Campaign 2012: Sutter supervisor's District 4 race could be a referendum
Occupation: Teacher and coach at Yuba City High School.
Political experience: Sutter County supervisor since 2002.
Occupation: California Department of Corrections Program Compliance and internal audits manager.
Political experience: Member of Yuba City Planning Commission.
On the issues, incumbent Sutter County Supervisor Jim Whiteaker and challenger Preet Didbal have largely the same answer for which ones they'd like to see addressed if elected: Flood control and economic development.
When asked about one another, though, the two candidates squaring off in the June 5 District 4 race sound a lot less agreeable.
"Look at what the incumbent has done in the last three years on these critical issues," said Didbal, 43, a Yuba City planning commissioner and internal audit manager for the California Department of Corrections. "I want to connect with every resident I can, and I want them to consider my qualifications."
For his part, Whiteaker, 47, said those qualifications should include demonstrations of civic commitment.
"In 10 years, I've only missed one meeting, and never a budget meeting," he said. "My opponent's never been to one. She hasn't voted in the last few elections."
In the district with the largest population of any in Sutter County, encompassing much of western Yuba City, the race between Didbal and Whiteaker could be decided by approach and a referendum on county governance.
Since his first election in 2002, Whiteaker said he has seen progress on the key issues, but with more work to do. He said he is looking forward to the start of actual levee upgrades in 2014, and seeing businesses set up in portions of the county designated in the recently adopted General Plan update.
"In tough economic times, we have to make sure we have adequate facilities and equipment," he added, referring to public safety. The new county animal shelter, still being negotiated, is part of that, he said.
But Didbal said there is more the county can and should do. Shortening the application process for businesses, and looking to attract those tied to agriculture, just makes sense, she said.
She also said flood improvements need to start sooner rather than later to keep costs down, and another cost driver, pensions for county employees, should be addressed.
"Our pension debt is $68 million, and the administration and the board don't want to talk about it," she said, adding a plan adopted in 2004 — with Whiteaker's vote — needs revision.
"I come from a wide range of experience that makes me hands-on," she said of how she would approach the job. When she has met with constituents, she said, she gets a sense of yearning for new leadership.
Yet Whiteaker said he is still feeling public service is both what he enjoys and what he should be doing.
"In every campaign, I enjoy walking my district and listening to advice," he said. "Being involved in the decision making process, voting on decisions, making this community a better place, that's a strong passion for me."
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.