Ridge supervisor Yamaguchi mum on 2012 election, despite challengers

Will wait until at least January to declare whether he’s running

Kim Yamaguchi doesn’t see a need quite yet to declare his intentions for the June supervisorial race. He has until March to make up his mind, but says he’ll decide by January.

Kim Yamaguchi doesn’t see a need quite yet to declare his intentions for the June supervisorial race. He has until March to make up his mind, but says he’ll decide by January.

Photo By Evan tuchinsky

Kim Yamaguchi has run for the Butte County Board of Supervisors three times, and he’s served the Ridge long enough—11 years—to expect early challengers. Sure enough, he already faces opposition for the June 2012 election … assuming he decides to take part in it.

So far, Mike Greer and Doug Teeter have emerged as candidates for the District 5 seat. Robin Huffman, who ran in 2008, has not decided whether she’ll enter the race. Same with Paradise Mayor Alan White, who many on the Ridge presume will run—he also is undecided, but says he would prefer to retire from public office once his Town Council term expires in 2012.

The big question surrounds Yamaguchi: Will he or won’t he? White says Yamaguchi promised him four years ago that he wouldn’t seek re-election this time; Yamaguchi says he “never did that.” Sitting with the CN&R this week, he sounded like a man able to re-enter the fray, just not sure if he’s willing.

Yamaguchi said he’ll decide by January, even though the deadline to declare a supervisorial candidacy won’t come till March.

“We’ll cross that bridge when the time comes and my community either accepts or rejects me,” Yamaguchi said. “I’ve never run unopposed. I see [early declarations] all the time.”

Yamaguchi doesn’t have a need to declare early. He doesn’t need to cultivate donors and endorsements, since he already has established a voter base, and says he has plenty of money in his campaign account. The decision will come about as the other three did: after consultation with his family.

“Every four years I sit down with my wife and go through things. How will this affect my personal life and family? Do I have the sufficient level of energy and passion to carry through with this job? The last thing I want is to be an old fogey who stayed too long,” he said.

Whether he opts to leave or tries to stay, there will be a hotly contested race for the seat.

On the surface, the two declared challengers for District 5 supervisor couldn’t seem more different. Greer is a special-education teacher and longtime Paradise Unified School District board member; Teeter is a property manager and paralegal whose lone board experience is with a homeowners’ association.

Yet, the pair have some striking similarities. Both live in Paradise and have constituencies in other District 5 strongholds. Both worked in private industry before making career changes (Greer in manufacturing, Teeter in engineering). Both are heavily involved in community groups.

In addition, both declared well in advance for the same basic reasons: to meet with residents and hear their concerns, and to study in depth the complexities of various issues affecting Butte County.

Both men have budgetary and transparency issues on their platforms, though each approaches the issues from a distinct perspective.

Greer is most concerned about Board of Supervisors processes. The county holds most board meetings during working hours—daytime Tuesdays—which greatly reduces the number of citizens who can attend. As such, he has a problem with how the budget gets vetted. The fact that supervisors voted themselves an extensive raise, tied to judges’ salaries, particularly irks Greer.

“The process is the issue,” he said. “They talk ‘transparent,’ but there are more administrators in some smaller departments than workers. It doesn’t mean they are wrong in what they’re doing; the public just needs to hear the explanation.”

Greer also cites the general plan and redistricting as deliberations during which public input got shortchanged. He says he’ll call for more evening meetings and foster more public participation.

Teeter’s frustrations with open government transcend the county. Sure, he has issues with County Center, most notably a dispute over property assessments (he thinks they should have been lowered in light of reduced home values) that led him to file a lawsuit. (He lost.) He’s even more concerned about administrative decisions at the state and federal level that affect Butte County, such as access to forest lands and the long-delayed relicensing of Oroville Dam.

As a member of the Butte County Resource Advisory Committee, the Sierra Access Coalition and the Paradise Ridge Riders, Teeter monitors a wide range of outdoors issues. He further tracks land-use issues as treasurer of the Paradise Pines Property Owners Association.

Whether Teeter and Greer will have competition remains up in the air—partly because nine months remain until the election, but mainly because the two most prominent prospects, Huffman, a former Paradise councilwoman, and White, have yet to make up their minds.

White has decided not to run for a fifth term on the Town Council. As for supervisor, he says he’d just as soon throw his support behind another candidate, assuming he finds one in whom he believes.

“I’m perceived to be in the middle of the ideological spectrum and the council,” White said. “The world would be nice if we had more candidates who are pragmatic first and then ideological. I hope people across the political spectrum will vote for someone they trust, not who will tell them what they want to hear.”