Are you experienced? Chamber may endorse you

“Experience, experience, experience” was the mantra of the Chico Chamber of Commerce as its Board of Directors revealed its endorsements for open seats on the City Council and school board.

At a Sept. 27 press conference, chamber leaders announced the board’s picks for council: incumbents Steve Bertagna and Larry Wahl, along with Fred Davis and Jolene Francis.

For the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees, the chamber gave the nod to incumbents Rick Anderson and Steve O’Bryan. “We really felt it was important to support the incumbents in this particular race,” said Bob Persons, chairman of the Board of Directors.

There are eight candidates in the CUSD race for two positions. Thirteen people are vying for one of the four open seats on the City Council. Chamber Executive Director Jim Goodwin said not all of the candidates responded to the request for a meeting. “There were a couple of no-shows in each race,” he said.

The chamber had tipped off the endorsed candidates beforehand, and all six of them showed up.

“I think the chamber stepped up and did their job,” Bertagna said, adding that while he’s not personally endorsing anyone, “I think I’ve proven that I can work with anyone.”

Persons said that after a day-long meeting the board made its decision “carefully and very deliberately” in the best interest of the business community and Chico at large.

The key issue, again, was a background on the issues, particularly fiscal challenges. “We were real concerned about experience,” Persons said.

Bertagna is an eight-year councilmember, Wahl has served four years, Francis has been on the Planning Commission for eight years, and Davis was Chico’s city manager for 33 years. On the school board side, Anderson and O’Bryan have served 10 and four years, respectively.

O’Bryan acknowledged, when prompted, that he was the only politically liberal candidate to get the seal of approval from the traditionally conservative chamber. As for whether the chamber would similarly side with him were he to run for council instead of school board, O’Bryan said, “One of these days, when I do, we’ll see.”

Goodwin said the chamber’s political-action committee does not endorse candidates and will only spend money on issues, not individuals.