Amanda Folendorf, the youngest member of the Angels Camp City Council, is now mayor of the only incorporated town in Calaveras County.
She’s 31 and was elected by voters to the City Council in November 2014. In Angels Camp, the City Council appoints the mayor in January each year, said Mary Kelly, the city administrator, clerk and treasurer.
The other City Council members for this town of 3,200 residents are Linda Hermann, Veronica Metildi, Scott Behiel and Joseph Oliveira. Folendorf was appointed mayor and Hermann was appointed vice mayor at Tuesday’s council meeting.
“We have a lot of new staff coming on board, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with them and to hear their ideas on how to move forward,” Folendorf said Friday in a phone interview. “We are staffing, filling holes. We’re looking at how the city can generate more revenue and focus on economic development.”
Folendorf said she wants to work with city staff and the council to create a strategic plan to set up with priorities and goals for the next few years.
In late December, the City Council approved contracts for a new city administrator, Melissa Eads, and a new city attorney, Douglas White of Churchwell White in Sacramento. Eads is expected to begin her position Jan. 16 and White took over city attorney responsibilities Jan. 2.
At a November council meeting in Bret Harte High’s theater, Folendorf was a lone voice speaking in favor at times of regulating cannabis in Angels Camp. Some people in the audience, sitting in shadows at the back of the theater, shouted her down on occasion. Folendorf said Friday she is still in favor of regulated cannabis in Angels Camp.
“I think we still have some work to do and go forward and do more research,” Folendorf said. “All the cities in California, with Prop 64 passed last year, are having to take positions they may or may not have been prepared for. I believe coming up with a regulatory ordinance going forward is in the city’s best interest.”
Asked about downtown Angels Camp and how to secure more long-term business tenants and owners to stick around, Folendorf said she wants to work with existing partners, not only government but the Angels Camp Business Association and Destination Angels Camp, to explore opportunities.
“We want to work with our partnerships to find incentives and more reasons for people to see Angels as their next place to set up their businesses,” Folendorf said. “Downtown is what makes Angels. It’s there for people to take advantage of.”
Asked about some priorities she has already identified, Folendorf talked about the Angels Creek Master Plan and Trail. City staff have been working on it, and Folendorf said she thinks the city is getting near to the phase of getting the project built.
“The consultants are starting to create the plans to get it built,” Folendorf said. “That’s something that’s exciting not only for Angels Camp, it’s for all of us who are active and like to get outside. It will be great connection to get down to Melones.”
Referring to her campaign when she ran for City Council in 2014, Folendorf said, “Going back to my platform, young people need to know they have opportunities to have their say and take part in economic development, and how they envision the city and its direction.”
Asked about a Calaveras County grand jury report last year that recommended Angels Camp leaders begin talking about dissolution, Folendorf said she supports Councilmember Behiel, who was mayor in June when the report came out. Behiel blasted the grand jury’s arguments for dissolution as flimsy.
“That was not the scope of what the grand jury was asked to report on,” Folendorf said. “It was a hasty conclusion for the grand jury to make.”
Asked about the ongoing state investigation of Michael McHatten, who served as Angels Camp city administrator from August 2011 to January 2017, Folendorf said the city has put in place updated policies and procedures.
McHatten was accused in an independent financial audit and the 2016-17 Calaveras County Grand Jury Report of potentially misappropriating $29,000 from city coffers by taking administrative leave payouts that exceeded the maximum allowed in his contract.
“At this point in time, we’re confident we have the right policies in place and it’s up to staff to follow them,” Folendorf said.
Folendorf, who ran on a youth platform hoping to represent younger people in Angels Camp, is at least 20 years younger than the other members of the City Council. She is an Angels Camp native, a graduate of Bret Harte High in 2004, and a former Miss Deaf California from 2007 to 2009.
She has studied at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the world’s only university for deaf students and she completed her studies at California State University, Sacramento with a degree in political science and a concentration in international relations.
Outside of her elected office with the City of Angels, Folendorf is separately employed by the U.S. Forest Service with the Stanislaus National Forest. She emphasizes her employment is entirely unrelated to her elected role in Angels Camp. Her experience in the Stanislaus National Forest includes work in the Mi-Wok Ranger District. Previously she worked as a supply technician for the U.S. Department of Defense in Sunnyvale.
Folendorf says she identifies herself as deaf and says she uses video relay and electronic interpreter technology to keep up with conversations on cell phones and at council meetings.
“I am deaf,” Folendorf said Friday. “I don’t see it as a disability. I grew up learning speech first. Most people have a perception that deaf people can’t speak. We all have different abilities in how we communicate. My primary favorite way to communicate is American sign language, but not everyone knows that. Modern technology has made it easier for the deaf community to make phone calls.”
Folendorf’s City Council term expires in December. She says she has not decided if she will seek re-election in November. Either way, her term as Angels Camp mayor is through January 2019.