In stark contrast to where the wildlife management program stood two years ago, support for Wildlife Manager Steve Searles is so strong that Searles had to turn down multiple offers for work trucks.
At the Mammoth Town Council meeting Wednesday night, the town council was asked to sign off on a plan to allow Searles to use the Town owned Animal Control truck on his daily wildlife calls. The problem was Searles had already accepted an offer from Mammoth Mountain Ski Area to use a truck free of charge.
Searles explained to the council that while he doesnt mind driving his crummy old truck, he thought he could better represent the Town when the film crews arrive to shoot more episodes of the Bear Whisperer, with a nicer truck. Searles personal truck is truck number one in the scenario. Enter truck number two.
Searles said that he had asked to use the Town owned former Animal Control truck, but had been denied because he was a contractor for the Town, not an official Town employee. After being denied by the Town, Realtor Paul Oster with RE/MAX, offered to let Searles use an immaculate truck free of charge. This would be truck two.
The third truck came from the Mountain. Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory and Chief Marketing Officer Howard Pickett also offered Searles a truck to use. Searles accepted this offer and the truck, marked with a Mammoth Mountain Ski Area insignia arrived a week later.
Tourism and Recreation Commissioner Bill Sauser stated that he thought it was appalling that Searles will appear on national TV driving a truck with the logo of a private company rather than the Town logo. He put the blame not on the Ski Area, but on the Town. We need to stop debating the value of Mr. Searles, he said.
Apparently Town staff somewhat agreed with Sauser and had found a way to get Searles the Town Animal Control truck.
Councilmember John Eastman had spoken of the need to supply Searles with a Town truck at an earlier council meeting. Staff heard this discussion, worked with the company that insures the town to find a way to allow Searles to drive the Town owned Animal Control truck that ended up being truck number four, and the truck that Searles had originally asked to use.
After all the confusion, the council appeared to be ready to sign off on the plan to support Searles with the use of the truck, but it was too late. The hole had been gladly plugged by the Ski Area.
With more trucks than a single bear man could use, the council chose to pay for new radio equipment, lights, and a bullhorn for the Mammoth Mountain owned vehicle.