Water, growth big issues in Madera County supervisor races

The Fresno BeeMay 30, 2014 

Seven candidates are vying for two Madera County supervisors seats in Tuesday's primary election: District 1 -- spanning from the Fresno County line to the foothills of O'Neals -- and mostly rural District 5 covering more than half the county geographically, including the unincorporated mountain towns of Oakhurst, Coarsegold, North Fork and Bass Lake.

Five candidates hope to replace District 1 Supervisor Manuel Nevarez, who is not running for re-election. Nevarez was appointed to the seat in March of 2013 by Gov. Jerry Brown after Supervisor Frank Bigelow won election to the state Assembly.

In District 5, incumbent Tom Wheeler, who has served as supervisor for the past eight years, is facing one challenger, firefighter Paul Cliby of Coarsegold.

District 2 is also up for election this year, but no challengers decided to take on incumbent David Rogers of Chowchilla.

District 1

A main issue for District 1 are several large subdivisions planned on Madera County's Valley floor, which is being primed for explosive growth. Approved housing developments have paved the way for as many as 35,000 new homes, which would likely serve as bedroom communities for Fresno County.

In addition, the 2,840-home Gunner Ranch that was proposed near Children's Hospital Central California was sent back to county staff by supervisors in December for further review due to water worries.

* Candidate Mona Diaz, 65, president of the Golden Valley Unified School District board and the director of marketing for her family's Fresno trucking business, said all new development must meet water and infrastructure requirements.

"I have made a decision not to accept large campaign contributions from developers when those contributions might be perceived as influencing my vote," Diaz said.

Diaz, of Madera Ranchos, said the biggest issues facing District 1 include the "water crisis" and public safety, adding that a sheriff's substation should be built in the Madera Ranchos area.

Diaz is a former president of the Madera County School Board Association and Golden Valley Chamber of Commerce, and was a founding board member of Golden Valley Unified School District.

* Brett Frazier, the 34-year-old former mayor of Madera, owns three Papa Murphy's pizza restaurants. He said supervisors need to ensure there are "legally binding assurances" from developers stating they will provide adequate water needs in an environmentally friendly manner.

Frazier of Madera Ranchos, also a former Madera city council member, said public safety, water and the economy are the biggest issues facing the county.

* Gary Johns, 66, owns a graphic design studio in Fresno, and has served as chairman of the Madera County planning commissioner and as a member of the county's General Plan Committee.

Johns of Madera said this of development: "The ability to mitigate water depletion will determine the future of every project going forward. No water, no development."

He said ground water and water for development and farmers are the most important issues.

Johns volunteered as chaplain for Madera County's Juvenile Detention Facility for 10 years.

* Winegrower/small business owner Ray Krause, Jr., 69, also served as a Madera County planning commissioner.

He said this of development: "If there is to be growth, let it be orderly, attractive and sustainable."

The O'Neals man said the three major housing developments approved to be built on the Valley floor are of the "required design and compatibility," but marrying them with existing neighborhoods will take "some time and forward thinking." He added, "I believe that the entire area could well be the next incorporated city within Madera County."

He said water is the county's most important issue, but Madera County's biggest problem is an "ambivalent voter base."

Krause is a past president of the Madera Vintners Association, current vice president of the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau, and has been a licensed financial services agent for 27 years.

* Small business owner Rochelle Minneti Noblett, 60, of Madera, said future development should be examined carefully and the "availability of water should be at the center of that discussion." She said agriculture needs to be protected and development needs to be done responsibly.

She said the biggest issue is ensuring those in agriculture, along with communities, have a reliable water supply.

Noblett is a past president of the State Center Community College Foundation Board and past co-chair of an area Wounded Warriors program.

District 5

In the foothills of rural District 5, firefighter Cliby is challenging incumbent Wheeler, the mountain community's principal liaison to county government.

* Tom Wheeler has been a visible public figure in eastern Madera County throughout his eight years in office, with a public service experience list that takes up more than a page.

The North Fork man is proud of his accessibility. He holds monthly town hall meetings, rotating between six communities, where he sets out business cards with a list of ways to contact him -- including his home and cell phone numbers.

Wheeler, 71, has been an eastern Madera County resident since he was a teen, owned several businesses and managed a large ranch for 30 years. Since the 1970s, he's served on dozens of committees, boards and commissions, many focused on resource conservation, schools and government.

Wheeler sees himself as a full-time supervisor and said he's helped pass "responsible" county budgets and supported policies focused on bringing jobs to the mountain community and bolstering its economy.

* Paul Cliby of Coarsegold has worked as a firefighter for the Fresno Fire Department for 35 years, including serving as an instructor for the department. He's also a volunteer firefighter for Station 10 in Yosemite Lakes Park.

Cliby is board chairman of the city of Fresno Fire and Police Retirement System, has volunteered for the Feeding America food bank, and drives a school bus as needed for a local school district.

He said water issues and pension funding are the county's biggest problems, and is opposed to a Fresno Council of Governments' proposal to run a bus service from the Fresno airport to Yosemite National Park -- a hot issue for some residents. Wheeler said if Fresno establishes a route, he would strongly support bus stops in mountain communities to generate new tourist dollars.

Regarding a proposed casino on the Valley floor of Madera County, planned by the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians in North Fork, Cliby said more energy should be spent instead on job creation in the mountain area. Wheeler has been a strong supporter of the project, saying it will boost the county's economy along with helping North Fork and its Mono tribe.

The candidates

District 1

Mona Diaz

Age: 65

Residence: Madera Ranchos

Occupation: Trucking business marketing director; president of the Golden Valley Unified School District board of trustees

Education: Cosmetology degree from Federico Beauty Institute in Fresno; horticulture studies at Fresno City College

Family: Married with two sons and two grandchildren

Social media: www.facebook.com/monadiazdistrict1

Brett Frazier

Age: 34

Residence: Madera Ranchos

Occupation: Restaurant owner/operator

Education: Bachelor's degree from University of California, Santa Barbara

Family: Engaged with two children

Website: www.brettfrazier.org

Social media: www.facebook.com/frazierforsupervisor and https://twitter.com/BrettFrazier on Twitter

Gary Johns

Age: 66

Residence: Madera Ranchos

Occupation: Small business owner and campaign adviser

Education: Liberal arts and drafting studies at Fresno City College; crisis intervention and chaplain certificates

Family: Married with two children

Social media: www.facebook.com/gary.johns.526

Ray Krause, Jr.

Age: 69

Residence: O'Neals

Occupation: Winegrower/owner and licensed financial services agent

Education: Enology studies at Fresno State

Family: Married with three children and nine grandchildren

Website: www.krauseforsupervisor.com

Social media: www.facebook.com/krauseforsupervisor or https://twitter.com/K4S2014 on Twitter

Rochelle Minneti Noblett

Age: 60

Residence: Madera

Occupation: Small business owner

Education: Fresno State honors graduate

Family: Married with two sons

Website: www.noblett4supervisor.com

Social media: www.facebook.com/noblett4supervisor

District 5

Tom Wheeler

Age: 71

Residence: North Fork

Occupation: Incumbent

Education: Fresno City College

Family: Three children and four grandsons

Website: www.electtomwheeler.com

Social media: www.facebook.com/supervisorwheeler

Paul Cliby

Age: 57

Residence: Coarsegold

Occupation: Firefighter and fire instructor

Education: Business and finance classes at a number of universities

Family: Married with five children and three grandchildren

Website: www.cliby2014.com

Social media: www.facebook.com/paul.cliby

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, cgeorge@fresnobee.com or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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