Mike Ennis faces attacks Tulare County supervisor race

The Fresno BeeMay 4, 2014 

Tulare County Supervisor Mike Ennis is seeking election to a third term in District 5, and his three opponents — all current or former members of the Porterville City Council — accuse him of failing to communicate with officials when disputes arise between the city and county.

But Ennis says his job as county supervisor is to represent the entire district and not just the narrow interests of Porterville City Council members.

Ennis was first elected in 2006 to the southeast Tulare County district in which Porterville is the only incorporated city. Four years ago, he narrowly won re-election against his only opponent, Cam Hamilton, then a Porterville council member.

This time around, the three challengers could deny Ennis the votes he needs to avoid a run-off election — more than 50% of the total cast.

VOTER GUIDE: Learn about the candidates and issues. Build your own ballot.

Challenger Virginia Gurrola, elected to the council two years ago after serving on it in the late 1990s and early 2000s, said Ennis isn't representing his constituents.

"I'm running because I see a need," she said. "I've reached out to Mike Ennis, but he hasn't reached back. At the local level, we should be able to meet and discuss. He does not want to face confrontation."

If elected, Gurrola said she would bring a problem-solving attitude to community issues and be available to constituents.

Challenger Felipe Martinez served one term on the council from 2006-10. If elected, he said he would be accessible.

"I've heard quite often that our supervisor isn't representing the district in the way it should have been," he said. "The biggest criticism is his availability in working with the city of Porterville. There's been a tug of war between the city and him. I understand that the city is only part of District 5, but you still have to have dialogue. He's not coming to the table."

The city sued the county over the county's general plan, and the county sued the city about its redevelopment plans. Recently, both sides agreed to drop the lawsuits.

Greg Shelton, whose term on the council expires this year but opted to run for supervisor instead of re-election, said Ennis is too cozy with his fellow supervisors.

"He's fixated on being popular with the other supervisors and keeping them happy and not the people of his district happy," he said.

Measure R road money has been disproportionately spent in other districts, and a landfill serving Porterville was closed, forcing residents to drive 20 miles, he said.

"Porterville is the stepchild of Tulare County," he said.

If elected, Shelton said he would provide leadership, seek more county dollars for the district and ask that county offices be open again on Fridays.

Ennis said complaints that he won't communicate with Porterville officials and others are inaccurate.

"People can lie when you run for office," he said. "I know they're lies. I do get back to people. I do represent the people of Tulare County."

Porterville council members should look in the mirror, he said: "It's awful hard for a county supervisor to work with a council that's divided."

Ranchers and farmers support him, as do service clubs and community leaders, he said.

Ennis said he is running on a record of support for public safety.

"The board is behind the sheriff's department," he said. "We started a fire department in 2007. We started the marijuana task force because people were getting shot."

A $60 million South County jail in Porterville will be built using mostly state money, and the county worked with the state to get a new courthouse in Porterville, he said.



Occupation: Porterville City Council member, retired Porterville College official

Hometown: Porterville

Age: 63

Education: A.A., Porterville College; B.A., California State University, Bakersfield

Family: Husband, Sal; three children, nine grandchildren

Endorsements: Not seeking endorsements


Hometown: Porterville

Age: 57

Occupation: Insurance agent

Education: Porterville High graduate, studied at Porterville College, Fresno City College

Family: Wife, Linda; six children, seven grandchildren

Endorsements: Porterville Unified School District board member Richard Morris; Burton School District board member Eddie Hernandez, Terra Bella Union School District board member Juan Figueroa; Richgrove School District superintendent Frank Chavez; Former Porterville Council member Gilbert Yniguez


Hometown: Porterville

Age: 69

Occupation: Tulare County Supervisor

Education: Porterville High graduate, studied at Porterville College, graduate of University of Automotive Management

Family: Wife, Diane; one daughter, three grandchildren

Endorsements: Assembly Member Connie Conway, U.S. Reps. Devin Nunes and Kevin McCarthy, Orange Belt Board of Realtors.


Hometown: Porterville

Age: 52

Occupation: Self-employed businessman

Education: Monache High graduate, studied at Porterville College, two years California State University, Bakersfield

Family: Single

Endorsements: Porterville Area Republican Association



Nine candidates are running for two seats on the Porterville City Council. The candidates are:

John "Juan" Duran, retired inmate supervisor

Larry A. Harper, real estate broker

Shawn Cable, correctional sergeant

Pete V. McCracken, Porterville City Council member

Milt Stowe, retired recreation director

Matthew Green, law clerk

Shawn R. Schwartzenberger, retired hull technician

Russell R. Fletcher, student/business owner

Christopher Morton, no ballot designation

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.

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