Hope and hoopla at County Center
Colorful swearing-in ceremony launches new tradition
If a bomb had fallen on county supervisors’ chambers in Oroville Monday morning, it would have wiped out local governmental leadership almost entirely.
Just about everybody who is anybody in city or county government—from the mayors of Biggs and Paradise to the county district attorney and assessor—was there for the swearing-in ceremony honoring two returning supervisors, a newly elected one, and one who was retiring after 12 years. Audience members filled the chairs and lined the back walls.
The media were there in force, too, including both the Chico and Redding television news crews, leading certain cynical print scribes who regularly sit in supervisors’ meetings until their bottoms go numb to joke that the TV guys show up only for the showy stuff.
And showy it was, complete with color guard—three slightly creaky VFW guys from Thermalito who marched in with the Stars and Stripes for the Pledge of Allegiance—and a small choir, the Cherokee Singers, to render the National Anthem, which it did with lovely harmonies.
This was something new for the county, as Chief Administrative Officer Brian Haddix mentioned right away. Some county staffers, Haddix said, had decided the ceremony needed to be more colorful and fun, and it certainly was.
The returning supervisors were Bill Connelly, of Oroville, re-elected for a second term in District 1, and Paradise’s Kim Yamaguchi, re-elected for a third term from District 5. The newcomer was 42-year-old Steve Lambert, who lives in Thermalito and will represent District 4, a largely agricultural district that includes the cities of Biggs and Gridley. (For a profile of Lambert, seen this issue’s Cover Story.)
Before County Clerk Candace Grubbs gave them each the oath of office, however, a couple of resolutions were presented to Curt Josiassen, the exiting board chairman and three-term supervisor from Richvale whom Lambert was replacing.
The always gracious Fran Peace, manager of Rep. Wally Herger’s district office, presented Josiassen with a congressional resolution and spoke about the sacrifices he and his family had made so he could serve—"the often empty place at the dinner table and the sports games missed.”
And Josiassen’s longtime friend Doug LaMalfa, the recently termed-out state legislator, gave Josiassen, whose thick beard went from brown to gray while he was on the board, an Assembly resolution honoring his services. He then offered Lambert some words of warning: “See the color of that beard, sir?”
When Grubbs began to give the oath to Connelly, he pre-empted her “repeat after me” approach and recited the thing from memory, with only a couple of stumbles. “I stayed up until 3 o’clock memorizing it,” he explained.
In a short speech, he chided state leaders for making things hard on Butte County, citing the budget woes, the contentious Oroville Dam relicensing and the failure to reimburse for fire costs. But he greatly enjoys being supervisor, and he wrapped it up by exclaiming, “Four more years of 60- to 80-hour weeks—I’m ready to go!”
Yamaguchi used his speech to chide an unnamed naysayer who, he said, had told him during his first campaign, in 1999, that he’d never get elected, then when he was elected that he’d be a one-term supervisor, and so on. Now that he’d been elected to a third term, Yamaguchi said, he had only one thing to say to the man: “Ha ha! Nyah, nyah, nyah!”
After that, well, unusual beginning, the supervisor went on to pledge himself to the people of Paradise and the county. “I will never be absent, never miss a vote and never be conflicted out,” he said.
Lambert kept his speech blessedly short. Like the others, he thanked his family and friends for their support. Then he acknowledged a promise he’d made to Josiassen, who’d urged him to run for the office: “I can’t swear at Curt for a year. That was the deal.”
Then it was Josiassen’s turn to say goodbye. He preached a latter-day self-reliance, saying essentially that the supervisors couldn’t depend on the state and had to “look at a lot of detailed financial analyses” in determining the shape of county government.
He said the county’s leadership team and department heads were “the best in the state” and that he’d enjoyed working with and respected his board colleagues, even when they’d disagreed.
Serving as supervisor, he said, had given him “probably the highest highs and the lowest lows I’ve ever been through, but it’s been great.”
Passing unrecognized, amid all this hoopla, was a significant anniversary. It was 30 years ago, in the first week of January 1979, that Jane Dolan took the oath of office for the position of District 2 supervisor that she still holds.