May 24, 2014

Community activist, veteran politician compete in Yolo County’s supervisor race

Voters in West Sacramento and neighboring Clarksburg will choose between a longtime community activist and a veteran politician in Yolo County’s only competitive supervisor race.

Voters in West Sacramento and neighboring Clarksburg will choose between a longtime community activist and a veteran politician in Yolo County’s only competitive supervisor race.

In the District 1 race, Norma Alcala, 53, is vying to unseat Oscar Villegas, 47, a longtime West Sacramento city councilman appointed in February to the Board of Supervisors by Gov. Jerry Brown. Villegas replaced Supervisor Mike McGowan, who resigned to take a job with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Villegas served on the council for 13 years but resigned after accepting the appointment. He also works as a field representative for the Board of State and Community Corrections.

Both candidates have deep roots in West Sacramento. Villegas was raised in Bryte and Broderick, two of the towns that became part of the city when it incorporated in 1987. Alcala moved to West Sacramento in 1966 and has volunteered for a decade as the faith director for Holy Cross Parish.

The nonpartisan District 1 office represents the southeastern portion of Yolo County, encompassing West Sacramento and stretching to Clarksburg. Incumbent supervisors Don Saylor of District 2 and Matt Rexroad of District 3 are running unopposed. The county’s five supervisors serve four-year terms. Supervisor races in the largely rural county of 204,000 people have traditionally been low-key with few viable challengers. The Board of Supervisors has also historically been dominated by men.

Unemployment tops the candidates’ list of issues. West Sacramento’s unemployment rate of 12.9 percent has remained stubbornly high compared with its peers in the region. Unemployment in the city reached a peak of 19.2 percent in 2010. Alcala said she will work to bring high-tech jobs from the Bay Area by increasing the amount of tax credits. Villegas cited a $10 million production plant from Japanese rice miller Shinmei Co. Ltd., announced in October, as evidence that he has the business background to reel in deals. He helped negotiate the deal when he was a councilman.

This week, Alcala walked door-to-door in West Sacramento’s Southport area, lobbying residents for votes. She handed out her cellphone number, urging people to call if they had questions. During the early afternoon canvassing, some residents received her enthusiastically, promising they would vote for her.

“I’m telling them, ‘If I don’t make it to supervisor, I’m always going to be a community activist,’” Alcala said.

She said the county needs a fresh face, someone who can take a hands-on approach to governance.

Villegas said his considerable experience in local government qualifies him for the post. He took credit as one of the leaders spearheading the renaissance in West Sacramento during the last decade, including planning the redevelopment of the Bridge District.

“I’ve been groomed for the position from the outset,” he said. “I bring knowledge and breadth of experience.”

During the campaign, Alcala has attempted to make Villegas’ five-year employment at the Board of State and Community Corrections a subject of contention. After Villegas was appointed Yolo supervisor, he reduced his full-time hours to part time at the state job.

Still, Alcala described Villegas’ dual posts as “double dipping.” She owns a private company with her husband, but Alcala said she does not manage the day-to-day affairs. Alcala features the slogan “Yolo County deserves a full-time supervisor” prominently on her campaign website.

Villegas said he is fully capable of juggling the duties, pointing to his record when he served as West Sacramento councilman, while holding a full-time position at the Board of State and Community Corrections.

“It’s about your personality type and the way you work,” Villegas said of his ability to multitask. “For me, it’s a lifestyle. I have found it very easy.”

He said his state job gives him a “unique lens” to administer the county because he understands the state’s impact on local issues.

“Half the week, I implement state policy. The other half, I implement local policy,” Villegas said.

Three other incumbent supervisors, Jim Provenza, Duane Chamberlain and Rexroad, hold outside jobs. Provenza is a lobbyist, Chamberlain is a farmer and Rexroad is a political consultant.

Yolo supervisors earn a base salary of $59,004, along with the same retirement and health benefits afforded to other county employees. The monthly health benefit is valued at $2,121.16, according to Yolo County spokeswoman Beth Gabor.

Villegas, though, said he doesn’t take any health or retirement benefits from the county.

Yolo supervisors rank in the middle of the spectrum for pay compared with other counties in the Sacramento region. El Dorado County supervisors make about $76,000, along with benefits. Placer County pays $30,000 and no benefits, while Sacramento County supervisors receive almost $100,000 annually.

Gabor said the supervisor position isn’t classified as full time or part time. She said there isn’t a rule prohibiting supervisors from holding other jobs.

“They aren’t expected to work eight hours, two hours or 16 hours,” she said. “They’re elected by you to get the job done.”

Unlike City Council members, however, county supervisors are expected to serve on many more regional boards and community committees. Assignments vary year-to-year, but some of them include seats on the Delta Protection Commission and the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District.

Both candidates have racked up high-profile endorsements. Villegas has the support of the incumbent supervisors, along with West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

Meanwhile, Alcala has won the endorsements of Yolo County Clerk-Recorder Freddie Oakley and Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza. She also has garnered the backing of the Motel Owners Association and some members of the Slavic community.

Villegas has amassed more than six times the amount of his challenger’s contributions. He ended March with $21,836 cash on hand, while Alcala had $3,449, according to campaign-finance documents filed with the clerk-recorder.

In recent weeks, campaign fervor has shifted into high gear in West Sacramento, a working-class city of about 50,000 people. Colorful signs reading “Alcala” and “Villegas” can be seen in front of homes, motels and on empty lots along West Capitol and Sacramento avenues, main thoroughfares in the city.

Louis McMano hasn’t yet decided whom to vote for. But the West Sacramento resident remarked about how he loved elections.

“It’s nice we get to choose our own leaders, but sometimes those signs get in the way,” he said, chuckling outside a convenience store.

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