Can east work with west in El Dorado County, thought by some to have a “granite curtain” between the two? A redrawing of its supervisor districts has six candidates for District 5 covering a lot more ground this election, and some people wondering how well their communities will be represented.
Traditionally dominated by basin communities such as Meyers and South Lake Tahoe, District 5 now stretches over Echo Summit and as far west as Pollock Pines. All five supervisor districts were redrawn after the 2010 census for more equal populations. With South Lake Tahoe losing population, District 5 had to reach west to pick up people.
“It makes it very difficult manage, but that’s the way it is. You really have to take the time to learn about each community and their concerns,” said incumbent supervisor Norma Santiago, who is not seeking another term.
Trying to open that granite curtain, Santiago said she has spent Mondays and Tuesdays on the west slope and Thursdays and Fridays in the basin. Wednesday is her day to travel between the two sides of the county. “It’s a full-time job with a lot of travel. I put a lot of miles on my car,” she said.
People on both ends of the district are wondering which side’s candidate will win out in this year’s election. But the best person for the job can successfully represent the entire district and its diverse interests, Santiago and candidates for the position said.
Two candidates, Kevin Brown and Teresa Piper, live in Pollock Pines, a community split among three supervisor districts. Four candidates, Angela Swanson, Sue Novasel, Ken Curtzwiler and Geraldine Grego, live in the basin, either in South Lake Tahoe or Meyers.
The prevailing belief is a crowded primary will split voters, with one candidate from either end of the district advancing to November’s runoff. Two candidates who get the most votes advance from the June primary.
“When I talk to people here, they think someone there will win. When I talk to someone in Tahoe, they think someone in Pollock Pines will win and they won’t be represented,” said Teresa Piper.
South Lake Tahoe has been losing population, but it could be challenging for a Pollock Pines candidate to win the district without support from voters in the basin. There are about 17,500 voters in District 5. About 14,300 of them are east of the Pacific Crest Trail and Echo Summit and about 3,200 are west of the summit, according to El Dorado County Elections Department.
While the eastern end of the district has more voters, its western end traditionally shows up on election day with much stronger voter turnout, said Kevin Brown.
“Somebody from Pollock Pines would have to grab some votes here (in the basin), no doubt about it,” Brown said.
The new District 5 boundary might balance county populations as needed, but it makes it harder for people and communities who want government to be engaged in their local interests, said Sue Novasel, who lives in Meyers.
“My issue is whoever gets elected needs to promise they will represent the entire district. That’s a little easier in my mind if you’re from South Lake Tahoe, because we have the (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) and other difficult issues the county needs to take a front seat on,” Novasel said.
Brown agrees with that view. All except the last bit about someone from South Lake Tahoe being best suited to represent the district. The new district boundary is a challenge, but also an opportunity for Pollock Pines and South Lake Tahoe, Brown said.
“Tahoe is the jewel of the Sierra and Pollock Pines is nature’s wonderland, so together we are the two most beautiful areas in the county where we have hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, skiing and boating, all right there. And we’re in that together, bringing Pollock Pines and Tahoe together. I believe it’s an opportunity to get the best representation, not a negative,” Brown said