four remaining directors narrowed the field down to six. But they couldn’t get any further than that, as each of the six hopefuls was nominated (one twice), but each time the vote ended in a 2-2 deadlock.
In all cases, board President Amanda Rice and Director Harry Farmer voted one way, with Vice President Greg Sanders and Director Jim Bahringer voting the other.
The only unanimous vote of the day came at the end of the session, when all four directors voted to adjourn the meeting and reconvene at noon on Oct. 3 to try again.
The clock is ticking. If they can’t agree on a replacement for Thompson by Oct. 30, the issue will default to the county Board of Supervisors.
Until then, district counsel Tim Carmel said, the board has “however long it takes you to get three votes.”
That didn’t happen Tuesday.
Indeed, the board found itself back at Square One: Carmel said the board could reconsider some of the six applicants eliminated earlier in the day, could invite new people to apply or could, he said, simply ask someone in the audience to raise a hand to volunteer.
The meeting began with each of the dozen applicants for Thompson’s Cambria Community Services District seat taking 6 minutes for an introduction and, if time remained, fielding questions from the board.
Directors then chose the names of those they’d consider, and candidates who received at least two mentions made it through to the second round. The field included former board members Peter Chaldecott (who said he would not run for re-election after serving out Thompson’s term) and Allan MacKinnon, along with Dewayne Lee, the highest finisher from the 2016 election to submit an application.
Rounding out the final group were former North Coast Advisory Council chairman Bruce Fosdike, 927 Beer Co. owner Aaron Wharton, and Mark Herrier, who’s president of hte Lompoc Theatre Project Board of Directors.
During questioning, each of the six agreed that infrastructure should be a top priority, each backed more standing committees and all said they supported the Buildout Reduction Committee’s work.
Bahringer then nominated Chaldecott, whom he called “the ideal candidate, in my mind.” Sanders seconded the motion, but Rice and Farmer both voted against Chaldecott. Farmer then nominated (with Rice seconding) Lee, but Sanders and Bahringer voted “no.”
Bahringer proceeded to nominate Chaldecott a second time — with the same result, and successive nominations of MacKinnon (by Rice), Wharton (by Bahringer), Fosdike (by Bahringer) and Herrier (by Sanders) all wound up deadlocked.
Divisions on display
The meeting was punctuated by some tense exchanges among the directors on subjects that have divided them, particularly finances and growth.
“My highest priorities are someone who is strong and can help us figure out our financial issues,” said Rice, who joined Farmer in the minority of a recent 3-2 vote to purchase and renovate the old Cambria Library as district offices — an issue also raised by some of the applicants. (Thompson voted with Sanders and Bahringer in favor of the purchase.)
Farmer added that the only way the district had been able to balance its current budget was “to push all the improvements of water and wastewater infrastructure down the road.”
But Sanders countered by saying, “The issue of finances is a red herring” and Bahringer said the district would need to revise its rate structure to address its growing infrastructure concerns.
“The rates can only support water and wastwater, and that fact is coming home to roost,” he said.
Bahringer said the board should honor those who had voted for Thompson by choosing a replacement who shared his philosophy and asked more than one applicant whether they agreed with Thompson’s position on issuing intent-to-serve letters to people on the water wait list.
When the board was unable to reach a consensus on an appointment, Bahringer suggested that the body adjourn and reconvene to consider the matter at a later date. To that, all four directors agreed, setting the date for Tuesday, Oct. 3. The board’s next regular meeting is Thursday, Sept. 28.
Peter Chaldecott, Ronald Cristando, Karen Dean, Alan Fields, Bruce Fosdike, Mark Herrier, Robert Kelley, Dewayne Lee, Allan MacKinnon, David Pierson, Jeff Walters, Aaron Wharton.