Election 2022: Meet the candidates for city council
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — It’s election season and 11 candidates are competing for three seats on the South Lake Tahoe City Council.
Incumbents Cody Bass and Tamara Wallace are hoping to hold their seats. Mayor Devin Middlebrook opted not to run again, leaving his seat up for grabs.
Meet your candidates.
Incumbent Cody Bass is vying to keep his seat for a second-term. Bass, who owns Tahoe Wellness Center, was first elected in 2018. He first ran because he felt real change was needed in the city, especially since the former city manager was leaving.
“There was a lot of real division in the community, there wasn’t a sense of unity, especially around the issue of vacation home rentals,” Bass said.
Since being elected, the city council hired current city manager Joe Irvin and new leadership has stepped in in almost every department. Bass said he’s “really motivated” to see what the city can accomplish with the new leadership team in place.
Bass is satisfied that the council was able to reopen Fire Station 3, which was one of the issues he ran on in the 2018 election, as well as make other public safety improvements such as updating the city’s communication system.
He is also happy that each year he’s been on the council, the city has committed about $3 million in road improvements, something he said was neglected for many years.
Finally, Bass is proud of the way the city handled COVID, including funding loans, which were later forgiven for small businesses, an idea Bass proposed.
“Through COVID and the challenges it brought forward, because we don’t have a health department, we did really,” Bass said, adding that he would be happy to be reelected and see what the city can accomplish in non-pandemic times.
One of Bass’ top priorities, if re-elected, will be a continued focus on improving transportation in the region. He has served as the city’s representative on the Tahoe Transportation District board, which has given him an insight on the dynamics of the region.
“I’m really passionate about us getting transit that’s at a world class level,” Bass said.
While on the board, Bass has been part of an initiative to create a new agency to oversee transit in the Basin and said he doesn’t want to walk away until he sees that come to fruition.
One of the things Bass has enjoyed about the council over the past four years is its ability to disagree and debate while maintaining a level of respect for one another. He hopes that whoever takes Middlebrook’s place continues that discourse and respect for both other council members and the public.
Bass will soon be launching his campaign website, but in the meantime can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Incumbent Tamara Wallace, who was elected in 2018, is hoping to hold onto her seat for another term. Wallace had an unsuccessful bid for El Dorado County District 5 Supervisor but said she would be more than happy to keep her seat on city council.
“I would spend the next 30 years on city council if I could, I love it. I think I have the greatest job on earth,” Wallace said. “The reason that I decided to run for supervisor was because I felt like I could help the people of this community among other communities but when all was said and done it was about helping the people of the city of South Lake Tahoe because that’s where I live. So, it was no great loss when I lost that election because I still have the opportunity to stay on council, hopefully, and continue to work for the people of my community.”
Prior to serving on the council, Wallace was on the planning commission and said she’s been attending council meetings for more than 20 years.
One of Wallace’s proudest accomplishments during her time on the council happened just last month, when the council voted to sell two parcels for affordable housing that were integral pieces for the Loop Road project, essentially killing that plan.
“The Loop Road project was one of the main reasons that I decided to run for city council. Stopping the Loop Road and being at the table and having an effect on that project and protecting that Rocky Point Neighborhood because I really felt like that neighborhood needed protection, they needed someone to speak out for them,” Wallace said.
If re-elected, Wallace said she wants to continue providing housing in the community.
Since being on council, the city has reopened Fire Station 3, started the Police Advisory Committee and launched the South Tahoe Alternative Collaborative Services program to address mental health and homeless concerns in the community. She wants to continue providing proactive public safety programs and initiatives, such as addressing the opioid epidemic.
Wallace, who lost her son to the opioid epidemic earlier this year said, “if I can help any family in this community not go through what my family has gone through, which is just devastating, I will put whatever support I can behind that.”
If reelected, Wallace said she hopes that whoever takes Middlebrook’s position is someone who is willing to debate and compromise.
“I don’t need them to agree with me… I need them to be able to come to the table, bring their ideas, listen to everyone else’s ideas and work towards the common good,” Wallace said.
To reach Wallace, email her at email@example.com.
After being unsuccessful at getting on the 2020 ballot, local activist Kevin Brunner is excited to be running for city council.
Brunner moved to South Lake Tahoe in 2012 and in 2020, he became active in the local Black Lives Matter Movement.
“It was very inspiring to be a part of that movement and being a part of the community camaraderie, “ Brunner said. “I was super juiced mainly because I was able to contribute a message that got people involved.”
One of the reasons Brunner chose to run is to be a representative for the minority communities in South Lake. He said looking at the wall of photographs in the council chambers of former council members, he doesn’t see any black faces.
“I want my face up there because this is what growth is, this is what community prosperity is and being able to identify things that kept us stagnant and implementing, and accepting change that allows us to have sustainable growth for ourselves and our children,” Brunner said.
Brunner works with The Incarcerated Student Program at Lake Tahoe Community College helping incarcerated students get their education. He’s passionate about education and wants the school district to include lessons in topics that align with the city’s long-term goals, such as renewable energy, fire safe construction materials and funding models.
In addition to education, Brunner is focused on affordable housing and working to create financial incentives for homeowners to rent their homes long-term and additional fees for vacation home rentals that would be used to address the housing crisis.
Finally, Brunner is focused on fire safety and hopes to invest more money into fire prevention programs and new fire equipment.
To learn more about Brunner, visit Kevin Brunner for South Lake Tahoe City Council on Facebook.
Cefalu has long roots in South Lake Tahoe. He was born and raised here and his family has lived here and worked in the service industry since the 1940s. Celafu grew up working at his families’ commercial laundry company, even after the company was bought out in the 1990s.
He bought his own laundromat on Harrison Ave., which he has since sold. He now owns Mile High Charter, a fishing charter company and works at Corcoran Global Living.
He has been involved in the community, serving as the high school basketball coach at South Tahoe High and serving on the city’s planning commission and parks and recreation commission. He’s currently on the Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association board of directors.
“I believe one of my biggest strengths is just being able to bring folks to the table to be able to work out the very difficult situations and issues we have ahead of us with the city,” Cefalu said.
He adds that he’s very pragmatic and likes to get things done. He prides himself in speaking with community members to learn the issues.
“Just because I’ve been here for a long time doesn’t mean I know everything,” Cefalu said.
One of Cefalu’s top issues is affordable housing.
“I think that everything we have and everything we do is based around affordable housing. There are some ideas and concepts out there but we have to streamline the planning process, especially for upgrades and multi-family so that we can get people in beds and keep them in beds,” Cefalu said.
As Carson City and Reno continue to grow, Cefalu fears the city will lose its workforce forever if it doesn’t find affordable housing.
Celafu also believes in embracing the tourism industry, stating that some of the biggest employers in the region survive on tourism dollars.
“As somebody that has been so lucky to live here my entire life, I live here but I don’t own the place, it’s just the place I’m lucky enough to be a steward of,” Celafu said.
Finally, Celafu wants to make sure the city’s public works and service departments are given a good vision for the future and are funded for generations to come.
To learn more about Celafu, visit https://voteforjoby.com.
Eddy is a 44-year resident of South Lake Tahoe who decided to run after being disappointed by the way the council has been spending taxpayer dollars.
The community of South Lake is important to Eddy who met and married her husband and raised their three children here. She volunteered with Lake Tahoe Unified School District for 10 years while her children and nephews were students there and chaperoned nearly every field trip during that time.
“I’m running because I have a love for our community,” Eddy said.
She added that she’s been attending and speaking at council meetings and is concerned about the way tax dollars are being spent and many of those decisions are being made without a vote from residents.
“If elected, I’ll be a voice of reason, logic and common sense for our community, for our city and for the people,” Eddy said. “I want to stop the over-taxation on our community and for people to be able to have their voice heard and a vote on certain issues that are non-essential for our community, the frivolous spending that’s not beneficial to our community.”
The examples given are the tax dollars that were spent for the statue at Champions Plaza, as well as the sidewalks that were painted with a rainbow flag. Eddy believes the statue could have been cheaper and done by a local artist, and as for the sidewalks, she didn’t feel taxpayer money should be spent on a political statement, especially without the community weighing in on the decision.
Eddy added that her disapproval of the sidewalk painting was because of the frivolous spending and not because of dislike for the LGBTQ-plus community.
“I do not hate anybody. Somebody might not agree with my lifestyle and I might not agree with their lifestyle but that does not mean I’m going to hate them or not speak with them with kindness and love,” Eddy said.
She is also opposed the council spending about $100k on a consultant to research and craft Measure G.
“Our tax dollars are going towards raising taxes on us,” Eddy said, adding that the measure is written to be purposely confusing and believes it includes loopholes that could be used to tax other businesses.
As far as other issues, Eddy said she plans to gather all the facts and go through them with a fine tooth comb before making decisions.
If you’d like to learn more, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jacobson is a retired business owner who has lived in South Lake Tahoe for six years. He’d been splitting his time between Park City, Utah and Sausalito, Calif. but was looking for a change of scenery. After visiting Tahoe for 25 years, he decided this would be the perfect place.
Jacobson, along with his parents, started BoDean’s Baking Group, an ice cream cone maker. He sold the company in 2016.
He decided to run for city council after a friend mentioned that he would be a good fit for the role.
“It just seemed to fit the mold of exactly what I wanted to do and utilize some of my skill sets while I’m further intertwining myself into the community and looking long-term at what I can do to impact,” Jacobson said.
While he believes the city has done a good job, especially at protecting its environmental assets, he said there is always room for improvement.
“I think I can implement some of my skill sets, bring some efficiency, some business acumen and a good set of ears,” Jacobson said, adding that he learned during his time running a business that the greatest asset is the people, and hearing what they have to say.
One of the issues Jacobson would want to focus on is continued and improved environmental protection.
“What’s being done with the marsh, the Truckee River, the lakefront and Tahoe Keys, some of its reactionary and its been taking place over decades but the attention to it is important and that’s where it starts, the communication and the transparency around that,” Jacobson said. “I think that’s being done well but I think it can be improved in terms of how we are looking at these matters, what we are doing in terms of decision making, how we are communicating that to the community.”
Communication is a recurring issue in Jacobson’s mind in terms of other issues like education, housing market and vacation home rentals. Before taking a position on other issues in the community, he wants to hear from the constituents and learn more about their thoughts on the issues.
To learn more about Jacobson, he can be reached by email email@example.com or phone 310-809-4448.
Jinkens, who is a former city manager of South Lake Tahoe, decided to throw his hat in the ring after years of being active on the sidelines.
“I really love the place up here and I want to do everything I can to make it good for everybody, not just a few,” Jinkens said.
Jinkens has about 35 years of experience in city management, not just in South Lake Tahoe but several cities throughout California. He and his wife, Terri, always considered South Lake their home.
Jinkens has been involved in city and regional issues for many years, sending out a weekly newsletter informing readers about various matters. However, after talking it over with his wife, Jinkens decided that if he really wanted to push for change, he needed to run for office.
If elected, one of Jinkens top focuses would be to address the failing roads in South Lake.
“I’ve heard over many years people say during campaigns they are going to fix the roads and then the election is over and the roads still remain broken,” Jinkens said.
He said he wants to give public works a budget that allows them to fix cracks and holes in the roads immediately rather than waiting for the road to deteriorate completely and replacing the whole road.
Jinkens is against any new taxes and wants the city to live within their means, meaning if the city is going to build new projects, they need to be able to maintain those projects. He also wants to use tools in the city’s toolbox to incentivize developers to finish the “hole in the ground,” a project that has sat unfinished for many years.
Finally, Jinkens wants to concentrate on protecting the city by emphasizing fire protection and focusing on environmental issues. Part of that comes from transparency with the community and listening to and working with experts.
To learn more about Jinkens, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robbins is an engineer who moved to South Lake in 2016 to be able to live in the mountains. He has volunteered with the Warm Room and with Search and Rescue and became actively involved with the Tahoe Neighborhoods Group in putting vacation home rental restricting Measure T on the ballot in 2018. He is currently serving on the Joint Powers Authority, Bike Advisory Committee and the El Dorado County Economic Advisory Committee and through that also serves on the Housing Subcommittee.
Robbins had an unsuccessful run at council in 2020 and has spent the last two years continuing to be involved in local issues. His campaign is focused on addressing issues that affect service industry workers in South Lake, such as housing.
“Two years ago at this time, the housing crisis was seen as reaching an apex of bad and we’ve only seen it get worse,” Robbins said. “So, as bad as we thought the housing crisis was in 2020, it managed to become significantly worse in the last two years and the efforts of the city to combat this have simply not met the scale or the crisis.”
He gives the examples of the Lending to Locals program and the Sugar Pine Village project, stating that while both are steps in the right direction, they will only house a smaller number of people compared to the number of people who need affordable housing.
One solution Robbins sees for the affordable housing crisis is to waive permit and digging fees for affordable housing projects and for the city to stop giving permits to mansion projects. He is also an advocate for vacancy fees which could be used for affordable housing projects and could unlock vacant second homes.
Robbins is also frustrated with the priority the city often places on tourists over locals, such as the cannabis tax which he said greatly impacts locals or the Arts, Culture and Tourism commission which was originally supposed to just be focused on arts and culture until the tourism aspect was included.
Finally, Robbins is passionate about fire safety.
“I think we’ve all dodged a bullet but we still do not have defensible space throughout the majority of our neighborhoods, we don’t have enough funding and resourcing for defensible space inspections, we reopened Station 3, which is an example of a council looking out for locals, the only thing is that a lot of that money came from temporary sources rather than permanent budget sources,” Robbins said.
To learn more about Robbins, visit https://www.scottforslt.com.
Schenning is a long-time healthcare leadership professional with experience at Johns Hopkins, Kaiser Permanente and now, Invitae, where she works with federal and state governments on healthcare policies and issues. She also holds a PhD in health services with an emphasis on public health leadership.
She moved to Lake Tahoe with her husband and their two dogs during the pandemic. They have lived on the East Coast as well as the northwest but they were looking for a place to settle down where they could continue to be active but that would also be a good place to raise a family, which they hope to do in the near future.
When asked why she wants to run for council, Schenning said, “I really felt that I could bring a sense of community and belonging to not just newbies but also to long-timers,” adding that she wants South Lake to be a community that’s inclusive to all.
Schenning said she wants to be a “true conduit for the community.”
“I am not running for self-interests or my own agenda. As a city council member, the agenda and positioning should be based on what the community wants/ needs,” Schenning said. “I am dedicated to engaging to understand and learn from the community and data about what my agenda and positioning should be. “
She sees her experience in healthcare leadership as a strength because she’s able to learn and communicate about complex issues, as well as the ability to find common ground.
“Everyone is going to have an opinion and position on all of these complex topics. I believe I have the skills and ability to bring people together and find common ground. For example, I hear from small businesses that their performances have struggled since Measure T was implemented, but at the same time full time residents have concerns with short term vacation rentals. Let’s find a way to ensure our small local businesses are supported while also addressing concerns of full-time residents,” Schenning said.
In addition, she’d like to find ways to leverage federal and state legislatures to address some of the community’s needs.
To learn more about Schenning, visit her Instagram page at @chantelle4citycouncil or her website at Chantelle4citycouncil.com.
Speal is a software engineer with a passion for environmental and climate related issues. Speal was born in the United States but grew up in Canada. He’s been living in South Lake Tahoe for five years and was drawn here by the skiing.
Speal is on the board of the Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition and describes himself as a social justice advocate. Through those passions, he’s been involved in city politics but wants to participate more directly.
“I’m really motivated about climate change, I think there is a big challenge ahead of us, an exciting challenge to address and protect our winters,” Speal said. “I think people are surprised by how much we can do locally.”
Some of the ways Speal said the city could address climate change locally is through transportation and land use and even housing initiatives.
“The city has really been going in the right direction. Lately, I’ve been quite impressed and its important to keep the momentum up,” Speal said.
Through the Climate Action Plan, the city has set bold climate targets but Speal said the role of the next city council will to implement policies to meet those goals. One of the ways to do that is through transportation.
“There’s no one silver bullet but expanding bus service, the microtransit program that has just started – we can really expand that,” Speal said. “That pairs nicely with our mass transit service which we could run more regularly, more direct routes and supporting heavily used recreation areas.”
Another issue Speal is concerned with is general affordability, including affordable housing. He wants to build on more projects such as Sugar Pine Village, that is affordable, dense housing that’s near public transit lines.
He also wants to make civic engagement more accessible to people. He wants to explore hosting meetings at different times of day so more people can participate and he wants to make the subcommittee meeting accessible remotely. He also wants to help push the city to move their meeting locations so they are located more centrally.
Speal said his ability to collaborate paired with his optimistic attitude makes him a good candidate for council.
“Big challenges can be intimidating but I like to creatively work together with people to find compromise to get things done,” Speal said.
To learn more about Speal, visit http://www.speal.ca/.
Nicole Ramirez Thomas
Ramirez Thomas and her husband moved to South Lake from Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2018. Thomas is an archeologist and historic preservation consultant.
She primarily works with the city of Santa Fe so through her job, she’s familiar with the intricacies of working with local government. Thomas also said she loves developing policy, which she’s done a lot throughout her 20-year career.
“I love serving and I love local government,” Ramirez Thomas said. “My husband and I are both committed to contributing to our community.”
Through her job, she helps Santa Fe comply with federal laws such as the National Historic Preservation Act and she believes she would bring the experience of working across agencies into the Basin and the city’s relationship with other Basin agencies.
“My overarching consideration is quality of life and that reaches into all the different aspects,” Ramirez Thomas said when asked about her priorities.
Housing, environment and transportation are her biggest priorities within that umbrella focus, She also sees the importance of the council working with staff to implement the strategic plan.
She’s also focused on inclusiveness within policy creation.
“It’s important to look at quality of life for all sectors of the community. There’s definitely underrepresented, quieter elements of the community that I would want to encourage to participate,” Ramirez Thomas said.
While Ramirez Thomas hasn’t lived in South Lake as long as other candidates have, she sees her outside perspective as a strength. She said Santa Fe has dealt with similar issues of over tourism and growth as South Lake.
“It’s important that people feel they have a say in how their community develops and also realize that places change over time and they can contribute to the change,” Thomas said.
To learn more about Thomas, visit https://nicoleforcouncil.com/.
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