My lunch with Andy III

With the passing of the gavel at Tuesday night’s meeting, Andy Holcombe completed his tenure as mayor of Chico and slid three seats to the right on the City Council dais to start his second term as a councilman.

It’s been an eventful two years. Holcombe closed his law firm to join a nonprofit, advocating for the rights of developmentally disabled individuals. He presided over a number of controversial deliberations. He overcame a tough road to re-election before emerging as the leading vote-getter.

Oh, and he gracefully endured the ritual of “My lunch with Andy”: periodic sit-downs with the editor of the local newsweekly.

The third one took place just ahead of Thanksgiving, at the place we first lunched, Panama’s. After taking a few minutes to clarify the agenda, off we went.

What comes to mind when you think about the past two years?

Seasoned veteran, to some extent. I really feel good about the job I did as mayor, both learning from mistakes and certainly proud of achievements. Sometimes there might be a subtle difference between the two, depending on one’s viewpoint. … [Laughs.]

Let’s break down these things. What are some lessons you’ve learned from your time as mayor?

If nothing else, [that] you can’t please everybody, and that’s certainly my nature and my temperament: a pleaser, wanting to get everything fixed, make it right for everyone. As much as I hate to say it, it can’t be done. Every now and then, you come close. So it’s learning to be happy with doing your best.


Learning to listen to all viewpoints and being able to apply them to existing policy, or being able to say maybe we need to change our policy.

The Mountain View/Sycamore Glen development would be one. That was a vote that, if you’re going to generalize, was a vote against my base … which includes people who are environmentally active who’d rather slow down growth. To me, it was the right decision for all of Chico. We have to grow somewhere, and there were environmental tradeoffs there, but I thought that was responsible housing development: It included master planning and a low-income housing component.

It was one of those examples where you have to weigh valid competing policies—environmental protection, sustainable growth—and make the best judgment you can. I think the disc-golf vote is very similar: very heated, still a lot of pain…. But neither vote was made weighing one particular community [interest] or another.

Any do-overs you wish you could have?

I would have done the disorderly events ordinance differently. It was a moving target all along: It started out as a party-registration ordinance, got a lot of public input, [we] realized it was legally and just a matter of practicality not the way to go, and it morphed—I think well-intentioned—into a disorderly events ordinance. But then there was a disconnect on the public input on that issue, so I brought it back [for reconsideration].

From my point of view, the result was a good one, not a bad one, but the message, the process—which, as you know, means a lot to me—and the substance still doesn’t sit well with a lot of the public, which makes me think there must have been a better way.