Paradise candidate won’t quit
Perennial Town Council contender asked to step down
Stanley McEtchin has run for Paradise Town Council five times since 2000, usually finishing at the back of the pack. In the first campaign he finished eighth out of nine candidates, gaining 7.6 percent of the votes. In 2004 he finished dead last with 7.7 percent of the votes. Two years ago he received just 2.8 percent of the votes.
The 88-year-old McEtchin was not discouraged by these shortfalls and is running again in a field of four candidates vying for three seats on the five-member council. The other candidates are incumbent Steve Culleton, Greg Bolin and John Rawlings.
Recently, however, someone called McEtchin and asked him to pull out of the race, saying that if only three candidates vied for the three open seats an election would not be needed, and that would save the town $35,000 it would otherwise have to pay Butte County to organize the vote.
McEtchin was not pleased by the request.
“The person who called said, ‘We have a consortium, and we’d like you pull out so we can be put in office,” he said. “I really don’t like that kind of thing.”
He would not name the caller.
“I thought that was something below the belt,” he said. “I can’t give his name because I don’t do that kind of thing, I don’t want to get anybody in trouble.”
McEtchin says he is a World War II vet, a marine engineer, refrigeration and electrical technician, business adviser, welder and gate maker. And he makes kinetic sculptures from junk. Dozens of his creations sit in the yard and field next to his southwest Paradise home, where he’s lived for the past 20 years with his fourth wife, Eileen.
“I ain’t an artist, I just do artwork,” he said.
He came here from Seattle for health reasons related to his work installing refrigeration on ships. He continues to work daily as a repairman. Last week that included fixing an ice machine at a local bar.
“I was talking to a guy at the bar,” he said, “and I told him that I still drink beer, but only out of a shot glass.”
McEtchin said he’s never expected to win a seat on the council. Running is a way to get his ideas out into the public. He’s never actively campaigned, choosing instead to go to candidate forums like those held by the League of Women Voters to air his ideas.
“This has nothing to do with politics,” he said of his refusal to drop out. “It’s the American way. If they don’t hold an election, these people get appointed just like in a fascist system. People have no say in who’s going to be in office. But if I stay in there they are gonna have to have the election. I don’t say I’ll get elected, but they are going to have to listen to me because this time I am going to campaign.”
He joked that he considered asking the person who called him to pay him to drop out.
“They didn’t offer me any money to buy me off,” he said. “I was going to do that, but I thought I better not. You know, ‘Give me 10 grand and I’ll pull out.’ ”
He’s got sewer plans that don’t include connecting with the Chico sewage plant, a plan that has been discussed by both municipalities. His plan calls for the use of gray water, effluent that’s been treated to reduce the water to a useable state for irrigation and maybe even human consumption.
Is he being listened to on this? “Not really,” he said. “People think I’m a nut. I don’t care. If we get it done, we get it done.”
And he thinks a sculpture park in town would draw tourists. He said as many as 200 people a month come through in the summer and take pictures of his art work.
“Now if we had a park that would bring more people in,” he said. “We get people from Germany, Holland and from all over coming here to look at this junk.”
His wife says she supports her husband’s political efforts. Standing on her front porch on a recent smoky day in Paradise, waiting for her husband to come home from work, Eileen smiled.
“We just play characters,” she said. “We like to make life interesting.”