Over the Hill

Like Jimmy Paulding, I also lost a SLO County supervisor race by a handful of votes

Tribune columnist Phil Dirkx.
Tribune columnist Phil Dirkx. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

I’ve never met Jimmy Paulding, but he and I have major disappointments in common. We have both lost elections for the county Board of Supervisors by razor-thin margins.

Paulding lost his bid for the South County District 4 seat. I lost my bid for the North County District 1 seat. The difference was he suffered his defeat on the fifth of this month, while I suffered mine in November of 1980.

Paulding lost to incumbent county Supervisor Lynn Compton, by just 60 votes out of the 18,324 counted. I lost to Jerry Diefenderfer by 56 votes out of 15,436.

I’m confident Mr. Paulding will easily recover from his defeat. He is a well-educated lawyer who is also experienced in the planning and management of major construction projects. Those also seem like good qualifications for a county supervisor. Maybe he’ll run again in four years.

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My situation was different. I didn’t have a job. For the 12 years prior to my election attempt, I had been news director for KPRL Radio in Paso Robles. But, if I’d kept that job while running for election, it would have been an obvious conflict of interest. So I quit my radio job. How was that for overconfidence?

Fortunately I had friends at the Telegram-Tribune (as this paper was then called). So after losing the election, I went to work for this paper doing what I enjoy doing: collecting and reporting news. I did that until 1993, when my late wife, Mamie, wanted to retire. We both retired, but as you can see, the Tribune has had a hard time getting rid of me.

So please don’t just complain. Run for the school board or city council or something. Your work, business and parenting experiences have developed your leadership skills. That’s what local government needs. Just a few people can make a big difference.

A great example of that is Barney Schwartz. In 1949 he and his brother Dale came to Paso and bought radio station KPRL. They and their mother and a sister lived in the house behind the station. They worked long hours, and the station became an everyday part of Paso Robles life. It succeeded.

Then after several years, Barney and Dale led the development of the Paso Robles Golf and Country Club, and its connected residential development. They operated that from 1960 to 1972 and sold KPRL in 1961. Also in 1962, Barney and Dale were elected to the Paso Robles City Council.

For the next 20 years, Barney Schwartz was mayor of Paso Robles. Once a week over KPRL, he’d broadcast his “Mayor’s Report.” Then in 1982, he didn’t seek reelection. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and died on Sept. 25. But he showed that a local elected leader can make big differences.

During Barney’s 20 years as mayor, Paso Robles grew from 3.6 square miles to 11.44 square miles. It now covers about 20 square miles. Its population went from 6,700 in 1960, to 9,200 to in 1980, to 18,600 in 1990, to around 30,500 now.

If you want to make a difference, run for office.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to the Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades and his column appears every other week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.