Contra Costa County's District 2 is a unique and diverse area, with several candidates running for a seat on the Board of Supervisors. Encompassing most of the San Ramon Valley, the Lamorinda area and part of Walnut Creek, the district was redrawn last summer.
While the San Ramon Valley was overseen by now-District 3 Supervisor Mary Nejedly-Piepho for several years, Gayle Uilkema took over the seat in July 2011.
Uiklema, who died May 19, announced her retirement from the Board of Supervisors after nearly two decades of service; she died Saturday of ovarian cancer.
The lack of incumbents for the county's second-most populated district gave rise to three well-qualified candidates for supervisor: Community College Governing Board President Tomi Van de Brooke, Danville Mayor Candace Andersen and solar energy professor Sean White.
As the county deals with pension reform, economic development and budget concerns, the newest supervisor will need to bring innovative solutions, strong priorities and experience to the table. Although two of the three candidates have experience working on boards, committees and commissions, the San Ramon Express believes Candace Andersen is the right choice for District 2 supervisor.
While both Andersen and Van de Brooke have a plethora of valuable experience, and both agree that county funds need to be re-prioritized to focus on police, fire and infrastructure, the two decades Andersen has spent in local government will prove instrumental in dealing with various entities throughout the county.
Throughout her career, Andersen has sat on over 30 commissions and committees, several of which she could continue to be involved with as a supervisor. A trained lawyer, team leader and consensus builder, Andersen is known to be gregarious and consistently prepared. Andersen has been the mayor of Danville twice and continues to work with other cities on Tri-Valley initiatives such as iGate and the Washington, D.C. mayor's conference.
Still, divisive issues regarding Andersen's personal beliefs were raised during the Express' candidate forum and debate. Van de Brooke has relentlessly tried to turn county funding for Planned Parenthood into a major tenet of the race, insinuating that Andersen's religious beliefs would prevent her from funding clinics that perform abortions. Andersen remained steadfast and polished in her assertion that she had no intention of cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, noting her support of women's health and sex education.
Andersen's well-researched, smooth presentation spoke highly of her ability to negotiate difficult situations, even in the face of differing opinions. Although Van de Brooke started her own public relations company and has worked with the Contra Costa Council and California Alliance for Jobs, her antagonistic presentation does not bode well for the Board of Supervisors.
Instead, focusing on divisive issues during various debates has diverted attention from real issues within the county, specifically pension reform and budgetary concerns. Andersen is well informed about the cost of employee benefits -- the county is underfunded by $1.1 billion and spends 37 percent of its payroll on pensions -- while Van de Brooke wants to base county employee compensation on salary surveys.
While both agree that growth outside the urban limit line (or urban growth boundary in San Ramon) is misaligned with voter desires, Andersen's experience on the Danville Town Council will put her more in line with voters. Her hard-line approach against development on ridgelines and in rural areas, advocating instead for building on the valley floor, will serve well as the county hears testimony on developments in the Tassajara Valley such as New Farm and a cemetery.
Although either Andersen or Van de Brooke could do the job, Andersen's polished presentation, local government experience and positive attitude make her the right candidate for supervisor at this time. The area is fortunate to have outstanding candidates and we believe Candace Andersen will do what's best for the entire San Ramon Valley, District 2 and the county.