To Local Leaders, from Daughter of Former Shasta County Sheriff John Balma: Keep the Communication Lines Open

Shasta County Sheriff John Balma

“Defund the police” were the first words I heard as I clicked on the TV to see what happened over night.

I’ve been very worried about our country, state, city and county, with regard to our present political climate. After reading the morning paper I felt compelled to write about the way my father, John Balma, handled things during his 36 years as Sheriff of Shasta County.

Being an elected official he believed that anyone should and could have access to him. He always had an open-door policy, and an appointment wasn’t necessary. He treated everyone with kindness and respect, no matter their station in life. He had a great relationship with the African American community, as well as the Native American community. He even made house calls, letting me go with him on occasion. He would tell me to keep the children occupied outside so he could talk to the adults inside.

I learned from both of my parents how to spend a day in another’s shoes. They taught me this important lesson at a very early age, out of necessity.

I noticed in the newspaper recently stories about Native American uprisings. One time my
father’s job required him to follow orders and keep a Native American group from occupying PG&E land near Burney. This was not something he wanted to do, but it was something he was mandated to enforce. He never asked his men to do anything he wouldn’t do, so he was on site. One of the Native American men approached my father from behind with a baseball bat, ready to swing.
Captain Hart noticed him out of the corner of his eye and warned my father. No one was
hurt that day, a few arrests were made, and the Native Americans left the land. My father came
home to tell my Mom and my siblings and me about it before we saw it on TV or in the newspaper.

My husband is from Berkeley, and we were living there when the first courthouse shooting took place in Marin County in 1970. I would worry about my Dad keeping his office door open at work, and his name and address in the Redding phone book. He wouldn’t change his policy of being open to the public, even to ease my fears.

Reading today’s paper I found a few important names left off the reading list. I would add Shelby Steele’s “White Guilt” or “Shame”. Google “Bob Woodson originator 1776” and the Woodson Center, and a special book in my life, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”, by Maya Angelou. I was lucky enough to meet her while living in Berkeley.

I realize times have changed since my father held office, but the basics never change. Here in Shasta County we have a great district attorney who listens to the people, and it’s important for the Sheriff to have a good relationship with the district attorney and local police chiefs. With limited funds it’s going to take everyone working together to solve the problems our county is going to face.

My advice to the sheriff and our leaders is to always keep the lines of communication open with the public. It’s also crucial to keep lines of communication open with counterparts in the surrounding cities and counties. Egos can never get in the way, and maybe we can find a way to handle COVID-19 and the many other problems that face our area in the future.

District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh seems to enjoy the spotlight. Hopefully, he will follow the rules at future meetings.

I write this on June 12. I started this letter last Sunday. Channel surfing this morning, I heard Judge Jeanie say, “What’s going on in this country is lunacy. It’s Lord of the Flies all over again”. I agree! Lets all take a deep breath and realize we all want the same things for our county and country.

Cindy Balma-McCasland

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