Eight candidates are seeking the open seat on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors for District 1, which includes Exeter, Farmersville, Lindsay, Three Rivers and east Visalia.
If no one sweeps the June 7 primary, the top two vote-getters will face each other in November.
Supervisor Allen Ishida of Lindsay is not seeking re-election to the nonpartisan post. Ishida, a citrus grower, said he plans to run for governor in two years to bring attention to water issues affecting Valley agriculture and residents.
No single issue has dominated the primary, but several candidates have said curtailment of irrigation water is a major issue.
Other issues include public safety, gangs, clean drinking water, land use, groundwater regulation, economic development and cities-county relations.
“The first thing is water; that’s the elephant in the room,” said Kuyler Crocker, 29, of Strathmore, a fifth-generation farmer and Pacific Gas and Electric Company energy adviser. “We’re at the heart of the citrus belt, we’ve got a huge economic driver.”
He said he would advocate full deliveries of state and federal water.
Crocker also vowed to support the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office.
Dennis Smith, 63, of Exeter, co-owner of National Builders Supply, blames environmentalism and bureaucrats for irrigation water cutbacks.
“There’s an abundance of water,” he said. “This is a government-caused drought.” Rural counties must band together and “put the pressure on Sacramento,” he said.
Other issues: “mismanagement” of forest lands has created the conditions for catastrophic fires, and groundwater regulations could hurt farmers and landowners, Smith said.
Vincent Salinas, 66, of Visalia, a business consultant at the Fresno State Small Business Development Center and former member of the Visalia Planning Commission, said his opponents complain about lack of farm water but he brings experience to the issue.
“The difference is I’ve been working on this since 2006 when we had the last drought,” he said.
He said he was an original supporter of the California Latino Water Coalition, participated in the march to San Luis Reservoir several years ago, and invited then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to speak there.
Additionally, the Sheriff’s Department is understaffed, and county fire stations needs more full-time firefighters, Salinas said.
Ted Macaulay, 59, of Exeter, an insurance agent and former member of the Exeter City Council and mayor, said the groundwater regulations are a concern.
“The county is going to have to be heavily involved” in the new groundwater sustainability agencies, he said. “We have to make sure we do what we have to, so the state doesn’t come in.”
He also advocated for better communication between cities and the county, and for economic development.
Supervisor Allen Ishida of Lindsay is not seeking re-election to the non-partisan post.
Brian Poochigian, 34, a logistics manager at a produce hauler, is the son of Julie Poochigian, the Tulare County clerk-recorder (an unelected position in the assessor’s office).
He said farm water shortages require local leaders to act.
“I don’t think Washington or Sacramento have any idea what’s going on here,” he said.
He also supports giving “all public safety departments the funding they need to protect Tulare County.”
John Elliott, 65, publisher of the Kaweah Commonwealth weekly newspaper in Three Rivers and a member of the Tulare County Planning Commission, said saving farmland from development is important.
“That’s some of the best farmland in the world,” he said. “It’s not an easy decision to take that out of production and put houses there.”
Other issues include tourism, budgeting and economic development, he said.
Rosaena Sanchez, 41, a member of the Lindsay City Council and employed by the county as a self-sufficiency counselor, said a key concern is clean drinking water for communities with contaminated water or no water due to drought.
“I think the longer we let this go, the bigger the problem we’re going to get,” she said.
Angel Galvez, 38, an administrator in the county’s Department of Mental Health, said he helped East Porterville when wells went dry.
“When I became aware of the issue, we communicated with executive management in the county,” he said. “They did what they could.”
He said gangs and violence plague disadvantaged communities, but solutions include education and youth mentoring.