Class of ‘07 report card

Last year’s Who to Watch people all proved worth keeping an eye on

Andy Holcombe
Moments after getting unanimous support from his City Council colleagues, Andy Holcombe made the following prediction about his new role as Chico’s mayor: “I’ll do my best to fill the mayoral shoes in my own way, over time.” Sure enough, he’s done that. The lawyer runs a structured meeting and doesn’t let anyone—not even Jane Dolan—deviate from the order of things. He acts as auxiliary counsel to the council, amplifying the contributions of recently promoted City Attorney Lori Barker. He strives to promote community dialog.

Yet all is not rosy heading into this election year. The Holcombe-led council rubber-stamped a lucrative firefighting contract despite clear knowledge of the city’s budget problems. The “disorderly events” ordinance, which he supported, has been attacked on legal grounds by a cross-section of Chicoans. Plus, though he long has been an advocate for the homeless, he hasn’t used his pulpit to advance the issue.

Maureen Kirk

Maureen Kirk
Andy Holcombe was on target with another prediction last winter, about Councilwoman-turned-Supervisor Maureen Kirk. “She’ll definitely be an advocate for Chico but also realizes she has a broader scope of responsibility,” he said. “If anyone can forge a coalition, she can.”

Kirk entered county office with a strong ally in Jane Dolan, the long-time Chico-area supervisor now serving as board chairwoman. Perhaps because of her moderate politics and personality, she also has found common ground with her other colleagues, whom her predecessor, the late Mary Anne Houx, branded “the three gents.” As for the broader scope, the M&T mine is case in point. The proposed gravel pit has generated strong opposition among constituents; that and her passion for the Greenline would suggest an automatic “no” vote. But she’s pledged to keep an open mind at the public hearing next Tuesday (Jan. 8).

Tim Snellings

Tim Snellings
Butte County’s development services director made headlines in late fall, though not the kind he wanted. The process for updating the county general plan, which Snellings developed with a consultant, came under fire from members of the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors for identifying areas to study for growth before establishing an overarching vision. In addition, Citizens Advisory Committee members felt rushed and unable to complete their work because of his timeline. Nonetheless, the update is moving forward, with supervisors winnowing the list of 43 potential study areas to the ones they want studied.

Tom DiGiovanni
Chico residents care so deeply about land-use issues that even a small subdivision can stir vocal opposition. So it was surprising that the largest development in a quarter-century—2,300 residences plus a commercial core on 272 acres over 12 years—had little trouble gaining the City Council’s approval.

Credit the proactive approach to community outreach taken by New Urban Builders. Tom DiGiovanni and company met with neighbors and policy-makers alike, explaining the project and mitigating concerns. As a result, DiGiovanni expects infrastructure work to begin this summer, the commercial buildings to go up later in the year and housing construction to start in 2009.

Paul McIntosh
The relicensing of Oroville Dam continues at a bureaucratic pace—and now with a new local point person. Paul McIntosh, who devoted much of his time as Butte County’s chief administrative officer to the endeavor, left in June for his “dream job” heading up the California Association of Counties. Assistant CAO Starlyn Brown took his place on an interim basis, and McIntosh has an established working relationship with his successor, Brian Haddix (profiled in “Eye on ‘08").

Sandra Flake
Sandra Flake moved her things into the Chico State provost’s office last April. The physical space looks a bit different, with her books and art replacing Scott McNall’s, and she’s made the job her own, too. Flake set her sights on recruiting more students from the North State, which will shape the search for a new vice president of enrollment services. The university is hiring faculty members who fit her vision: multi-disciplinary, interactive, committed to the community. Plus she’s connected with other women in leadership positions—education and otherwise—to pool experience.

Dave Taylor
The record speaks for itself: 47-15. That made it easy for Chico State to remove the “interim” from the title of baseball coach Dave Taylor. A former Wildcats assistant coach who’d become head coach at Cal State Los Angeles, Taylor returned to Chico last season and led the team back to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Wildcats are ranked 19th in the national preseason poll.

Rene Stephens

René Stephens
For as long as she lives in Chico, Rene Stephens will likely be a newsworthy noisemaker. So, when we look back to see if our predictions of her making things happen as the head of the 1078 Gallery’s music committee came to fruition, the answer is, yes she did. Just as she did during her years as energetic owner of the now-defunct live-music venue/record store Fulcrum Records.

The 1078 Gallery’s live calendar waxed and waned in 2007, as an art gallery’s music calendar is prone to do, but the quality and the fun of Stephens’ shows did not, from the theatrical Bobby Conn, to the French-ish indie-pop of Eux Autres, to CD-release parties for local crews like Bear Hunger and metal faves The Makai. In addition to keeping the mics on, Stephens’ activist blood pumped overtime this year as part of the vocal contingent opposing the disorderly events ordinance. No doubt 2008 will find Stephens’ name on these pages at least once.

Lost On Main honchos
A year ago, Lost On Main was the new face in the Chico bar scene. Now it’s a regular hangout for hip(-hop)sters and night owls who head over for “Hip-Hop Humpday,” reggae night and the top-40 dance party each week. Local bands and out-of-towners add to the eclectic lineup, and the rotating local art exhibits offer yet another incentive to drop by this Main Street hangout. So, hats off to Neil Andrus, Kyle Ullrich, Tyler Eckes and Tommy Sprague for their follow-through.

Enloe’s new CEO
Last year at this time, we didn’t know who would head up Enloe Medical Center—we just knew he or she would make headlines. Well, Debi Yancer took the CEO job, and indeed she’s made headlines. So serious were Enloe’s challenges that she started work weeks before moving from Maryland. She rehired 60 of the 105 employees laid off under interim CEO Beth O’Brien. When a federal court ruled against Enloe over the service workers’ attempt to unionize, Yancer decided to recognize, rather than fight, the SEIU. (Negotiations continued past the end of the year, though.)

She ordered a full review of surgery and anesthesiology, with the same openness she stressed for correcting problems noted by state inspectors. She hired a new chief operating officer, Mike Wiltermood, over the summer—and it’s good she has confidence in him, because he’s taken a larger role since she suffered a serious neck injury in August. Entering 2008, Yancer still was recovering but remained active in hospital affairs.

Meredith J. Cooper and Jason Cassidy contributed to this story.