Nguyen-Tan will not run
Liberal councilmember rules out re-election bid; Andy Holcombe joins the race
No longer able to square the rest of his life with the demands placed on him as a Chico city councilmember, Dan Nguyen-Tan this week announced he will not seek re-election in November.
“There is a difficulty in making another four-year commitment to the council, given the constraints that it places on my personal and professional life,” the 29-year-old said.
He was elected four years ago, receiving 2,000 more votes than second-place finisher Steve Bertagna. Almost certainly the only member of a minority group ever to sit on the council dais, as well as one of the youngest councilmembers ever, Nguyen-Tan has a consulting firm, teaches at Chico State University and sits on the boards of three nonprofit organizations.
He termed his decision a “temporary break from the demands of public service.”
“It was a very difficult decision for me because I love being on the council, despite the occasional headaches and sometimes thankless job. When you care about a community as much as I do about Chico, it’s tough not to continue serving.”
Nguyen-Tan was born in Saigon in 1974 and came to Chico while still in elementary school. After graduating from Pleasant Valley High School, he attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., followed by two years of graduate school at Harvard, where he earned a public-policy master’s degree with an emphasis on financial management in 1998.
A self-proclaimed moderate, conservatives saw Nguyen-Tan as a liberal, even though he kept an eye on city spending and convinced a majority of the council that the city should not pay to clean private property near the old Humboldt Dump.
Nguyen-Tan’s decision, combined with the death of Councilmember Coleen Jarvis in May, means there are no progressive incumbents in the November election, leaving Scott Gruendl as the only remaining true liberal on the council.
Jarvis and Nguyen-Tan were close allies on some issues but sharply divided on others. Nguyen-Tan said the conservatives’ refusal to appoint Jarvis’s husband, Michael Stauffer, to fill the last six months of her term did not affect his plans, but he added that they were wrong in not carrying out Jarvis’ wish.
“I was personally disappointed they did not respect Coleen or the voters who supported her and chose to put politics above doing the right thing,” he said.
For now, he said, he will continue to teach part-time at Chico State and run his consulting business.
“I’ll continue to be heavily engaged in the community in many different ways,” he promised.
Nguyen-Tan brought a welcome sense of humor, often self-effacing, to the council meetings. He said that among his proudest accomplishments as a councilmember was his ability “to avoid having to be photographed wearing a hard hat and holding a shovel at any groundbreaking ceremony.”
Six months ago, local attorney Andy Holcombe thought he’d be making his first run for council alongside fellow liberals Jarvis and Nguyen-Tan. A day before the latter announced he would not seek re-election, Holcombe held a press conference surrounded by 20 or so supporters to announce his intentions.
“I had planned on running with both Coleen and Dan,” said the silver-haired Holcombe. “It was something we had talked about informally in the past, but I still wanted to run as an independent candidate.”
Holcombe, 51, has served two terms as a director of the Chico Area Recreation District and is making his first real foray into politics, having run unopposed both times for the CARD post.
Standing in front of the hands sculpture that sits next to the City Municipal Building, Holcombe outlined the important issues to him as public arts, affordable housing and protection of Chico’s existing neighborhoods.
He also mentioned the conservatives’ failure to appoint Stauffer to finish Jarvis’ term and predicted it could affect the tenor of the upcoming election campaign.
“I do think the issue of not appointing someone to Coleen’s seat will be an issue, and it could get ugly,” he said. “For me their failure to appoint someone was not a personal failing on their parts, but it was a failing on the issue of good government and being responsible to Chico. It was a bad decision and it was political.”
Holcombe, a public-interest attorney and one of the founders of the Community Shelter Partnership, said this is a good time in his life to run for political office and that he is prepared to cut back on his law practice to devote time to the council if he’s elected.
“I want to be a councilmember because I want to make a difference—strike that; because I can make a difference through strong, effective leadership.”
At this point, he said, his goal is to raise at least $20,000 in campaign contributions and he will take money from any willing donor.
When asked about his political leanings, Holcombe smiled and said, "Well, this is a non-partisan race, of course, and it is important to represent all of Chico. But yes, I’m liberal. It may not be safe to say so, but that is who I am."