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Three incumbents, one newcomer in Auburn Recreation District election race

Three seats open for four candidates on parks, recreation board
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Three familiar faces to voters and a political newcomer are vying for a trio of seats on the Auburn Recreation District board. The parks and recreation district covers Auburn and extends to Ophir and Meadow Vista. The largest parks are Recreation Park in Auburn, Regional Park in North Auburn and Meadow Vista Park. Board members set policy and guide the district in developing and maintaining park and recreational opportunities in the area. Seeking to return to the board are Gordy Ainsleigh, Jim Ferris and Jim Gray. Monique Margaux is running for the first time. Election Day is Nov. 6. Gordy Ainsleigh Ainsleigh, 65, is a 20-year district resident and board member for the past eight years. He’s a chiropractor and pioneering ultramarathon runner, living in Meadow Vista. Ainsleigh said he thinks the board’s priority should be “to serve the people.” “Too often, boards become servants of the administration or serve the particular interests of certain board members,” Ainsleigh said. “We need to focus on the people, not just the people involved in a board member’s or administration member’s favorite stuff.” Ainsleigh said he believes the board has to make a comprehensive effort to identify and provide recreational needs for all the district’s citizens. Jim Gray Gray, 50, has lived in the recreation district for 17 years and has been a board member since 2000. He’s a supervising probation officer with Sacramento County, a Placer High School football coach and substitute teacher. Gray said addressing aging parks district infrastructure, replacing equipment and maintaining staff levels should be priorities on the board. “In this continuing climate of budget cuts, my goal is to maintain the facilities we have and provide new areas of recreation while conscientiously balancing the ever-expanding fiduciary responsibilities that are required of the board,” Gray said. Jim Ferris Ferris, 76, is a retired management consultant who was first elected to the parks district board four years ago. He has been a resident of the district for the past 23 years and recently helped oversee a revision of a guide to trails in the area. Ferris said he hopes to continue with Auburn Recreation District strategic planning, marketing and disability-compliance committee work he is already involved in, while helping with the development of new district property acquisitions. “In my opinion, the board’s priorities should continue to focus on maintenance and repair of our infrastructure, in as fiscally responsible means as possible,” Ferris said. At the same time, the board should be looking at new ways to enhance district revenues through grants, fund-raising efforts and creative program offerings, he said. Monique Margaux Margaux is a new candidate who has lived in the area since 1998. She has worked in the insurance industry for almost 15 years with the same company selling supplemental insurance to business owners, spouses, family members and their employees. Margaux said her decision to run for office came because she felt the call to serve in her community. “I’d like to see the parks maintain a safe place for the community to come and enjoy,” she stated. The new candidate also is interested in efficient budgeting, with an emphasis on retaining jobs while promoting local parks and events. -------------------------------- More on the candidates The Journal provided a list of questions to the candidates and their full answers appear below: Jim Ferris Age: I am 76 years old (or young, as some pundits are known to say) How long have you been in the ARD district?: My wife and I have lived within the ARD District for the past 23 years. What is your current job, if employed, or job status?: I think of my current job as being an enthusiastic (if not full time) supporter of my wife’s gardening and domestic animal passions. I am also a (mostly) retired management consultant who specialized in marketing and marketing research…this following a career in corporate management (CEO of two corporations). What is your elected office background?: My elected office background (since high school and college that is) consists of working as an ARD board member since 2008. In addition to serving on major ARD standing committees (e.g. Finance, Acquisition and Development), I was elected as board chairman in 2009. For the past two years, I have been one of two board members appointed by the District Administrator to the Strategic Plans committee and as the only board member asked to serve on the Marketing and Programs Plans committee and also on the Adults with Disabilities (ADA) Compliance and Plans committee. What do you hope to accomplish as a board member?: If reelected, I hope (and expect) to continue with the ongoing important work of the above mentioned committees. Additionally, I expect to help with the development of the (anticipated) newest ARD property acquisitions. There are other specific goals I have set (including development of a community garden on ARD property) that I hope to achieve during my next term. What should the ARD board's priorities be?: In my opinion, the ARD Board’s priorities should continue to focus on maintenance and repair of our infrastructure… in as fiscally responsible means as possible. The district administrator and staff have done a remarkable job with limited resources during the past several years of economic stress. It should be our board’s job to monitor and encourage staff to continue these efforts. At the same time, we must look for new ways to enhance district revenues via grants, fund raising efforts and creative program offerings. Since I first joined the board there has been a (new) research based focus on creating programs designed to appeal to the aging demographics of our community while, at the same time, continuing to offer a diverse selection of classes for children and young adults, for which ARD has always been known. Why are you seeking this office?: I am seeking reelection simply because I’ve enjoyed working on behalf of the district’s voters, know that I’ve been able to make some significant contributions, and am confident I will continue to contribute during my next term. I’ve been able to accomplish one of my stated (first term) goals of establishing new ARD relationships/partnerships with other community organizations (e.g. Canyon Keepers, PARC, Foothill Hikers, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital and Weimar Institute) and wish to further capitalize on these relationships for our mutual benefit. Could you name some supporters or endorsements?: As an essentially non-political individual, I haven’t compiled a real list of avowed supporters. However, at this time and until I take some more effort, I’ll offer you the following unequivocal endorsements which I’ve received: In addition to my wife Norma, our sons and daughter and nine grandchildren, and a lot of domestic critters… Current (non-candidate) ARD board members Scott Holbrook and Curt Smith, Fred Vitas, Gene Lorance, Keith Nesbitt, Mike Lynch, Jan Decker, Bill Kirby, Eric and Paula Peach, Don Dill, Hank Reighley, Gary Hughes, Dean Wood, Earle and Linda Eisley, Tim Woodall, Jim and Linda LoBue, Travis and Lanui Houck, Jim and Cathy Haagen-Smit. Which do you favor - passive or "active" parks? Why so?: As our ARD slogan says, “Parks Make Life Better.” If you take the words passive and active literally (and reflect on their definitions) you must conclude that an individual’s satisfaction in life comes from engaging in a variety of activities that fall under both categories not just one or the other. Hence, I am not more in favor of one form of “park” recreation than another. I believe it is incumbent upon ARD to offer, through our facilities and programs (encompassed by both slogan and Mission Statement) a variety of both active and passive pursuits for our constituents of all ages. Jim Gray Age: 50 How long have you been in the ARD district?: I have resided in the district for the last 17 years and been an ARD board member since 2000 What is your current job, if employed, or job status?: Supervising Probation Officer- Sacramento County Placer High Football Coach & Substitute Teacher What is your elected-office background?: Auburn Park & Recreation District Board member since 2000 What do you hope to accomplish as a board member?: In this continuing climate of budget cuts my goal is to maintain the facilities we have and to provide new areas of recreation while conscientiously balancing the ever-expanding fiduciary responsibilities that are required of the ARD board. I will work to sustain a full working force of employees to adequately balance the needs of our facilities, equipment, and user groups. As a board member I will continue to work to develop new strategies to further ARD’s commitment to providing quality parks for the diverse interests and demographic within our community. What should the ARD board’s priorities be?: Address ARD’s Aging Infrastructure: We will be addressing this in the upcoming Park Specific Master Plan. ARD has a reserve account for Future Capital Construction, however it is underfunded. It will be the job of the ARD board to continue to fund this account while not compromising other programs. Equipment Replacement: Currently ARD maintains a prioritized list of obsolete equipment. At this time the equipment reserve fund struggles to maintain adequate finances to cover the next 15 years of expected costs. Although the Board and staff are doing everything necessary to keep this account funded, its continuing management will be a priority in the upcoming year. ARD Staffing: In recent years the ARD staff has become much more efficient in their operations, which has allowed the board to make relatively few staffing cuts; therefore the reduction in services for the public has been minimal. I will continue to work to maintain this positive level of staff and the services ARD provides. Why are you seeking this office?: I am passionate about the mission of ARD, the health community and leisure of all our citizens. I am proud of the years I have dedicated to the Auburn Recreation District and continue to value those people and programs that have enhanced Auburn and the surrounding areas. I will continue the commitment to making life better through ARD parks. Could you name some supporters or endorsements: Throughout the past 15 years I have coached and been active in various Auburn user groups whose members have supported my past elections. These programs include; Placer Jr. Hillmen, Auburn Little League, Auburn Youth Soccer programs, ARD youth and adult basketball, as well as Placer High School freshman through varsity football. Which do you favor more – passive or “active” parks? Why so?: Our job as ARD board members is to balance the need between both passive and active parks and I do not favor one over the other as both provide an equal share toward the recreation for our diverse population. The current board has addressed this issue in numerous community/board workshops and will continue to seek land to fulfill both passive and active needs. Recreation can mean different things to different people and we are privileged to have both recreational opportunities within the beautiful foothills. Monique Margaux Age: (Editor's note: Age not given) How long have you been in the ARD district?: In the area since 1998, over 14 years. What is your current job, if employed, or job status?: My work is in the insurance industry - almost 15 years of service with the same company. I sell supplemental insurance to business owners, spouses, family members and their employees. What is your elected-office background?: (Editor's note: Not provided) What do you hope to accomplish as a board member?: I'd like to see the parks maintain a safe place for the community to come and enjoy. What should the ARD board’s priorities be?: To budget on efficiency, keeping jobs, while promoting our local parks/events. Why are you seeking this office?: I feel a call to serve in our community. Could you name some supporters or endorsements: I'm an appointed Republican woman, this year's convention. I have much support at our local Elks Lodge and many more local businesses here in town. Which do you favor more – passive or “active” parks? Why so?: (Not answered) Gordy Ainsleigh Age: 65 How long have you been in the ARD district?: 20 years in the ARD district, and another 20 years just a mile or so up Placer Hills Road from the ARD boundary; the rest in Nevada City and Weimar; born in Auburn. What is your current job, if employed, or job status?: Main work is being a chiropractic doctor, but I also instruct in outdoor skills (trail running & rock climbing), lead outdoor adventures (trail bicycling, trail running, river rafting), and do relationship coaching for men seeking better relationships with women. What is your elected-office background?: 4 years on Midway Height Water District Board, including President during its most tempestuous time, when no one else would take the job. 8 years on the ARD Board, during which, substantially due to my efforts, ARD rose from the mire of dysfunction to become a very well-performing recreation district. What do you hope to accomplish as a board member?: 1)Make ARD more responsive to the voters & taxpayers. 3½ years ago, Scott Holbrook and Jim Ferris declared the previous needs survey, “not worth the paper it is printed on.” Since then, I have been asking the Board to put forth a comprehensive needs survey of our citizens. They have refused. They are okay with a small survey of park users here and there, at this park and that park, but they avoid like the plague asking all of the residents what they want more of, or what they want that they aren’t getting from ARD. Directors usually get elected because they satisfy one or two or three groups’ wants, like Party in the Park, the dog park, or the field sports teams, and then they do whatever suits them on all the other needs issues. They can get away with this, while claiming that they represent all the people’s needs and wants, because they prevent a comprehensive survey from being done that would quantify the needs and desires of our entire population. I want such a survey done. I especially want to hear from the people who aren’t using our parks, and find out what ARD should do to make our parks worth using for them. 2)Getting the most out of each taxpayers’ dollar. The locker room remodel approved 3 ½ years ago was a lesson in why California is going broke. State guidelines require that on big projects, special districts must hire a full-service architect who gets paid approximately 1/8 of the finished product price. Now tell me,: if you were going to get 1/8 of the finished product price, would you design the structure to be built as economically as possible? Of course not! You would design an expensive project to justify a large fee. And further: the State requires ARD to hire an architect who has done a previous government project, so special districts only have architects to choose from who are habitual hogs at the government trough. The choices were so limited and so bad that the firm that the staff thought was the best of the bunch was the same firm whose last project for ARD was so poorly designed that the first sign of a rain-gutter problem was the destruction of $75,000 worth of hardwood gymnasium floor. The low-cost solution was to break the project up into smaller projects that do not have to follow the government guidelines, and then do them in-house or contract out. In the locker room project, the staff had done just the opposite: bundled the locker room remodel together with the locker room roof and lifeguard building to make a bigger project. Eventually, the Administration got my message, unbundled the lifeguard building, and built it with staff and volunteer labor, but they still built it to the expensive design created by the architect. Rick Hubbard, the contractor who was in charge of the Gold Run Rest Stop remodel, offered to do the job for $200,000, unbundled into 3 projects, and using his own architect. General contractor William Wauters said he knew two construction supervisors for large companies who were currently unemployed and would be glad to work for ARD for $50,000 a year, and with one of them providing direction and expertise, ARD could do those projects and others in-house in a year. Architect Michael Kent Murphy offered 10 hours of free architecture if ARD would unbundle the projects and do them in-house. Retired number-two man in Placer County Planning, Dean Prigmore, urged the Board to stop and take time to consider all of the much less expensive and apparently workable proposals, but I was the only vote against going ahead with the high-priced full-service architect whose last project had cost us $75,000 in water-damaged hardwood gymnasium flooring. 3)Stop wasting Taxpayers dollars. A year and a half ago, I was the only “no “ vote against hiring an auditing firm that was going to charge 57% more $12,930 more) than the low bidder for three years of auditing. And the low bidding auditing team was better qualified and more experienced! 4)Invest in low and no-cost recreation. Recently, Union Pacific destroyed a bicycle recreation site that had been built on their right-of-way, based on liability concern. I proposed that ARD offer to Union Pacific to take over management and liability of recreational feature on UP property, provided that they had a history of requiring little or no management, would apparently require little expenditure of money or staff time, and were approved by out insurance agency. This was an opportunity to provide substantial recreation at almost no cost, but only Jim Ferris voted with me to send the letter. So the motion failed. 5)Invest in low and no-cost recreation, part II. ARD has installed a fundamentally-level, paved loop walking pathway around Recreation Park for 0.7 miles. Construction costs were about $325,000/mile. For citizens who seek a higher level of fitness, flexibility and exposure to nature, a natural-surface trail can be built for about $12,000/mile. But the Board has so far shown itself to be unwilling to build any natural-surface trails. The last time I brought such a trail up for a vote, Scott Holbrook said that ARD couldn’t afford to spend the $1,000-$2,000/year that it would cost to maintain such a trail; and the motion failed. What should the ARD board’s priorities be?: Making sure we are serving the people, the whole people, and nothing but the people. Too often, Boards become servants of the administration, or serve the particular interests of certain board members. We need to focus on the people, not just the people involved in a Board Member’s or Administration Member’s favorite stuff. I believe we have to make a comprehensive effort to identify and provide the recreational needs of all of our citizens, and that---to the degree that this is possible—we should use enhanced attractiveness and availability to lure them into the more health-promoting of the various recreational pursuits that would be of interest to them, because health generates more happiness than disease, and because health is cheaper than disease. Why are you seeking this office?: Because I have repeatedly proven I am the best person for the job. When I was elected, ARD had been struggling through many years of malfunction with no end in sight. Scott Holbrook had been on the Board for 6 years, and Jim Gray for 4 years. Within a year and a half of my election, ARD was completely turned around, functioning well, and building a track record of excellence. That was not an accident. I was the person who realized that we had to quit hiring chief administrators we didn’t know based on glowing resumes and interview performances because that had led Sierra College, Placer High School District and ARD, into disaster. So as soon as ARD parted company with Alain Grenier, I started advocating promoting Kahl Muscott to the chief administrator position… and I kept being told that was impossible, because Kahl didn’t have the experience to run ARD. Finally, in desperation, I got together with Brent Ives, the consultant who was handling the nationwide search, and we came up with a plan that would work: Instead of hiring the outside expert to come in and run ARD, we would hire the outside expert for 6 months to teach Kahl how to run ARD. The expert we got was incredible: he had been head of Los Angeles County Parks for 12 years and was looking to “retire” to a less stressful job near his new home in Elk Grove. He was an excellent teacher, and loved the job. But he would have been our next disaster, because 3 months into his 6 month commitment, he left for a new “dream job”: building a new park from the ground up at decommissioned El Toro Marine Airbase. Kahl was a still a bit unsteady on his feet, but, as we can see, he made it. I am also the person most responsible for getting health into the mission statement of ARD, and changing our goal slogan from “leisure” to “active leisure”. You may also remember that I raise a brouhaha over getting the food ARD feeds our kids to be more nutritious than Purina Cat Chow. And, not long ago, I saved ARD from losing big in Workers Compensation Court and with the Labor Relations Board by pointing out that we couldn’t fire a poorly performing (but very clever) employee because he had filed a complaint against a superior prior to the first steps being taken toward terminating him, so his termination would be viewed as a reprisal. Could you name some supporters or endorsements: I have never asked for endorsements, but have always had a lot of support from Supervisors Jim Holmes and Jennifer Montgomery, city Councilman Mike Holmes, PARC’s Eric Peach and Tim Woodall, SARSAS’ Jack Sanchez, past Supervisor Rex Bloomfield, retired Placer County Chief Assistant Planner Dean Prigmore, Ken Tokutomi, and, of course, my old friend Dick Sanborn. Which do you favor more – passive or “active” parks? Why so?: I don’t favor either because we need both to satisfy the different recreation needs of our citizens. Ideally, we would have elements of both in each park. However, what is obvious is that ARD has put its efforts almost completely toward active parks. This needs to change to a more balanced approach. I have worked toward this, advocating the construction of natural surface trails at the park on Shockley Road, and along Rock Creek at Regional Park. So far, I have not been able to get enough support on the Board to get these plans moving into action. The firebreak isn’t even finished on the Shockley property, and we’ve had that property for 2 years.