Shasta County’s Survival Depends Upon Dist. 2 NO Votes: A Stand With Moty is a Stand for Shasta County

Photo credit: David Benbennick from nationalatlas.gov

Today marks the one-year anniversary since domestic terrorists drove a stake into the heart of American democracy during the insurrection upon our nation’s Capitol.

A North State version of a less-obvious insurgency is taking place here at home. Behold, the baseless attempted recall of Shasta County District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty, a high-caliber, level-headed, dedicated public servant; a long-time elected leader and former police chief.

If, by sheer madness, more than 50 percent of District 2 voters say yes to the Feb. 1 recall, the negative governmental repercussions could shred Shasta County’s tenuous remaining fibers of civility, rule of law, public health, public education, law enforcement and public safety, and that’s the short list.

Because of this attempted recall, Shasta County’s fate hangs in the balance. The county’s very soul and sanity depends upon wise and rational citizens’ ability to ignore a blitz of blatantly false ads that make Moty sound as if he’s the devil himself, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Shasta County District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty.

The truth is that Moty is a cream of the crop elected leader. His resume reveals a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Notre Dame and a masters in Business Administration from the University of Southern California. He earned an Executive Certificate from the California Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) and has graduated from the POST Command College and the FBI National Law Enforcement Academy.

For what it’s worth, he’s also a Second-Amendment-supporting Republican. However, that’s not good enough for the extremist recallers. For them, Moty is not Republican enough. During the board of supervisors public comment period they’ve called Moty a RINO, and worse. They’ve accused him of vague charges related to “not standing up to the governor” with regard to state pandemic mandates, despite the fact that no county supervisor has any power over state mandates. Some board of supervisor meetings have lasted literally from morning until night due to often raucous public comment sessions that resemble a cross between “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoos’ Nest.”

Elissa McEuen holds a bullhorn outside chamber doors locked early on in the pandemic. McEuen is the head of Recall Shasta.

Frustrated citizens, ticked off at the state mandates (that were never enforced in Shasta County anyway), needed a scape goat. They turned their anger and frustration to the supervisors, except major recall ringleader District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones. For some reason Jones was off the hook.

The early attempted recall days resembled an Alfred Hitchcock movie. First recallers said they’d recall all the supervisors (again, except gun-shop manager Jones). Then they decided District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh could keep his seat after all. Next the recallers decided to not recall District 1 Supervisor Joe Chimenti, for reasons never explained. Finally, the recallers ran out of enough time to get signatures to recall District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert, so Rickert was out.

And then, there was one: Moty.

After that, the recallers tore into Moty like a pack of wild dogs. They showed up at anti-mask rallies and “medical freedom” events with recall petitions on clipboards where they exclaimed to healthcare workers who were worried about losing jobs for not complying with mask and vaccine orders, “SEE? This is why we’re recalling Moty!” (Sign here, please.)

Of course, Moty, nor any of the supervisors, ever had any jurisdiction over any health-care facilities. But the recallers weren’t buying the truth. Lies carried the day, weeks and months. Borrowing torrid fictionalized pages from Jones, recallers followed Jones’ lead as he wove nooses of lies about Moty from whole cloth. Jones said the lies about Moty. Jones’ followers repeated the lies, and no doubt some even believed them.

Enter Connecticut son-of-a-billionaire Reverge Anselmo, who paid more than half a million dollars to stick his nose in Shasta County politics, all over a grudge with Shasta County.

First, Anselmo bankrolled Jones’ District 4 campaign seat with a $100,000 donation, said to be one of the largest recorded campaign gifts in Shasta County election history. Next, Anselmo ponied up another $400,000 to fund the recall effort.

And that brings us to Shasta County, the first week in January of 2022, where citizens are being steeped in the fruits of Anselmo’s cash infusions via back-to-back anti-Moty, pro-recall commercials on local radio and television stations, sometimes mere minutes apart, as if money’s no object, which, of course, for Anselmo, it’s not.

A funny thing happened at the anti-Moty rally

Yesterday a recall-Moty rally began at 11:30 a.m. at one of Redding’s most dysfunctional intersections: Hilltop Drive and Cypress Avenue. “We can turn this around if we get Moty out,” claimed a recaller’s message on her social media page.

Huh? Turn what around? The pandemic? Global warming? Wildfires? What?

Recallers’ Facebook posts coached followers on key points about why Moty should be recalled. It even illustrated how to hold a sign.

As suggested, clots of people waved huge American flags and held “Vote YES Recall Moty Signs” on all four corners as lunchtime traffic sped back and forth, with rubber-necking drivers sometimes getting caught by the bright white flash of red-light cameras every few minutes.

I talked with those willing to speak with me. Some conversations were streamed on Facebook Live.

A few patterns emerged. First, many people were unaware of their district. Second, many people had no clue of their supervisor’s name. But most noteworthy was when asked for specific reasons why Moty should be removed, few had definitive responses. A near exception was one woman, a healthcare provider who quit her job rather than wear a face mask. She said that she lived in District 2, and that Moty was her supervisor. When asked for the transgression that required Moty be removed from office, she blamed him for the homeless situation. She said Supervisor Jones told her that the county pays to have homeless people come here.

One person said the next time she does vote for someone, it will be, “someone who believes in freedom and not vaccinating our kids.”

The topic of vaccines came up a lot, and was mentioned as one of the reasons why Moty must go, as if he created the virus that has killed nearly 500 Shasta County residents.

Even Lori Bridgeford, self-described “citizen journalist” and one of the most vociferous recall supporters, and among the most unrelenting Moty critics, when asked for her main reason why Moty should be recalled, she could not come up with one specific example.

“It’s massive,” she said before walking away.

There were some specifics. A few people complained that Moty looked bored when they spoke. Others said they didn’t like the expression upon his face. One woman said Moty should act happier to hear from speakers.

That’s when it hit me: The No. 1 reason recallers have targeted Moty is his demeanor, which Supervisor Joe Chimenti recently described during a meeting as “rigid”.

With Moty, what you see is what you get. He doesn’t act. He doesn’t pretend. He doesn’t cajole or placate or indulge. He just doesn’t.

If a duplicitous performer is who the public wants, Lord knows other male supervisors fill that bill just fine.

Here’s another reason someone offered recently about why Moty has been in recallers’ crosshairs, especially from the guys: Moty is a threat to intimidated males. He’s strong. He does not suffer fools gladly.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather a supervisor who spoke the truth, rather than one who shined me on with promises of unending letters to the governor that will only land in the round file.

How about those District 2 candidates?

Four men’s names appear on the District 2 recall ballot: pharmacist Tarick Mahmoud, construction worker Dale Ball, Happy Valley School Board President Tim Garman and Redding Rancheria member/businessman Tony Hayward.

Under normal circumstances, I’d give credit to almost anyone who ran for public office. However, next month’s election is a highly abnormal situation in which a quartet of opportunists are taking short cuts to leapfrog into Moty’s well-earned, voter-sanctioned seat, rather than let the natural election cycle occur organically, and campaign against Moty in 2024, when his term is up for re-election.

By the way, in case you’re wondering why the recall ballot lacks an appealing moderate candidate alternative; it’s not because there aren’t quality District 2 candidates out there. I can think of a few, and I’ll bet you can, too. The absence of a quality, moderate Dist. 2 candidate is because those people have the fortitude and scruples to recognize the injustice of what’s happening to Moty, and they want no part of it.

It’s like someone kicked in my front door, and then waved in everyone else to come and loot the place, just because they could, because, well, the door was already open, and they wanted free stuff.


Moty’s board seat was safe through 2024 before this recall election. Instead, now he’s left to scramble, campaign, replace broken and stolen signs, and fight to keep a supervisor seat that voters rightfully bestowed upon him.

Recalls should be a rarity

Recalls should be the exception, not the rule. Recalls should be reserved for the most egregious, severe, specific offences committed by elected officials. Instead, they’re often used as a stick to threaten elected leaders who don’t toe the line precisely as some voters wish. What’s more, supposed reasons behind the recalls are often trumped up charges devoid of truth or merit. No wonder at yesterday’s Redding pro-recall rally many people were hard pressed to cite a single specific reason for his proposed recall.

Why the lack of specific, valid answers? Easy. There are none. Even so, recallers have convinced enough people to sign enough petitions on enough groundless pretenses that the recall is going forward. If the recall succeeds, Moty, a leader who campaigned for that seat, whose district’s voters entrusted their faith in him for more than a decade, will lose his seat for no good reason. If the recall passes, it will be because more than 50 percent of District 2 voters were duped into swallowing lies and believing the ads that disseminated the lies.

The recall is about more than Moty

While the Feb. 1 recall itself is a travesty predicated upon falsehoods designed to unfairly remove a stellar leader from his rightfully-earned position, the recall is about much more than Moty. The recall’s true purpose is to stack the board deck with supervisors who think and vote more like Jones.

One Patrick Jones on the board of supervisors is already one Jones too many already.

For the second time in two days, Supervisor Patrick Jones helped himself to the board chambers, despite a board resolution that closed it last January.

Examples of what makes Jones a dud of a supervisor include the fact that, like his refusal to ever cross the Sundial Bridge when he was on the Redding City Council, Supervisor Jones has vowed to never vote for anything affiliated with the McConnell Foundation. Nothing. No matter what, even McConnell’s recent gift of water for people in Jones’ district during a drought. In short, the McConnell Foundation could find a cure for cancer, or discover a way to end homelessness, and Jones would still vote no.

Jones is a lack-luster supervisor who often dozes during meetings, and whose county office is virtually unused, except for when he had it decorated for a one-time photo shoot.

He complains about how hard it is to read so many reports. He glazes over when big numbers overwhelm him. Being a supervisor is hard!

Three times Jones has held unauthorized meetings inside the board chambers, and afterward he welcomed his colleagues’ rebuke and censure, which he and Baugh wore proudly.

Partners in crime: Supervisors Patrick Jones and Les Baugh

When supervisors report meetings they’ve attended, places they’ve gone, committees they’ve participated in, when it’s Jones’ turn it’s a joke. It’s not unusual for him to say something like he visited the county fair, or went to a gun-enthusiasts meeting. Likewise, a quick look at Jones’ official supervisor page on the county website pretty much tells us what we need to know about Jones as an elected leader. “Coming soon.

Don’t hold your breath.

Patrick Jones dressed up to cross the Sacramento River.

Meanwhile, the contrast between Jones page and Moty’s is stunning.

If there’s something positive to be said of Jones, it’s that he makes no secret of his mindset and intentions, so we know what we’re in for. If he had his way, he would gut departments and their department heads, starting with Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency. He consistently votes against programs to help the unsheltered and those suffering from mental illness, saying folks should do as he was raised to do: pull themselves up from their bootstraps and go get a job, rather than waiting for handouts. This is rich advice coming from a man who works at the family business he doesn’t own, and from someone who had no trouble accepting Anselmo’s $100,000 handout.

As noteworthy as all those things are, the most potentially damaging part about more people on the board like Jones are his goals, beliefs, affiliations and associates: alt-right extremists, militia members, anti-intellectuals, anti-vacciners, science skeptics, State of Jefferson-pushers, rigid open-carry “Constitutionalists” – and friends of their friends, such as the Proud Boys who showed up in Redding last summer.

Currently Moty, Rickert and Chimenti make up the board’s rational three votes, while Baugh and Jones are often the loose cannons, which explains so many 3-2 votes. A classic example of the current voting reality happened at Tuesday’s Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting when it was time for District 1 Chair Joe Chimenti to pass on the gavel to a new board chair.

The result was an ironic twist that landed Moty – despite being under threat of recall next month – as the new board chair and Rickert as the board’s new vice chair. That left an obviously peeved Baugh and Jones whose motion and second to promote Baugh to the board chair didn’t happen, and once again, Jones and Baugh were frequent losers with a 3-2 vote.

Tuesday, within minutes of Moty’s appointment as the board’s new chair, it was clear that this new year would bring new ways, minus any shenanigans. Moty would insist upon decorum and civility, something that’s been missing for a long time. His first change was to bifurcate the meeting by putting 45 minutes of public comments at the front, followed by board business (consent calendars, etc.), followed by more public comment at the end. A number of speakers expressed dislike for this new format.

Obviously, Moty’s first meeting as chair was rough, in part because former chair Chimenti favored a more relaxed, anything-goes attitude.

Chimenti’s way, although pleasing to the speakers and rowdy audience members, also made for meetings unfit for children.

The League of Women Voters Meant Well

An example of the indignity of Moty’s new normal happened last evening at a District 2 candidates forum hosted by the Redding-area League of Women Voters. The concept was a good one, especially because the LWV is a well-respected, non-partisan organization that never endorses a candidate.

Due to “an abundance of caution” regarding the pandemic, the LWV decided the forum would be closed to the public, including media.

As a compromise, the LWV partnered with the Shasta County Arts Council for the event to be live-streamed and recorded.

The LWV invited all District 2 candidates, as well as Supervisor Moty, whose name will not be on the ballot.

According to one of the LWV members, each candidate had received an email that included the expectation that masks would be worn inside the building, abiding with the church rule.

Ball was the first to show up, and when one of the LWV members pointed to the sign that required masks, Ball vocalized his displeasure, and said he wouldn’t have come had he known masks were required. Ball argued about whether he did or did not see that request in the LWV email. His complaints proceeded for a number of minutes, until Ball said he’d wait to hear what the other guys said about it. Because each candidate was allowed to have up to two guests, Ball had invited as his “plus one” District 5 candidate Chris Kelstrom, who also began balking about the mask requirement soon after arrival.

Moty showed up with his wife. Both wore masks and went inside without incident.

Garman, who’d been waiting by mistake at the church’s back door for 15 minutes, showed up and joined the debate outside about their preference to not wear masks. Garman said that for him, one of the biggest issues with masks is they caused his glasses to fog up and he once lost an expensive hearing aid while removing a mask.

After much conversation between LWV members, Garman, Ball and Kelstrom outside in the chilly night air, an agreement was reached where Garman, Ball and Kelstrom would wear masks upon entering the building, and after that, they could have their masks removed only when they were drinking water.

LWV should have insisted the men did a pinkie swear, because once inside the building, Garman, Ball and Kelstrom reneged on the plan, and ignored the rules requested by their LWV hosts and the church sanctuary.

Moty was the only candidate to follow the LWV requests, which prompted Kelstrom to type a snarky public comment during the live feed that pointed out Moty’s mask and the large container of sanitizer he’d brought.

Of course, the sanitizer was already on the table, provided by the LWV for their guests.

LWV members watch the forum while wearing face masks. Dale Ball’s guest, Chris Kelstrom, watches the forum, sans mask.

Pssst, District 2 voters

Initially, this message was for all Shasta County citizens, scattered hither and yon across five districts. They’re a little bit city and a lot of country.

I live in old Redding, depicted on the 2021 map below as a tiny green blob on the map that makes up District 1.

But this month, I wish I lived in District 2, because it’s the only Shasta County district whose voters can participate in the Feb. 1 recall election. I know exactly how I’d vote if I lived in District 2: No. No. No recall. No replacement candidates. No. Just flat no. Double no.

If you turn your head to the left, District 2 looks like a beige moth with outstretched wings. It contains such rural areas as Igo, Ono, Platina, French Gulch, Centerville, Verde Vale, and parts of Enterprise and Happy Valley.

The true potential heroes in this recall wreck are you 21,540 District 2 registered voters. You have a sobering task before you. How you vote in next month’s election could literally make or break Shasta County. No pressure.

But here’s my message for the rest of us, myself included: Reach out to your District 2 friends, family and acquaintances. First encourage them to register to vote. Second, encourage them to vote NO to the recall, and NO to any recall candidates.

One of my New Year’s resolution is to find some good in everything, and today, that means finding a sliver of good in the recall movement. As painful and divisive as the recall movement has been for our community, in some ways, it’s drawn decent people together in search of the common good, despite political parties.

At this fractured point in Shasta County history, when lines in the sand have turned to concrete, simple party politics are the least of our worries.

To stand with Moty against this recall is to stand for Shasta County, and to stand for Shasta County is to stand with all the good, rational people who call this place home.


7 p.m. unpdate: Anti-recall, pro-Moty people will gather at 9 a.m. Sunday in the Redding City Hall parking lot.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's 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's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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