Brains vs. Brawn in Shasta County Supervisor District 1 Primary Race

Shasta County Supervisor District 1 candidates Erin Resner, Kymberly Vollmers and Kevin Crye at last month’s forum.


The race to replace outgoing Shasta County Supervisor District 1 Joe Chimenti has turned into a classic contest pitting brains against brawn, with the future of the county’s soul at stake.

The two main contenders for the seat are current Redding City Councilwoman Erin Resner and Ninja Coalition gym owner and talent agent Kevin Crye. Former pharmacy tech and cosmetologist Kymberly Vollmers is running an under-funded third campaign that has virtually no chance of placing in the top-two primary.

Unless one candidate gets 50 percent of the primary vote, the top two face off in November.

As stated, at stake in the June 7 primary election is the soul of Shasta County.

Will District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones and his far-right followers District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman and District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh continue their divisive assault on county administrators and staff, degrading government services with one behind-closed-doors performance evaluation after another?

Or will fresh blood restore some semblance of civility to the board of supervisors’ chambers, which, for the past two years, has been dominated by an angry, profane mob of anti-vaxxers and secessionists opposed to mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in particular and all government programs in general?

To probe this matter, A News Café reached out to the three candidates with an email questionnaire. Resner and Vollmers returned their questionnaires with complete answers. Crye did not respond to A News Café’s query.

Asked to rank the issues she’ll face if elected District 1 supervisor, Resner, 37, put restoring decorum to the board chambers at the top of the list.

“I would say first and foremost, we must deal with the issue of decorum,” Resner said. “While that may feel like an odd answer, we cannot currently get any work done. There is so much hostility, heckling, arguing, etc. that the real problems can’t be addressed. We have to stop. There is no option but to leave egos at the door, work together, and get real work done. Without a culture of respect, honor, and professionalism, we will continue to be frustrated by a lack of answers to the big problems.”

Vollmers agreed that decorum is important.

“I always will conduct myself with decorum,” she said.  “If you have not viewed the forum hosted by the Redding Chamber of Commerce, please do. It is an example of how I carry myself.”


Shasta County Supervisor District 1 Candidate Kevin Crye

At the Chamber of Commerce fourm, Crye didn’t address the issue of decorum, but he did jokingly compare himself favorably to Bobby Knight, the former college basketball coach infamous for throwing chairs, assaulting players and various sordid temper tantrums during his decades-long career.

Crye, 45, coached sports and taught physical education at public schools, Simpson University and a college in Oregon before founding Ninja Coalition five years ago. His wife teaches at Shasta High School. They have three children.

Last year, they had their bags packed and were headed for Texas or Tennessee until a chance meeting between Crye and Patrick Jones at the student-teacher-staff walkout protest over mask and vaccine mandates last October.

Jones steered Crye to the next Board of Supervisors meeting, where Crye spoke and was subsequently triggered after District 1 Supervisor Joe Chimenti explained to him how state power to issue mandates extends through local public officials.

Crye immediately canceled the family’s moving plans, rented an apartment in District 1 (the Crye family home is in District 4), and announced he was running for supervisor last November. He has since fashioned himself as the tough-talking candidate who’s the last man standing between the electorate and the apocalypse.

“This is so much more than an office,” Crye said at the debate. “This is about Shasta County and it forever being gone.”

In February, Crye appeared on “Reid Between the Lines” , the podcast produced by local pro-walkout teachers Martin and Christa Reid. Crye explained how he would have handled the state’s COVID-19 mandates if he’d been a supervisor at the time.

“It may not be your jurisdiction but guess what?” Crye said. “I’m not a traffic cop, but if something happens, I’m jumping out of my car, pulling my truck in the middle of the intersection, waiving people down, telling them to stop moving because that’s what leaders do.”

The contrast between the two main candidates couldn’t be clearer. Resner is the rationalist seeking to restore decorum to the board and solve the county’s myriad problems through consensus; Crye is the impulsive ninja warrior who will physically confront the issues plaguing Shasta County and wrestle them to the ground.

Or something like that.

It’s brains verses brawn, with Vollmers waiting in the wings as a potential spoiler.

Redding City Councilwoman and Shasta County Supervisor District 1 candidate Erin Resner.

Enter the Wagon Wheel of Justice

When it comes to experience in local governance, Resner leaves her opponents in the dust. Vollmers lists a stint as a clerk for the Shasta County District Attorney on her varied job history and Crye claims his skills as a talent agent will translate directly to the supervisors’ office, but only Resner has the sort of resume that was once expected from all serious candidates for public office.

Being a sitting Redding City Councilwoman and former mayor during the city’s recent successful makeover helps, but Resner wasn’t gifted the position. She earned it.

“Over the course of the last decade, I have dedicated a majority of my free time to children, families, and service within our community,” she said. She’s spent seven years volunteering for Court Appointed Special Advocates, representing abused and neglected foster children. She’s sat on the Community Services Advisory Commission for five years. She’s the president of the Sacramento Valley division of the League of California Cities.

Non-governmental accomplishments include bringing Dutch Bros Coffee to Shasta County 18 years ago with her husband; today there are nine of the drive-thru java joints employing 250 people. The Resners somehow found the time to raise four children amidst all this enterprise.

Resner’s resume is important because the balance of power on the Shasta County Board of Supervisors may be shifting. The Jones-led attempt to torpedo Shasta County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom, County Counsel Rubin Cruse and County CEO Matt Pontes appears to have stalled; the three public officials remain in their positions.

Resner said she doesn’t support Jones’ divisive tactics.

“I believe that our role as leaders is to address any concerns we may have with employees in a respectful and private manner,” Resner said. “As a business owner who employs hundreds of young people, I believe that culture flows out from leadership. As a board member, I would continue to have potentially difficult conversations in a way that is respectful and constructive.”

As Jones’ anti-government momentum appears to have slowed, an ambitious plan to address long-standing issues with public safety, crime, drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness and homelessness is back on the table in the form of Sheriff Michael Johnson’s “wagon wheel of justice” concept.

Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson

The proposed one-story structure would include a jail and central hub where arrestees are booked and then sent to the appropriate spokes on the hub, buildings where mental health treatment, vocational training and medically assisted detox will be available. It represents a dramatic expansion of some services that are already in place and have proven successful.

But similar efforts have been shot down in the past, in part because conservatives in Shasta County aren’t inclined to provide services to criminals and the down-and-out, especially if it involves raising taxes. Getting over that hump is going to require buy-in from at least three of the five supervisors—not to mention the entire Shasta County electorate.

“Absolutely,” Resner said when asked if she would support fully funding and staffing the project. “This project is a true integration of health and human services and law enforcement and is the appropriate and necessary path forward. … If all departments can gather around the table, we can creatively and successfully find solutions. I am fully supportive of Sheriff Johnson’s project.”

Sheriff Johnson is facing his own primary challenge and will have to defeat former deputy John Greene if he hopes to see the wagon wheel to fruition.

Vollmers said she “supports the wagon wheel in its conceptual form.”

“I would like to see a plan to implement a staggered opening of operations to allow jail space to increase before the full completion of the project,” Vollmers said. “I am in full support of the additional support services for rehabilitation.”

On the other hand, Crye, who at the debate said he will sift all such projects through the “veil and colander of fiscal responsibility,” immediately shot down the wagon wheel concept because he claims it’s too expensive. The total price tag for the project has yet to be announced, but it could run into hundreds of millions of dollars over time.

“I’m all for affordable housing and the wrap-around services Ms. Resner talks about, but it’s about as likely as the New York Yankees relocating to Redding California,” he said, defaulting to sports analogies as he is wont to do. “That’s not going to happen.”

“The jail doesn’t have to be $150 million Star Trek Enterprise,” he said.

“The stand-alone structure for sheriff and staff is extremely doable,” Resner countered, noting the county has $14 million set aside for the project. “I realize we can’t rely on the state to fix all of our problems, but I’ll gladly take our tax dollars that our people pay to the state back to do something here.”

While both Resner and Vollmers demonstrate an appropriate level of empathy for the homeless —Resner noted that it takes an average eight encounters to get someone off the street and into recovery — Crye’s potentially illegal approach to the issue involves no mercy.

“If you need help you have to get help, you can’t stay on the streets,” he told the Reids. “If you don’t get help, you’re going to have to move. If you don’t get help and you don’t move, you’re going to be incarcerated. … The reason we have this utopia of homelessness is because we have all these programs.”

One of the most dramatic moments of the debate came when Vollmers, commenting on Crye’s lack of empathy, suggested he’d never had a loved one who depended upon government services.

Eager to score debate points, Crye blurted out that he indeed did have a loved one who was dependent on government services, his brother Casey who was killed when he crashed a motorcycle while fleeing from police in Palo Cedro in 2015. His brother had been in and out of prison but was a good guy, Crye said.

“You play stupid games you win stupid prizes,” he said.

Shasta County District 1 Supervisor candidate Kymberly Vollmers.

First Amendment Issues: Free Speech and Religious Belief

While Resner and Vollmers advocate a return to decorum in board meetings, both support giving public speakers as much latitude as possible, even if that means allowing speakers to present misinformation, as has consistently occurred during the pandemic.

“Freedom of speech means that we are free to express any opinions without censorship or restraint,” Resner said. “We do not need to agree to be kind, thoughtful, or even assertive. However, I will not tolerate behavior that is rude, racist, or sexist. Name-calling, voice-raising, booing, harassing of any kind will not be allowed. Board chambers are a place of business, and we will behave as such.”

Vollmers agreed.

“I believe people are provided freedoms to conduct themselves and their beliefs in any way that does not violate the law,” she said. “Freedom of speech, freedom to assemble and freedom of religion do not dictate how a person does so. Even if I disagree or agree with them. Personal attacks are never okay.”

All three candidates openly profess their Christian faith. A News Café asked the candidates how they separate religious belief from the governmental decision-making process, citing the board’s 3-2 vote declaring last June Pride Month in Shasta County as an example. Dissenting votes Jones and Baugh cited religious reasons for voting against recognizing the LGBTQ community.

Resner said she will base her decisions on facts, not faith.

“On principle and as a human being, I believe everyone should feel welcome and valued whether I personally agree with their life choices or not,” Resner said. “It’s not my job to judge and it’s absolutely not my job to push my beliefs on others. While I am grateful for my faith, I will continue to make sound policy decisions for the community based on facts. Sexual orientation should play no factor in a person’s worth or value.”

Again Vollmers concurred.

“I am a Christian,” she said. “My ask from my Creator and Jesus Himself is: To Love.

I do support the Board’s decision to have Shasta County acknowledge Pride Month in June.

I will tell you that my older sister is gay, and she is my best friend. So, I would never be someone to discriminate or block any person from equality.”

Crye did not reply to A News Café’s query.

District 1 lies in the heart of Shasta County.

It’s Always Doomsday in Shasta County

According to Crye, public officials are “elected to take care of the unexpected.” When the shit hits the fan, “who do you want to be your champion, whether that is in the trenches or in a boardroom or at a rally or at a meeting?”

The flaw in Crye’s apocalyptic approach is that it’s always doomsday in Shasta County. For now, the pandemic has receded, but a historic drought and fire season loom. Homelessness remains a chronic problem, drug-addicted petty criminals continue to threaten public safety, mental health services and affordable housing remain in short supply.

Forget about the unexpected. Shasta County needs public officials with expertise in these issues now, because they’re happening in real time.

But Crye, who chided Resner for using notes during the debate, isn’t selling expertise, he’s peddling machismo. He pitches his admitted ignorance on the issues as a virtue, transparency.

“When it comes to the water situation, I’m not completely studied yet, to be completely transparent,” Crye said. “I’m not going to sit up here and lie to you. But here’s what I can tell you. Between now and January, I can research anything there is … it’s not going to take long to catch up on that.”

But first unfrozen caveman talent agent has to ditch his apartment and find a permanent residence for his family in District 1, as required by election law.

“We’ve been looking for a house in District 1 since I decided to run, but there’s not a lot of inventory out there right now,” Crye told the Reids, who live in District 1. Martin Reid magnanimously offered to trade Crye homes on the podcast.

At the debate, Crye ended his embarrassing spiel on water issues by pledging to physically confront the drought.

“So, if it’s water and it comes to that, I’ll be uncompromised because our way of life in Shasta County, our farmers, our tourism, relies on water,” he said. “When that battle needs to be fought, it won’t be behind a desk.”

But behind desks is precisely where that battle and many others are being fought, by people with knowledge of the issues, by people who use brains instead of brawn. Resner showed the debate audience she’s already up to speed.

“I would like to know if anyone in the room has read the book Cadillac Desert?” she asked. A few heads in the room bobbed in recognition, familiar with Marc Reisner’s classic text on water woes in the western United States .

“Water storage issues within California, Arizona, Colorado and Nevada go all the way back to the 1800s,” she said. “It’s a long, long battle, it’s far bigger than Shasta County. I think it’s going to take a collaborative effort for someone to go to Sacramento who can get along with and collaborate with others, because we need people who are going to work with us.”

On issue after issue, Resner demolished Crye in the debate as a bemused Vollmers watched on. It just goes to show it pays to use notes.

Shasta General Purpose Committee $4900 maximum donation to Kevin Crye.

Crye’s Campaign Money Muscle

Resner crushed it at the debate, but Crye is proving to be a formidable campaign fundraiser, according to documents filed with Shasta County Elections. Primed with a $4900 maximum donation from the Shasta General Purpose Committee—also known as Reverge Anselmo’s $450,000+ political slush fund — Crye raised $56,167 between November and March 16, compared to $20,160 raised by Resner, who officially announced her candidacy two months after Crye.

Crye’s haul is built on more than a dozen $4900 maximum individual donations from donors including Joshua and Deborah Fookes from Oakland-based Bee Green Recycling & Supply, local business owners Thomas and Kristin Largent, Kristin Cramer from Pacifica (a longtime donor to conservative causes in Shasta County), Greg and Leanne Duralia from Redding-based Dura Crane Inc., Keith’s Towing Inc., the Ninja Coalition, and Christopher Lopez from Pacifica.

Resner’s war chest has so far received just two $4900 maximum donations, from Aimee and Chris McCarley from El Dorado Hills. Steven Williams from InterWest Insurance in Redding donated $2000. Redding City Councilwoman Julie Winters donated $200; former Mayor Adam McElvain kicked in $500.

Resner continues to collect four-figure donations, including $2250 from Eddie Axner Construction. But there’s no question that Crye, who continues to rake in $4900 maximum donations, has a formidable lead with just a month-and-a-half to go until the June 7 primary election.

Vollmers asks for contributions on her campaign website, but so far has not declared any donations.

Thanks to her city council position and her co-ownership of the popular Dutch Bros Coffee franchise, Resner brings an unknown but perhaps considerable amount of political and social capital to the contest. It’s a safe bet that a majority of the 20,000 registered voters in District 1 have purchased a beverage at one of the several Dutch Bros in the district.

A certain percentage of those customers know Erin Resner was the mayor of Redding. Then there’s her connections with the local business and nonprofit communities. She no doubt has higher name recognition than Crye, although that advantage may disappear as Crye floods the advertising channels.

Crye imagines that he’s an anti-establishment candidate and “the social elite that has ran Redding for 30 or 40 years is coming to an end.” He predicts disaster should Resner, who is eight years younger than him, best him at the polls.

“This June we could lose the Shasta County we’re starting to get back,” Crye claims. “It’s going to go right back to what was going the last 20 years.”

Crye urges county employees to vote for him, even though he advocates cutting the county budget to the bone.

“Something’s going to come to this county and you’re going to want me standing on that border to protect you,” he advises these unlikely supporters.

Meanwhile, Resner is dealing with issues concerning public safety, homelessness and mental health services in real time.

“This isn’t news,” she said. “They’ve been the big issues and they will remain the big issues until we can choose to work together and creatively tackle the solution. We need to support the wagon wheel project and we need to execute the things involved like multi-agency response teams and medically assisted treatment programs.

“I believe the root of our community’s social issues stem from mental health, and if we face them head on and start treating our people, and the issue, with the respect it deserves, we will see forward momentum toward a stronger, more stable, more safe, more supported community.”

In short, Resner is proposing a more civilized Shasta County than the austere libertarian hellscape promoted by Jones and his rebellious right-wing minions, including Crye. It’s up to the 20,000 voters of District 1 to make the decision.

If the spiritual health of a community can be measured by the way it treats the least of its citizens, nothing less than the soul of Shasta County is at stake.

R.V. Scheide

R.V. Scheide is an award-winning journalist who has covered news, politics, music, arts and culture in Northern California for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in the Tenderloin Times, Sacramento News & Review, Reno News & Review, Chico News & Review, North Bay Bohemian, San Jose Metro, SF Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, Alternet, Boston Phoenix, Creative Loafing and Counterpunch, among many other publications. His honors include winning the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s Freedom of Information Act and best columnist awards as well as best commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists, California chapter. Mr. Scheide welcomes your comments and story tips. Contact him at RVScheide@anewscafe.com..

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