Watts is up
Former TV weatherman enters eye of political storm
Anthony Watts is seeking higher office, and this time he plans on actually campaigning.
Watts, a TV weatherman for more than two decades, was elected to the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees in November 2002, by a vote that he concedes was partly due to name recognition. “I’m not sure I can compensate for that in any way. I can’t just ‘pull’ my name,” Watts said. “But I’m not going to campaign as the ‘friendly weather guy.’ I’m going to campaign on the issues.”
He hopes to succeed Mary Anne Houx, who, coincidentally, secured the supervisor seat after serving as a CUSD trustee.
Watts made the announcement Nov. 28 outside the Chico City Council chambers, joined by his wife, in-laws, 9-week-old daughter and 2-year-old son. He was also flanked by an interesting cast of supporters, including: local Republican activist Jim Ledgerwood (whom Watts introduced as his “coffee buddy"), Councilman Larry Wahl, former Sheriff Mick Grey and 5th District Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi. Also supporting Watts was Tim Colby, foreman of the 2004-05 Butte County Grand Jury, which slammed the CUSD for its handling of former Marsh Junior High School Principal Jeff Sloan, as well as breaking rules regarding student fees and how student-raised funds are tracked and used.
At the time of Watts’ announcement, the smart money would have said Watts, a Republican, would battle fellow conservative candidate Mary Andrews in the June primary and the victor would go up against more-moderate Maureen Kirk. But the following day, Andrews, a real estate agent, former hairstylist and former City Councilmember, announced that she is withdrawing from the race.
Andrews said she had been reconsidering her candidacy in light of how much time and energy it would take from her family, and once Watts announced she felt comfortable withdrawing. “I didn’t want it not to be a race,” she said. “It didn’t matter who it was, [as long as] somebody announced.” Andrews also said she doesn’t plan to endorse a candidate.
Watts said he was “floored” and “disappointed” to hear that Andrews had dropped out. “I have a lot of respect for Mary.”
Houx has thrown her support behind Kirk, a dental hygienist who is on the Chico City Council. Houx is a Republican but one who has taken comparatively moderate stances and represented Chico strongly on the board.
Watts said he hopes he has proven himself since he was unexpectedly elected to the school board. (After he filed to run for school board, Watts was faced with a family health issue—the potentially difficult birth of his son—and decided to not actively seek the role. But once elected, he decided to “step up” and embrace the job.)
Watts, who decided a couple of weeks ago to no longer regularly appear on-air for Channels 24 and 12, hopes to follow in the footsteps of Stan Statham, who was a newscaster at KHSL-TV and later a state Assemblyman.
“As I see it, being well-known has positive advantage for the constituents and the county (or any elected position). The reason? People feel like they know me, and are comfortable talking to me,” he said.
Watts said it wasn’t until he was elected to the school board that he fully realized the financial condition the state and local governments are in, and the “painful decisions” that must be made by local leaders.
“Because our school system is so closely intertwined with our state budget and is also an indicator of our local economic and population trends, the experience of being a trustee taught me a tremendous amount about the direction these trends are taking us,” he said.
“Sadly, while housing prices have been on the increase, quality jobs and higher wages have not,” he added.
Watts said Butte County needs to update its General Plan to manage growth and create jobs without “hit and miss management,” and he’d like a plan for economic growth as well. Also, he said, “We need to work on retaining peace officers in our Sheriffs department, we need to improve efficiency and morale in our county planning department and we need to ensure that our social services programs serve the people who have real needs.”
Watts has undertaken several volunteer projects, including arranging partial funding for solar panels and solar education programs in the CUSD, setting up a Web site to seek donations for schools and providing for video Web streaming of City Council and school board meetings. (If elected, Watts plans to immediately soup up the televised supes meetings.)
Several years ago, when the district was trying to secure land for a third comprehensive high school, Watts researched the Meadowfoam plant, aggressively questioning the federal government’s position that the Butte County variety is endangered.
Watts’ stint on the school board is set to end in November 2006. “I plan to fill out my full term,” he said.
“Last time I didn’t campaign for personal reasons,” he said. “This time I’m campaigning because I’d like to be a part of planning the future.”