What about Wahl’s seat?

A conservative sweep could result in a nasty fight over replacing him

One of the quirks of this year’s Chico City Council race is that when it’s over there will be another empty council seat to fill. That’s because Councilman Larry Wahl defeated Supervisor Jane Dolan in the June primary and will take a seat on the Board of Supervisors in January.

Filling Wahl’s seat won’t be a problem if at least one liberal wins on Nov. 2, giving liberals a majority on the council. But if all three conservatives win, we could see a repeat of what happened in 2004, when Councilwoman Coleen Jarvis died, leaving an evenly split council.

It got ugly.

Before she died, Jarvis had asked that her husband, Michael Stauffer, be chosen to fill out her term. Stauffer pledged that he wouldn’t seek election when the term ended in six months, but the three conservatives on the council—Dan Herbert, Steve Bertagna and Wahl—balked.

Not only did they say no to Stauffer, they also said no to Jarvis’ friend Mary Flynn (who went on to win election in 2006 and is up for re-election this year) and to former Councilman Jim Fletcher, a registered Republican.

Council liberals were ticked off. They remembered that back in 1999, when conservative Councilman Bill Johnston died, their counterparts at the time agreed to appoint someone of like mind, Cheryl Lange, to fill his seat. So much for civility.

Will one of the liberals win? That will come down to turnout. My guess is that the race is going to be tight. If liberal voters again fail to turn out in sufficient numbers, as they did in June, Dolan could have company on the sidelines come Nov. 3.

Good men gone: Chico has lost two fine men in recent weeks. I didn’t personally know Roger Williams, the former Chico High principal, who suffered a fatal stroke on Oct. 11, at the age of 65. Mutual friends invariably say he was an all-around great guy who deeply loved the school he served for more than two decades.

I did know Barney Flynn pretty well, though I hadn’t seen much of him lately, since he moved to Sacramento nine years ago. Barney died on Oct. 10, when his big Irish heart gave out on him. He was 75 years old.

I wrote about him in 2006, when he was one of 15 finalists for the Purpose Prize, which honors people over 60 who do extraordinary things. In Barney’s case, it was co-founding River Partners, which has become a hugely successful outfit that has restored thousands of acres of degraded land along California rivers.

There’s much more I could say about Barney—about his goofy nature, his secret brilliance, his modesty and kindness in addition to his many other accomplishments, including restoring the Little Chapman Mansion, which he did with his then-wife, Michele Shover. There will be much to remember at his memorial service, which is set for Saturday, Oct. 30, at 2 p.m. at the Newton-Bracewell Funeral Home.