David Pierson joined Cambria’s services district board on a unanimous vote Tuesday, Dec. 19, the third day of meetings called to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Greg Sanders.
With Pierson’s appointment, the board decided not to call a special election fill the seat. It had considered such an election after failing to appoint a new member at two previous meetings, Dec. 4 and 11.
Pierson, 69, was nominated at the Dec. 11 meeting, but the board deadlocked 2-2 on his candidacy. Still, Pierson remained in the mix as a potential compromise candidate. Having appeared on Director Jim Bahringer’s short list, he subsequently received votes at that meeting from board President Amanda Rice and Vice President Harry Farmer.
Bahringer and Director Aaron Wharton, however, voted no. Both changed their votes Tuesday.
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Bahringer said Tuesday that he had opposed Pierson on Dec. 11 in order to hear from another candidate, Mark Herrier, who had been unable to attend the initial meeting called to consider the vacancy.
On Tuesday, it was Wharton who nominated Pierson after expressing a preference for a special election. Farmer seconded the motion, and Pierson joined the board after a 4-0 vote.
Wharton cited Pierson’s business experience in nominating him for the seat.
“I do appreciate Dave Pierson’s work on hundreds of millions of dollars in public projects,” Wharton said, adding that Pierson’s experience writing grants was also a plus.
Pierson, a three-year resident of Cambria with wife Cindy, spent more than 20 years with with Trane Heating & Cooling, including five as general district manager. A New Jersey native, he lived in Roanoke, Virginia, before moving to the Central Coast.
His appointment came after two favored candidates, Tom Gray and Dewayne Lee, failed to garner majority support from the board. Wharton and Bahringer had supported Gray, while Lee had been the first choice of Rice and Farmer.
During the meeting, Lee said he would withdraw his name from consideration if Gray did the same; Gray declined, but it didn’t matter, as neither applicant was nominated again.
Budget as priority
Asked after the meeting his top priority on the board, Pierson said, “The budget, the budget, the budget. We have some tough decisions to make about whether we’re going to ask for more money or tighten the old belt.”
Some of those decisions involve the possibility of new taxes for several projects mentioned at Tuesday’s meeting. District Counsel Tim Carmel mentioned four “unfunded or underfunded” issues the board could address:
▪ Keeping fire staffing at current levels.
▪ Forest management.
▪ Increased maintenance needs for the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.
▪ Implementing the Buildout Reduction Program.
Of those, the most immediate issue to be addressed is fire staffing. A two-year federal grant that has allowed Cambria to staff its fire engines with four firefighters expires in March, and the positions are only funded through the end of the fiscal year, June 31.
Bahringer proposed asking voters for money to fund the fire staffing and, at most, one other issue. Pierson suggested that the fire funds be considered alongside forest management: “That’s hand-in-hand.”
Directors instructed district staff to prepare options for consideration at the first meeting of the new year, set for 2 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Cambria Veterans Memorial Building.