With mostly polite, non-combative interplay, the eight candidates for Mammoth Town Council lined up and answered questions from Chamber of Commerce moderator Tom Cage.
Mammoth voters watched at home on Channel 51 and a few sat in the audience in Suite Z. For the savvy watcher, the three-hour performance did reveal the character of the candidates, not so much by what they said, but how they handled themselves.
Post-forum comments by Mammoth residents confirmed that the event solidified their views on who to vote for. Four of the candidates had sat on the Council before or, in John Eastman’s case, still holds office. The other four were new to the game. Reactions were mixed on whether the Town needs new blood or old experience.
On two news items of the day, candidates weighed in. In the wake of news that Mammoth’s Police Chief will retire, Cage asked the candidates if they thought the Town of Mammoth should explore contracting with Mono County for law enforcement service. Allen Blumer said Mammoth Police can handle it but maybe a local jail would help. John Eastman said the Town needs to do an analysis to see if it is appropriate to contract for services.
Rick Wood made it clear he does not support the leadership of the Police Department. He also made it clear he does support the officers. Wood said within an overall restructuring of town government, officials should look at the Mammoth Police Department. Kirk Stapp favored an analysis and if it saves money, pursue it. Tony Barrett said there are a lot of issues with the Police Department and when the Chief retires an analysis should be done. Said Barrett, “We have a fine police department. Yes, there are bad apples but we can recruit a good chief like Bishop did.” Dawn Vereuck agreed that the Town should analyze a county contract. Matthew Lehman said that the Town is spending $5 milllion or 26% of the budget on police and so a county contract “needs to be entertained.” Sharon Clark favored an analysis. “We need to continue to protect the public and look at the whole gambit,” she said.
With the evaluation of the Town Manager in repeated closed sessions, Cage asked the candidates about that. John Eastman made it clear as a sitting councilman he could not discuss closed session items. Rick Wood said the town manager has not been effectively led or directed by the current council and his performance has suffered.
Kirk Stapp said staff reports are convoluted. Tony Barrett said the Council should direct the town manager but also the manager has failed in many things and that his job is on the line. Dawn Vereuck described a lack of management and leadership.
Matthew Lehman criticized the Town Manager making basic decisions that could’ve been done differently. Sharon Clark accused the manager of excluding her from a staff meeting on Old Mammoth Place. Allen Blumer said Manager Clark has “had a tough job with the alphabet soup” of complicated issues.