Spears wants to ‘continue serving the community'
William "Bill" Spears believes when one window closes another one opens.
After six years as the Willows Chief of Police, Spears is now setting his sights on a seat on the City Council.
If it seams an unusual leap — jumping into a political race while still employed with the city — then it is because of what Spears, 62, calls an unusual set of circumstances.
The City Council elected not to renew Spears' contract when it expires on Dec. 31, a decision he said dismayed him and outraged the public.
It was a decision that also came after he turned down the "golden handshake" retirement offer made to retirement-eligible employees.
"After having a conversation with the city manager and a couple of council members, I was assured that I would have my job for two more years," he said. "Otherwise, I would have taken the two-year work credit and retired."
Spears said it was only when the City Council turned down a conditional offer by public employees to defer their wages that he felt the wind begin to change.
For the past few months, Spears said he's felt like an outsider looking in, and seeing a city government that is dysfunctional and not trustworthy.
For one thing, the council said they were only looking to save money, but refused to negotiate any savings Spears was willing to help implement, including a generous offer to reduce the city's burden paid on his retirement.
"I don't believe the decisions the City Council have made are the right decisions," Spears said. "They are not looking at the entire picture."
To Spears, the matter was personal, especially since the law requires the city to replace him.
And since he doubles as a patrol officer and works events that would otherwise cost the city employee overtime, Spears believes the speculated savings are far less than what the city anticipates by his leaving.
Potentially out of a job, Spears said he filed for City Council at the urging of his wife.
"I want to continue serving the community," he said. "I understood I would have had to withdraw if they renewed my contract. But the timeline was just that I couldn't wait for the council to decide if they were going to keep me or not."
And if elected, Spears can't be sworn in until after the first of the year.
But Spears says the council's philosophy of secrecy and deception are to blame for the current state of affairs, including the negative campaigning by the public that has included demands for the non-reinstatement of incumbents, the recall of Councilwoman Terry Taylor-Vodden and the removal of City Manager Steve Holsinger.
"I had nothing to do with those signs," Spears said.
He believes the problem lies in the council's resistance to the opinions and ideas of anyone outside a small budget sub-committee, which consists of Holsinger, the finance director and two council members.
If elected, Spears said he hopes to push the council to open all budget discussions to employees, department heads and the public, and provide proper notice to when those meetings are held.
Although city subcommittees are not required to adhere to the Brown Act, Spears believes a body with that much influence should be open and receptive to ideas.
"Why wait for a law to force you to do something you should already be doing?" he said.
Spears said it has been a balancing act separating his two concurrent roles during election season.
As the police chief, he said he has conducted himself in the same professional manner in which he has been praised for in the past by the City Council, his staff and the public.
As one of seven candidates vying for three seats on Nov. 6, he said he's been outspoken and sometime ruthless about the actions of those whose duty it is to govern the city and represent the citizens of Willows.
"I admit that I have been vicious," Spears said. "I pretty much attacked everyone. But we have a government that has lost touch with the people in this town."
He also knows that it means whoever is elected Nov. 6, plenty of bridges will need to be rebuilt and fences will need mending before the city can heal the hurts that many feel have been dealt in the past few months.
It doesn't mean he won't push for the council and the city manager to adopt a philosophy of working with the public — openly and honestly — and for the betterment of the community.
"My vote would be one of five," he said.
As for what he hopes to bring to the table, Spears plans to address marketing, including freeway signs that point to Willows as a destination.
He also wants to work more closely with the Chamber of Commerce and Thunderhill Raceway to make sure everyone's website lets potential visitors know what the city has to offer.
"We can't just point a finger and say that's somebody else's responsibility," he said. "We have to work together."