District 2 County Supervisor Candace Andersen has always been busy. After a year of being in office and innumerable meetings, the Danville resident and mother of six reflects on her responsibilities and upcoming issues in the district.
Andersen was elected to office on June 5, 2012, and was sworn in June 26 after the unexpected death of her predecessor, Gayle Uilkema. The Republican and licensed attorney served on Danville's Town Council from 2003-2012 -- including two terms as mayor -- and on the Morgan Hill City Council in the early 1990s.
"I sit on more boards and committees than I previously did, and I certainly have a lot more prep time involved, a lot more responsibility. And many, many more meetings," Andersen said of her new role. "It's been incredibly enjoyable. I find local government fun, fascinating, interesting but I've never been as busy in my life, despite raising six children, than I have now."
Andersen's district covers the San Ramon Valley and Lamorinda as well as part of Walnut Creek. She sits on many commissions and committees including the County Fire District Board, County Housing Authority, County Solid WasteAauthority, Contra Costa Transportation Authority and as an alternate on the Association of Bay Area Governments and Metropolitan Transportation Committee.
"As county supervisor, you do work with each of your communities to help them achieve their goals," Andersen said. "It's being able to say 'Here's the county dollars we have, how can we help you finish what you're trying to accomplish?'"
Open communication between county staff and residents had been a priority for the supervisor, whose district includes six cities and four unincorporated towns. Andersen hopes to help solve issues throughout her unincorporated communities, most recently through the creation of a liaison meeting in Alamo and the institution of a traffic management program in Parkmead.
Andersen expects to see more discussion around land use as the economy improves. In District 2, the creation of a mixed use development in the unincorporated community of Saranap will be up for debate while the Alamo Municipal Advisory Council would like to add bocce ball courts at Livorna Park.
Also, although she is located in a neighboring district, Andersen said she is keeping an eye on possible developments in the Tassajara Valley such as Tassajara Parks (formerly New Farm).
"The issues that come into my office are very resolvable problems, whether it be a traffic issue, whether it be a building permit issue or someone who is trying to donate money to an animal shelter and can't do it online," Andersen said. "I'm here to help people solve problems, to cut through the red tape, to cut through the bureaucracy that so often we find in the government and simplify it."
Andersen already has helped simplify government processes through the creation of an online system that streamlines home occupancy permit applications. A fiscal conservative, she also attempted to simplify the county's budget issues by addressing pension liability among the county's 20 labor unions -- a hallmark of her time in office.
"The challenge has been that our unions and our workers did take pay cuts as we went through the recession and now, as we restore the pay cuts, they're not quite as much as labor groups would like," she said.
"That's where I see a very unified Board of Supervisors -- we're not going to go out on a limb fiscally. We're going to make very prudent decisions because we want to give our employees raises but we want to make sure we have adequate reserves, that we don't use one-time moneys for those raises. It's going to be a gradual restoration of benefits, it's not going to happen in one fell swoop."
To that end, Andersen voted to have the Contra Costa County Employees Retirement Association lower its rate of return from 7.75 percent to 7.25 percent. The county will now have one of the lowest rates in the state among the 19 counties with independent retirement systems.
"I think we're going to need to continue to see pension reforms, to make sure we can truly afford what we're promising our employees. We are in better shape than we were a year ago in terms of pensions, but there still is work to be done," Andersen said.
The supervisor has tried to lead by example, keeping her own office costs low and offering her Lafayette office space for county and nonprofit use. Andersen said that she also tries to be a voice of reason for fiscal conservatism and cited her vote against parcel tax Measure Q because it wasn't sustainable.
Andersen also spent a good deal of her first year in office handling traffic, transportation and public safety issues. Chief among the public safety concerns is distribution of fire services after Contra Costa Fire District closed several stations.
"Fire is going to probably take up much of my summer just because we have to deal with the fact that Contra Costa Fire is underfunded, has some severe issues and had to close stations," she said. "We have to come up with creative solutions ... because Moraga Orinda Fire District and San Ramon Valley Fire have had to increase their participation."
This year's county budget has given the County Sheriff and District Attorney's Office funding to hire additional people, Andersen said, adding that she will continue to monitor prison realignment in the county as well as recidivism rates. For the first time in years, the County Sheriff and District Attorney's Office are "feeling very comfortable that they're meeting their staffing needs," she said.
Another summer project for the supervisor is the continued development of Contra Costa's job market. Anderson recently replaced District 3 Supervisor Mary Piepho on the East Bay Economic Development Alliance's Board of Directors and hopes to "develop jobs locally while strengthening our companies as well."
"This is something that is very important to me given what Danville was able to accomplish on a very small scale. I want to be able to take that on a broader scale and look at bigger partnerships we're able to create with industry and schools to prepare the workforce," she said.
Andersen will also continue to advocate for local control in land use development as the Association of Bay Area Governments and Metropolitan Transportation Commission consider approving Plan Bay Area, a hotly contested regional guide to development.
"I have been a very strong voice on the Board of Supervisors ... saying you can call it what you want but you need to ensure that you are maintaining local control over our land use issues, that we are not mandating anything regional," Andersen said. "All of our cities are saying with a very unanimous, loud voice of yes, regional planning is good but don't step on our toes with how we want our cities to look, our counties to look."
Andersen, who also volunteers with the Museum of the San Ramon Valley and at local schools, said she is looking forward to continuing to solve local issues. She added that she does not plan to seek higher office and, instead, hopes for additional terms in office.
In the meantime, Andersen's mission is "ensuring my cities have the backup they need as they work with the county and making sure the unincorporated counties have a voice."
District 2 Supervisor Andersen can be reached at email@example.com or at her Danville office(309 Diablo Road)from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursdays, and by appointment in Lafayette(3338 Mt. Diablo Blvd.).