Campaign 2012: Five vie for three Wheatland council seats
Wheatland's City Council race features five candidates, including anti-tax activist Benjamin Bartholomew, political newcomer Joe Henderson and longtime former mayor, councilman and athletics coach Roy Crabtree.
The challengers are vying against incumbents Lisa McIntosh and Rick West for three seats.
Enita Elphick, mayor since 2005, is vacating her seat.
Bartholomew said an election to the council will not deter him from the public demonstrations and political theater for which he is known.
He and a brother, Russell Bartholomew, were convicted of a misdemeanor in April for posting a "Taxes = Theft" banner over Highway 70, a banner which now hangs across the fence of his parents' Wheatland home.
"I will personally continue in my activism," Benjamin Bartholomew said. "If I'm going to do civil disobedience, I want to make sure people are there to witness it, because that's the point of it."
Bartholomew, 27, is employed as an office clerk for local bus ness owner Russ Clark. He said he will strive to keep the Wheatland government out of the way of residents and business owners.
He recently spoke up at a council meeting on behalf of business owners on Front Street who had been made to plead for permission — first from the Planning Commission and then from the council — to have a mural painted on their storefront.
Permission was ultimately granted, but Bartholomew said the process was unnecessary.
"I was really sad about that whole exchange," he said. "In my view, the only question should have been, 'How big should the thank you note be for improving the look of Front Street?'"
Tuesday's election represents a first run at public office for Henderson, 32, a lifelong area resident.
Henderson, a real estate agent and small-business owner, said he believes Wheatland's leadership has in recent years done a responsible job for the city, and he'd like to help keep it that way.
"It's been operating in the black while other cities have not," he said. "I want to help encourage new businesses to move into Wheatland and encourage those already here to expand and prosper."
Wheatland, he said, "has got a pretty good team under Steve Wright," he said of the city manager. "I'd like to think I'd fit right in."
McIntosh, who took office in 2001, said that maintaining fiscal stability achieved by the administration is her own number one focus for the council.
"Our staff has been key to bringing us out of a deficit, and we need to make sure we keep the momentum going," she said.
When she took office, McIntosh said, the town was deep in debt "and we had a part-time city manager who was also the building inspector. He was taking 60 percent of every building permit issued. There were no policies or procedures in place."
Seven years later, the city has a professional staff and is in the black, she said.
McIntosh, 43, works as a customer service representative for Pacific Gas & Electric.
West, 49, elected to the council in 2008, said that with the Elphick's departure, maintaining continuity of leadership will be especially important.
"We've been keeping things running even through a challenging economy. And we haven't had to lay off anyone. That's our biggest accomplishment," he said.
West, who works for CVC Construction in Sacramento, said he believes the "visioning" document created by the city under Elphick sets a smart set of guideposts for city leadership to follow.
"I want to continue with a business-friendly climate here and to make Wheatland even more business-friendly," he said.
Crabtree is seeking a return to the council after an eight-year absence. He could not be reached by telephone for this article.