Rail, water dominate Kings County supervisor races

The Fresno BeeMay 29, 2014 

Three Kings County Board of Supervisors seats are up for election in the June 3 primary, and two issues have stood out: water and the controversy over the state's High-Speed Rail project.

District 1 incumbent Joe Neves of Stratford, seeking his sixth term, is running unopposed.

District 3 incumbent Doug Verboon of Hanford, elected four years ago, has one challenger.

District 4 incumbent Tony Barba has served five terms and did not seek re-election, prompting five people to file. If no candidate gets more than half the votes cast on Tuesday, the top two finishers will face off in November.

District 3

Doug Verboon

Verboon, 51, is a walnut farmer and also owner of a shopping center in Lemoore.

"I'm at the farm every day, I go to the Board of Supervisors every day and go to the shopping center every day," he said. "I just try to stay close to the community."

The county must continue its lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority, he said.

"We're not saying we're against High-Speed Rail -- we're saying 'You need to follow the rules of Proposition 1A,' " he said.

The route through Kings County does not follow existing transportation corridors as required in the proposition, he said.

"They go through some valuable farm ground that's irreplaceable," he said. "We believe the Highway 99 corridor would be perfect for the alignment."

Verboon said a county ordinance is needed to promote more underground water storage in wet years.

He said he would favor water meters on farm water wells -- not to make life difficult for the farmer, but to compile data so the county can make the case for more water storage.

"A meter on wells will prove you're not wasting water," he said.

Verboon said he's received donations but isn't actively seeking them, and sent out a mailer.

Holly Blair

Blair, 32, grew up in Avenal, graduated from high school at 16 and got her start in community affairs by passing out blankets to veterans.

She said she was encouraged to seek office after urging the Board of Supervisors to keep open a county health clinic in Hanford that specialized in women's health needs.

Advocates lost the battle and the county closed the clinic, but now the county wants to open a "concierge" health clinic for county employees, she said.

"I felt that is wrong," she said. "We have a lot of poor people, it's really insensitive when so many in the community are saying 'We're left in the dark.' It's a deaf ear."

Blair said she welcomes the economic benefits of High-Speed Rail.

"My view is if it's going to bring good jobs, you'd be a fool to turn it down," she said. "I grew up poor -- it's crushing to a community. I'd never want to turn down any type of good job for our community. People who turn it down aren't looking at the big picture."

The county must prepare for droughts, she said: "We need long-term storage -- what else can you do?"

And more firefighters are needed because some stations have only one on duty, she said: "I don't want to see a tragedy."

District 4

Craig Pedersen

Pedersen, 53, is a third-generation walnut, cotton and alfalfa farmer.

"As a farmer, I understand water issues," he said.

Currently, no restrictions on groundwater pumping are in place but the state may establish them, he said. The county must prepare, he said.

"Rural counties have to work together on what works for us," he said, including more groundwater recharge in wet years.

He opposes High-Speed Rail in Kings County.

"It's been a frustrating process for us in Kings County," he said. "We ask a lot of questions and we don't get answers. For me, personally, it is about weighing a need of a community, weighing the needs of a state. I believe there are greater needs."

Amtrak serves the public's need for rail transportation, he said.

Pedersen also said he relates to the frustration of farmers whose land is in the path of the rail route, because the Pedersen ranch was split when Highway 198 freeway was built.

"There's a lot of unintended consequences," he said.

Pedersen said he's been raising money, walking precincts and sending mailers to targeted voters.

Sue Sorensen

Sorensen, 61, is a dental hygienist who has 30 years experience on boards, commission and governing bodies, including school boards and Hanford City Council.

"With my background and experience, I feel like I have something to offer," she said.

Sorensen said she supports the county's lawsuit against the High-Speed Rail Authority.

"Our best hope for holding High-Speed Rail accountable is to continue with the lawsuit," she said. "High-Speed Rail needs to follow the High-Speed Rail guidelines as passed by the voters. It's not following the transportation routes anticipated by the voters -- 99 or I-5. It's going into productive farmland. That's not how the proposition was written."

Sorensen said groundwater pumping is critical for farmers, but regulation of groundwater pumping by the state could adversely affect farmers.

"I want the county to be proactive in trying to prevent the state in telling us what to do," she said.

Justin Bond

Bond, 37, joined the Army, went to active duty after 9/11 and was shot in both knees in the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq. One leg had to be amputated and he retired as a sergeant.

Today, he's volunteer CEO of Our Heroes Dreams, which helps disabled veterans "stay off the couch," he said.

Bond grew up in Hanford and when he returned, "I could see our community needed a lot of help in a lot of areas," he said.

Water bills are too high in Armona, which needs curbs and sidewalks, and the county should re-establish a "boot camp" for juvenile offenders, he said.

He opposes High-Speed Rail.

"It's going to cost taxpayers too much money and it won't create enough jobs," he said.

The answer to falling groundwater levels is more water storage in wet years, he said. Even in the current drought, "they send water to the ocean," he said.

"The county is run pretty well," but there's room for improvement, he said. The county overpaid when it bought several televisions and offered poor excuses when challenged, he said.

Alan Danielson

Danielson, 49, grew up in the family hardware store and worked there for years, then started a small engine repair business specializing in farm equipment. He operates a party supplies rental business with his wife.

He has served several years on the Armona Community Services District board of directors. The board cut costs by hiring a private company to run it, he said.

Danielson said he would oppose requiring meters on farm wells because "the more the government gets in your life, the worse it gets."

But the county should promote groundwater recharge efforts, he said.

He said he opposes the planned High-Speed Rail route through Kings County, but "I don't know how Kings County can stop it." He supports the lawsuit against the Rail Authority, he said.

Danielson said he won't spend more than $1,000 on his campaign.

Dolores Gallegos

Gallegos, 66, a former two-term Hanford City Council member, was walking precincts in Hanford last month when she tripped on a sidewalk bump and broke both arms and her nose.

Despite surgery, she's again putting up yard signs and talking to people.

"It's been really tough, but I'm continuing with my campaign," she said. Adversity is nothing new, she said, having raised three children as single mother.

Gallegos said she opposes the High-Speed Rail route through the county, and would like to see another statewide vote on funding the bullet train because it would probably lose.

Because water is key to the economy of Kings County, the Board of Supervisors must work with the Legislature on the issue, she said.

"County supervisors should apply a lot of pressure to make sure water stays with us," she said.

She faults the Board of Supervisors for voting 4-1 to close the Hanford health clinic that offered women's health services for low-income patients.

"If there'd been a female there the outcome would be different," she said, noting that the current board is all male. "We need a woman's perspective."

Just two months later, "the board was kicking around having a health clinic for all county employees," she said. "Explain that one to me."


Kings County Supervisor elections

District 1

JOE NEVES

Occupation: County supervisor

Hometown: Stratford

Age: 56

Education: B.A. University of Phoenix, M.A. Brandman University

Family: Wife Kathy, two children, eight grandchildren

District 3

DOUG VERBOON

Occupation: County supervisor, farmer, commercial property owner/manager

Hometown: Hanford

Age: 51

Education: Hanford High

Family: Wife Jill, four adult children

Website: http://www.dougverboon.com/

Facebook: Doug Verboon For Supervisor

HOLLY BLAIR

Occupation: Adjunct faculty West Hills College, English

Hometown: Lemoore

Age: 32

Education: A.A. West Hills College, B.A., M.A. Fresno State

Family: Husband Paul, five children

Website: http://blairforsupervisor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HollyAndradeBlair

DISTRICT 4

CRAIG PEDERSEN

Occupation: Farmer, business manager

Hometown: Lemoore

Age: 53

Education: Hanford High, West Hills College courses; Creighton Business Owners Academy certificate

Family: Wife Kristina, three children (triplets -- two girls, a boy)

Website: http://www.craigpedersen.net/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CraigPedersenSuperintendent?fref=photo

SUE SORENSEN

Occupation: Dental hygienist, business owner

Hometown: Hanford

Age: 61

Education: A.A. College of the Sequoias, A.S. Taft College

Family: Husband Kirk, three children, eight grandchildren

Website: http://sorensenforsupervisor.com/

Facebook: Sue Sorensen For Supervisor

JUSTIN BOND

Occupation: CEO Our Heroes Dream

Hometown: Hanford

Age: 37

Education: A.S. San Joaquin Valley College, West Hills College courses, Utah Valley College courses

Family: Wife Laurel, three children

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OurHeroesDreams?fref=ts

DOLORES GALLEGOS

Occupation: retired teacher, former Hanford City Council member

Hometown: Hanford

Age: 66

Education: Courses, College of the Sequoias, Fresno State, San Jose State. Vocational teaching credential

Family: Divorced, three grown sons

Website: http://www.doloresgallegos.com/

ALAN DANIELSON

Occupation: Business owner

Hometown: Armona

Age: 49

Education: Emmanuel High graduate, College of the Sequoias courses

Family: Wife Samantha, one grown child

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alan-Danielson-for-Kings-County-Supervisor-District-4/244170992452050

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

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