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Tea Party organizer Steve Cavolt helps give voice to “silent majority”

Cavolt tries to separate his work with North Auburn developer from volunteer role
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn’s Steve Cavolt is seeing red these days, and plenty of it. Not only is he fed up with politicians he says aren’t listening to the people who elected them. But he’s a key campaign organizer on the local level for a national, grassroots group that’s attempting to act on its own collective feelings about government letting them down. The Tea Party, which just marked its first anniversary, has adopted red as its color of choice as it moves toward a massive demonstration April 15 in Sacramento. Organizers anticipate a sea of Tea-Party-red shirts and caps converging on the west steps of the Capitol to make their voices heard. Cavolt has stepped into a larger role to help form and mentor Tea Party groups elsewhere in Northern California. He’s also on the committee putting together what is planned to be a Tax Day rally on the steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento. Like last year’s inaugural rally, Cavolt will again play a lead role in security for an event he said could attract 20,000 people. He’ll also organize transportation to the rally for Auburn-area participants. If the rally – which will feature a roster of speakers that includes U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Roseville – attracts the kind of crowds organizers project, it will more than double last year’s inaugural event’s attendance estimates. “Like a lot of other people, I was concerned about the direction of the country,” Cavolt said, recalling his decision last March to get involved with the Tea Party. “What I saw was not the radical extremists but like-minded people in all walks of life – blue collar and white collar – and people sick and tired of what’s happening in our country today.” Since then he has spoken out on the problems he says are facing the nation and the three-pronged mission the Tea Party has established as its foundation – fiscal responsibility, limited government by adherence to the Constitution, and free markets. “It’s about the silent majority standing up and saying that we’re not going to take it any more – that we’ve had enough,” Cavolt said. Ginny Rapini, director of the Auburn-based NorCal Tea Party Patriots, said there isn’t anything Cavolt is asked to do that he doesn’t do – “and then some.” “Steve is very passionate and concerned about the direction the country is going,” Rapini said. “He brings a lot of energy, fortitude and integrity to the table. He loves his country.” Cavolt volunteers his time as Tea Party organizer between working as West Coast broker for privately owned PRO1TEK, a hand-sanitizer maker his brother and another partner established on the East Coast. And since November, Cavolt has taken on a part-time job as project coordinator for developer Jim Conkey’s proposed Costco-Walmart-type store in North Auburn. Like many business people – particularly those in real estate in the area – Cavolt was severely impacted by the recent economic downturn. He’d worked 25 years in commercial real estate and development. Exacerbating economic hits he took on four properties that he unsuccessfully attempted to hold onto after the real estate bubble burst, Cavolt said the downturn occurred just as he was going through a divorce. Cavolt is now righting his own personal ship while working with what he says are at least 10 million other Tea Partiers to help get the nation back on track. Cavolt has committed to the Tea Party cause but remains even-keeled as he speaks enthusiastically about the organization. “All stress does is create more problems,” Cavolt said. “It’s about moving forward and trying to be a better person from it all.” In Auburn, the group meets for about 1½ hours starting at 7 p.m. every other Thursday at The Ridge, 2020 Golf Course Road, Auburn. ----------------------------------------- Tea Party, Costco both part of Cavolt's busy life ----------------------------------------- Steve Cavolt finds himself involved in two political battles. Cavolt is NorCal Tea Party Patriots volunteer campaign coordinator. But he’s also project manager and coordinator on a proposal to develop 18 acres in North Auburn as a big-box store. The Tea Party is attempting on local, state and federal levels to rein in government control while Cavolt’s part-time job with the Bohemia Retail development is to work with local government to move the project forward. Plans are for a 155,000-square-foot Wal-Mart- or Costco-type store near Luther Road and Highway 49. The plan has sparked controversy among nearby residents, who object to traffic flowing through their area along a new access point along Canal Street. Cavolt said he can’t see any connection between the two efforts and hasn’t considered pressuring Placer County officials with his Tea Party connections. “I have never spoken to any members of the county Board of Supervisors nor will I on this issue,” Cavolt said. “So there is absolutely no issue here and no way that I can have an influence over the board.” The Tea Party has discussed the possibility of endorsing candidates but doesn’t – on a local or national level, Cavolt said, adding that he sees himself as “just a small fish in an otherwise large pond.” “The Board of Supervisors makes decisions based on what is best for the community at large not any one group,” Cavolt said. “To think that I could have any influence over the board is ludicrous. I only wish I had that much power. LOL.” But one Tea Party supporter – who lives in a neighborhood near the Bohemia Retail project proposal – said Cavolt’s work with Bohemia developer Jim Conkey doesn’t reflect the movement’s principles. Susie Tronti, a resident of the Fidddler Green neighborhood, said she was disgusted to see Cavolt get into an SUV with the Tea Party sticker on the back after a meeting between the Bohemia developer and nearby residents. Tronti said she had expected a reasonable discussion of the issues at the meeting but instead witnessed Conkey speaking over local residents. She described Conkey as a rich man asking the county to plough an access trail through a neighborhood to build a big-box store. “I was appalled because he (Cavolt) doesn’t represent what the Tea Party represents on these issues,” Tronti said. “It’s what Tea Partiers have accused the Democrats of doing during healthcare meetings. He’s aligned himself with someone trampling on the rights of Middle America.” That makes Cavolt’s Tea Party position suspect, she said. “A lot of people are out there to make a dollar and try to align themselves with groups to network and make more money,” Tronti said. Conkey said he hired Cavolt because he has known him for 25 years, knew he had moved to Auburn and had been effective in the past with other development projects. Conkey said he’s not a Tea Party member himself. “I don’t care what his politics are,” Conkey said. “I could care less.”