Mary Stegall, Redding City Councilwoman who’s served for nearly a decade, recently announced her plans to not seek re-election when her term ends this year. Stegall took time to answer a few questions just for anewscafe.com.
Q: First, can you tell us what led to your decision to step down after you complete this term?
While I still have nine more months on the council, I felt it was important to announce my decision early in the hopes there might be others contemplating running who would be encouraged by knowing there is an open seat. I will have completed 10 years on the council and will have “survived” three campaigns. I wasn’t looking forward to a fourth one. And after much soul-searching I knew it was time for the next adventure life might have to offer.
Q: When you look back over your decade of service, what are some of your high points?
I’ve had the opportunity to serve during the best of times and the worst of times. While we are in a serious economic downturn, I’ve been pleased that we have done a responsible job of keeping the city’s budget sound. We don’t find ourselves in a position of eminent bankruptcy, for example.
I’m pleased that during the best of times, I was able to help build significant civic investments that I believe have put Redding on the map, including: the Sundial Bridge, Big League Dreams, the Aquatic Center, Market Street Promenade, Turtle Bay Exploration Park and a first-class library. I’m also proud of an overall voting record that was intended to encourage Redding to grow responsibly while maintaining our quality of life.
Q: And for the sake of balance … the low points?
This past year has been extremely difficult for all of us. The recession has forced us to cut $16 million from the city’s general fund, which has forced employee layoffs, furloughs and service reductions. This is a very difficult thing to do, and it’s probably not over. It hurts staff morale, and it impacts the citizens of the community with fewer services and increased public safety response times.
In addition, I have been frustrated by the direction the current council majority is taking. For example, I don’t agree with their decision to build a large interchange at Oasis Road and Interstate 5 to support more big-box retail when many storefronts in Redding are empty. I think building a second bridge over Stillwater Creek to serve the Stillwater Business Park is unnecessary in this time of budget cutbacks, since it will probably not be needed for at least 10 years. And I oppose the council’s movement toward using ballot initiatives to manage city government. I believe elected officials should not ask the people to make the tough decisions we were elected to make.
Q: What do you know now that you didn’t know when you first became a city councilwoman?
I heard Bob Anderson say once that in government, “TTT: Things Take Time”. He was right. Nothing happens quickly in government. Look at Stillwater Business Park, for example. This project was being discussed over 10 years ago, and still isn’t completed. The reasons for this are many, but the fact remains that it has taken forever. You soon learn this lesson of “TTT.” In addition, you are working with four other elected councilpersons who have their own ideas. In order to be effective, one must set aside entrenched ideologies and practice cooperation, compromise and diplomacy.
Q: If you had it to do again, would you do anything differently?
It has been a wonderful experience: all of it. The support I received from so many in the community made it all worthwhile. I am very grateful.
Q: What advice would you give someone seeking election for your seat?
Someone told me once that running for elected office requires a passion for what you are going to do. I know that’s true. It takes a lot of gumption to put yourself out there and you have to believe in yourself to do it. You need to know who you are and what you stand for. People asked me many times why I was doing this and my response was, “I can’t help it. It’s in my DNA.” It wasn’t meant to be a flip response. It was really true. Running for local office was something I had wanted to do for a long time, and when the opportunity presented itself I went for it.
Q: Do you have anything fun planned for when you have more free time?
I’m completely open to what the next adventure will be. I suspect it will involve volunteering in public service, since that’s what I’ve done all my life. I also went back to taking piano lessons this last year which has been a real pleasure for me (not so much for my husband, Bill). I also know I will spend more time being a grandmother to my three grandchildren in Clovis, and, hopefully, a new grandchild in San Diego within the next year or so.
Independent online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Northern California in the tiny town of Igo.