New Cal County leaders sworn in

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat /

The new Calaveras County Board of Supervisors got seated Tuesday and quickly got to work appointing an interim county administrative officer and sorting out assignments to powerful commissions and agencies.

Unanimity was the order of the day as a series of 5-0 votes led to the appointment of John Blacklock as interim CAO, Supervisor Merita Callaway as board chairwoman and Supervisor Darren Spellman as vice chairman for the coming year. A lengthy list of appointments was doled out in amiable deliberations.

In addition to assigning the committee appointments, Ponte said the county may be well-served by looking hard at its involvement in the various agencies and joint powers authorities and what benefits it derives from participation.

"We should continue to review every year to ensure they are effective and not just have them because we have had them forever," she said.

Callaway agreed, saying that while some are mandated by state law or conditions of grant funding, others may simply be redundant or unnecessary.

For example, appointments to the Calaveras-Amador Mokelumne River Authority, Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority, Mokelumne River Authority and Mokelumne River Ad-Hoc Committee were made Tuesday, primarily to supervisors Chris Wright and Cliff Edson, whose districts border on the river that separates Calaveras and Amador counties.

Callaway said the CAMRA in particular is one that has drifted from its original purpose and may no longer need a county government representative even if participation comes at little or no cost to the county. The various Mokelumne River-centered groups are largely made up of water utilities with a stake in the river.

Ponte and Edson each expressed interest in the Calaveras Council of Governments, a transportation policy-making body that also includes Angels Camp City Council members and appointed citizen representatives. No one objected to their appointments and Callaway will serve as an alternate to the panel.

Spellman said he wished to remain on the Local Agency Formation Commission, which helps determine boundaries for various special districts, as an impending merger of Foothill and Jenny Lind fire districts within his supervisorial district is expected to be finalized this year. Callaway will join him on that commission and Ponte is the alternate.

The only dissent to any of the appointments came during public comment.

Joe Kelly, a frequent board critic and a primary-election candidate last spring, suggested the long-standing appointment of Callaway to the California State Association of Counties, which represents each of the state's 58 counties at the state level, be rotated at least at some point.

"It's not that Ms. Callaway hasn't been a good representative, I would like to see it moved around so everybody gets a feel," Kelly said.

Another frequent critic, Peter Racz, read much of last year's Grand Jury report that specifically targeted the board, including a recommendation that the appointments be rotated more frequently, and also said CSAC is a costly endeavor for the county.

The new board also heard renewed calls for improvements to federal flood zone maps that are used in determining insurance requirements and a return to four meetings each month.

Spellman asked that an upcoming agenda item reflect not just the frequency but timing of meetings, as he and others have called for at least occasional night sessions.

"Even if you have more meetings, that doesn't negate the issue of people working 9 to 5 having to take a day off work to address" the board, he said.

The Calaveras County Planning Commission is scheduled to meet Thursday with the bare minimum for a quorum to conduct business. Fawn McLaughlin and Michelle Plotnik were re-appointed to new two-year terms. Ponte's District 4 choice, Copperopolis attorney Kelly Wooster, was also selected. Spellman said the re-appointment of Greg Gustafson must await clearance regarding whether his election to the Calaveras Unified School District board represents a conflict of interest. Edson asked to table the District 1 appointment, with applications coming from incumbent Ted Allured, George Fry and Dennis Grady.

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The Union Democrat
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