Amanda Rice, who has served since 2012 as a director on Cambria’s services district board, resigned from her longtime, volunteer directorship and membership on the Cambria Forest Committee, effective Jan. 11. She had served on that volunteer board since 2007 or 2008.
She stressed in an email interview later that night that she had not been required or asked to resign from the forest group by Jerry Gruber, general manager of the Cambria Community Services District, or by any other board member.
However, she also noted that her fellow board members “declined to assign someone to attend the forest committee (meetings), in spite of my requests to do so.” Such an assignment could then “take advantage of my long-standing membership with the committee to get policies aligned and build allies.”
She said that, for some reason, “the Forest Committee is viewed as a conflict” with CCSD policy.
Rice said she and Gruber had discussed her Forest Committee participation recently, in the context of the other community meetings she attends as a private citizen, “because I like to be informed about the goings on in and outside of Cambria.” She said she made her decision to resign “after looking at the bigger picture.”
When The Cambrian asked Gruber about that conversation, he made no comment, referring the reporter back to Rice.
Rice’s participation on the Forest Committee isn’t precedent setting. In the past, some previous CSD board members regularly participated in Forest Committee meetings, as did Bob Putney, when he was Cambria Fire’s chief, and Ken Topping, a previous CSD GM.
Rice emphasized that the Forest Committee’s work is still something she cares deeply about, and the decision to leave the committee had been “difficult.” She said, however, that she needs to “pick my battles wisely” because she sees herself “as one board member with significant public support but seemingly none” from CCSD peers and administration.
(In other dealings with fellow directors, Rice has been passed over twice for the normal rotation of officers, which could have put her in the vice president’s chair for 2015 and the presidency for 2016.)
In her resignation letter, Rice told the forest group, “If you want or need a representative knowledgeable about the CSD’s policies or practices, please request such, in writing, from the board president or general manager.”
Reaction at the Jan. 13 forest committee meeting to Rice’s resignation was swift, unanimous and somewhat incredulous. Some members said they felt she’d been pressured to resign, and they linked this situation with one in 2014 in which Gruber required that Mark Miller, then the chief at Cambria Fire Department, resign from the committee’s board and stop attending the meetings.
Crosby Schwartz, co-chairman of the forest group, said Tuesday, Jan. 19, that he believes Gruber and the CSD board have some misunderstandings about the Forest Committee. “We’re not in a lawsuit against the district. We’re not trying to stop progress. The whole idea of the Forest Committee is to have all the people involved in the forest, including the CSD, sitting around the table, talking about what needs to be done.”
Rice said in her resignation letter that “I appreciate the mission of the CFC and urge you to continue working to fulfill it. Perhaps the (CCSD) board will rethink its position.”
She said in her subsequent email interview, “It seems foolhardy and short-sighted to be mistreating some of the forest’s greatest and most focused advocates while insisting we need a parcel tax to manage the forest and CCSD-owned properties.”
But until other board members change their apparent perceptions of the Forest Committee and recognize “the value of this group and its mission,” she said, “I cannot participate.”
Before being elected to the services district board, Rice was chairwoman of the North Coast Advisory Council for two of the four years she was a member of that group. The former high-school English teacher currently provides web development, computer and administrative support for local businesses.