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Timothy Myers: It’s better to be appointed than elected in the SCV

Posted: June 8, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 8, 2013 2:00 a.m.

By the time this column runs, the knowledgeable of the Santa Clarita Valley will know who the four elected members of the William S. Hart Union High School District board selected to fill out the (short) remainder of Paul Strickland’s term, made vacant when he moved to Florida.

This column will not discuss the merits or detriments of the candidate ultimately selected, but will rather focus on the fascination of the politically ambitious and serious in Santa Clarita for obtaining appointment, rather than election, to local office.

A few definitional matters: In any local election one has serious candidates and earnest, well-meaning but somewhat flaky candidates.

One knows serious candidates from the following traits: They already hold local office or held prominent positions in local nonprofit or community organizations. They ran for the office once before. People in the sliver of the community involved in local matters know their names.

The somewhat flaky candidates share opposite characteristics. No significant involvement in prominent nonprofits or community organizations. They hold no office, nor did they run for office before.

Additionally, they have extremely vague knowledge of local matters but still retain a bizarre narcissism regarding their inherent abilities and qualifications.

Why does one assert the definition? Because "serious" candidates will seldom (though not always) deign not to run for an office for which they hold an interest if incumbents seek re-election and hold all the seats.

Despite some recent (rare) success of non-incumbents unseating sitting officials, the serious candidates understand the difficulties of beating an incumbent and thus will sit on the sidelines and not waste their time.

The flaky candidates, not understanding the futility of their efforts, will sometimes turn out in droves. Case in point. The 2011 Hart district board election almost did not occur. With two seats open and both incumbents seeking re-election, the Hart district was poised to merely declare the incumbents the winners and cancel the election.

Then the well-meaning and earnest Heather Davis entered the election.

I spoke personally at that time to Heather Davis, and she definitely fell on the "flaky" side of candidacy, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.

Upon our initial conversation, she could not even name the six existing comprehensive high schools in the Hart district. With a daughter who attended Canyon High School, she stumbled on the newish high schools of Golden Valley and West Ranch, but also, inexplicably, Saugus High School.

Amazingly, she believed the long awaited (and still waiting) Castaic High School was constructed and open for business!

But despite this I at least appreciated an exercise in democracy that Ms. Davis forced while more serious candidates sat on the sideline. The incumbents, of course, won the election.

While reluctant to go up against incumbents, the serious candidates will flock like seagulls to a beach picnic when a seat comes open for appointment rather than election. Most recently this occurs when office holders obtain election to higher office or decide to retire or move away before the end of their terms.

Consider the replacement of Cameron Smyth on the City Council when elected to the Assembly, and the even more recent replacement of Assembly member Scott Wilk on the College of the Canyons Board of Trustees. Wilk originally obtained that seat upon appointment after the resignation of Ron Gillis.

In each of those situations at least a dozen serious candidates (pursuant to the above definition) attempted to obtain the seat, spending the time going through the application, interview and appointment process.

And so the same with the resignation of Paul Strickland: 14 candidates applied for the vacant seat, and from my reckoning at least nine would find themselves in the category of "serious" candidate, very likely to successfully defend the appointed seat with the advantage of incumbency in November 2013.

But why the deluge of serious candidates when a seat comes available for appointment? These serious folks know that an actual candidacy, even when an incumbent decides not to run and thus leaves an "open seat," constitutes an incredibly complex and time-consuming process, including the raising of money, the placement of signs, appearances at candidate forums, and then the objective folly of waiting to see if the slim turnout of voters will produce the several thousand votes needed to capture the office.

How much easier, then, to just complete an application, interview, and then attempt to capture just three votes to obtain the same outcome? No wonder these people are "serious."

Timothy Myers Sr. is a Valencia resident. "Myers’ Musings" runs Saturdays in The Signa


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