Four candidates are running for three 4-year seats on the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors, which oversees sewer, water, streetlights, open space maintenance, parks and recreation in the unincorporated community. The candidates are David Couch, Dennis Mayo, Erik “Yahmo Ahqha” Rydberg and George Wheeler.
The Union recently asked the candidates a series of questions.
For Dennis Mayo’s answers, click here.
For Erik “Yahmo Ahqha” Rydberg’s answers, click here.
For David Couch's answers, click here.
Below are George Wheeler’s answers, unedited:
1. Why are you running for a seat on the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors?
Wheeler: After five years on the board, there’s still much to do. Too much to list here; I would suggest a person attend a board meeting and discover how important our services are to our community.2.
2. What is your occupation and what makes you qualified to serve on the MCSD board?
Wheeler: I have enjoyed many careers in my 69 years, most recently an assistant professor at Humboldt State and before that a computer jockey but through it all I have been a handyman. There’s nothing in residential construction I have not accomplished. I am currently retired and have the time to serve on our MCSD board.
3. How many MCSD board meetings have you attended?
Wheeler: In five years, I have may have missed three meetings for medical reasons.
4. What’s the biggest challenge facing the district?
Wheeler: Ongoing maintenance, including replacement of our water systems: Potable and Waste. Some of our pipes have been in the ground for 50 years and nothing lasts forever.
5. What is your position on the increase in water/sewer rates?
Wheeler: We do not operate as a private enterprise; we pay our expenses and maintain a prudent reserve. Our books, money in and money out, are public documents. There are numerous reasons for the increase in rates, wages are not stagnant, health benefits continue to climb in cost, we have miles of pipes in the ground that will need to be replaced in the years to come. We have a new sewer plant to pay off. Minimum wage is increasing. Our district offices are cramped to the point people are tripping over each other. Rolling stock, like backhoes, dump trucks, and district vehicles in general, all need replacing from time to time. The costs of doing business are not shrinking; they are growing. The rate increase is critical to fund our services.
6. What, if any, improvements would you like to see with regard to parks and recreation?
Wheeler: I was part of the crew that built the Arcata Skate Park, 25+ years ago and then we moved to McKinleyville and became involved in trying to build a skate park here. It’s about time we get this done. MCSD also owns 30 acres of river property on the Mad River; I would very much like to see a river park, where families could spend the day with inner tubes and a picnic lunch.
7. Should the MCSD expand its powers?
Wheeler: If the ratepayers of McKinleyville asked for an expansion of powers; then we would listen. The spark and the fire in the belly that would result in an expansion of power would have to come from community. We would listen.
8. What is the district’s biggest accomplishment in the last five years?
Wheeler: Our new sewer plant and the adaption of an Integrated Pest Management Plan and the new Teen Center, and the Solar farm we are in process to build, and the partnerships with other public and private entities to do things like a community forest.
9. What is the district’s biggest failure in the last five years?
Wheeler: I am not aware of any failures at all? The wheels turn slowly, that’s true, but the slowness of change allows plenty of time for folks to participate as much as they wish.
10. How should the district interact with the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee?
Wheeler: The subject has been raised, informally, numerous times and I suspect it will rise to formal discussion, as an agenda item, in the near future.
11. Should McKinleyville pursue incorporation and what role, if any, would the district have in that process?
Wheeler: I have no idea? Spending district money and time to investigate this incredibly complex issue is not in our purview. If there were a discussion, investigation, conclusions drawn, this would all happen at the insistence of the people who live in McKinleyville. There are special districts within cities, providing water, sewer, parks and rec, streetlights, and there are cities that fold all that into their domain.
12. What projects would you like the district to pursue?
Wheeler: Solar Park to offset our energy expenses. Skate Park. River Park.
13. What are the last two books that you’ve read?
Wheeler: “Empire of the Summer Moon”, Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History [S. C. Gwynne
Currently re-reading “A People’s History of the United States”, by Howard Zinn. (Should be required reading for every American)
14. What’s your idea of a good time?
Wheeler: Anything involving water: Swimming. Surfing. Diving. Jet Ski. Boat, skipping rocks and my children and grand children.
15. What else would you like voters to know about you?
Wheeler: The job of director pays the fantastic salary of $125/month. Dividing by the hours invested and the nice suits for public occasions … I’ve lost money but gained a sense of community that was lacking in my life, during the years it was all about work, bills, kids, more work and more bills. It sits well with me that my service to this community, in a small way, repays the debt for providing a wonderful place to raise five kids. It’s been a great ride.