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In Conversation With Incumbent Supervisor Mary Rickert: ‘I Want to Put People Before Politics’

Editor’s note: Please join me in welcoming District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert as she answers some campaign questions.

A News Cafe submitted identical questions to all Shasta County Supervisor candidates. Incumbent District 4 candidate Patrick Jones, and District 3 candidates Corkey Harmon and Win Carpenter did not respond. 

A News Cafe: Welcome, Supervisor Rickert. Thank you for participating in A News Cafe’s campaign Q&A. Please tell a bit about yourself.

Supervisor Mary Rickert: I am a 50-year resident of Shasta County with three grown children and six grandchildren. I attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as a dairy science major and completed degrees in Business and Psychology at Simpson College.

My husband and I are the principal owners of the nationally recognized Prather Ranch and Western Agricultural Services, a farm and ranch management, appraisal and brokerage agribusiness.

I have spent most of my life volunteering, beginning at the age of 16 with a Head Start Program working with young children and continued giving of my time to my church, and worked as a 4-H leader and high school booster club mom.

I founded the Burney Fall River Education Foundation in 1991 for the Fall River Joint Unified School District, served on the board of the Shasta Regional Community Foundation, served on the Shasta County Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Advisory Board, the Shasta Historical Society, Chair of the USDA Farm Service Agency County Committee and was active with the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) teaching the Family-to-Family Course. In 2013 I was appointed to the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection by Governor Jerry Brown. In 2016 I decided to run for the District 3 Supervisor’s seat for Shasta County.

A News Cafe: Why do you believe you’d be a good supervisor?

Supervisor Mary Rickert: I have been serving as the District 3 Supervisor for seven years. I enjoy helping people and have a deep desire to serve my community. With my broad background in water, agriculture, forestry and mental health, I believe I continue to be positioned to guide this county to be well represented at the state level. I pride myself in being responsive when contacted by constituents. I believe in decorum and civility when conducting the business of the people. I also believe working collaboratively with the cities and rural communities is imperative to be effective and constructive for the county.

A News Cafe: What is your experience as an elected official or office holder?

Supervisor Mary Rickert: I have a deep understanding of the challenges facing those with mental illness and substance use, as I spent years as an instructor for the Family-to-Family course for NAMI and the Crisis Intervention classes also held for law enforcement. I have a proven track record on many fronts, but one example was to use my connections in Sacramento and with the Director of the State 4-H program during the pandemic to ensure our local 4-H and FFA kids could show and sell their market animals. We were the first county in the state to accomplish this and created a template for other counties to replicate. During my time as a supervisor, we expanded jail bed capacity by 64 beds, introduced the Medically Assisted Treatment Program (MAT) and the Jail Based Competency Treatment Program (JBCT) in the jail.

I’m very appreciative of the support I received in establishing the Shasta County Fire Safe Council, which has received funding for millions of dollars in fuel hazard reduction projects around the county. I was able to secure a $250,000 grant from PG&E for a new generator for the 88 homes around the Palo Cedro golf course. This enabled the homeowners to save $2,800 per household by not having to personally invest in that system. Another need I addressed was to eradicate the illegal marijuana grows in this county. We now have a vibrant eradication program headed by Sheriff Michael Johnson. I have a strong voting record of supporting the wishes of my constituents, with the defeat of the high-density housing project proposed in Palo Cedro, the rejection of the Tierra Robles subdivision near Palo Cedro, and the no vote on the Millville gun range. I also am continuing the fight by assisting with a collaborative lawsuit with the Pit River tribe to oppose the construction of a wind turbine project in the Montgomery Creek and Round Mountain area.

There are many more decisions and actions I have taken as a supervisor that have benefited my constituents over the last seven years and I hope to continue to represent them.

A News Cafe: Have you accepted – or would you accept – contributions from the Water Users Committee/Reverge Anselmo? If so, why? If not, why?

Supervisor Mary Rickert: I have not ever, or will ever accept money from the Water Users Committee/Reverge Anslemo. I do believe his interference in our county government has been devastating to this county. I believe in local control, not being bought and paid for by an East coast millionaire.

A News Cafe: What are your thoughts about the concept of Shasta County becoming a charter county?

Supervisor Mary Rickert: My concerns about the passage of Shasta becoming a charter county is that it could lead to a board majority that is not independent in their decision-making nor diverse in their thinking. If that board continues to remain in power, they would have the ability to appoint “their people” and our local governance could result in detrimental decisions being made for all of its citizens. I am a firm believer that the voters should have the right to pick their replacement for their supervisor, and not the Board of Supervisors. The power should be given to the people so their voices can be heard.

A News Cafe: What are your thoughts about term limits?

Supervisor Mary Rickert: After witnessing our local political environment for the last four years, I now believe that a person should be able to run if they want to. The institutional knowledge and experience with county government is lacking with our current board and continuity and understanding of past history is important for context and stability.

A News Cafe: Which groups or notable individuals have endorsed you and your campaign?

Supervisor Mary Rickert: I have sought no endorsements but was asked to submit an application for SEIU 2015. They decided to endorse me as their candidate choice for District 3.

A News Cafe: Describe your district, its unique assets and challenges.

Supervisor Mary Rickert: District 3 is the largest district in Shasta County with the most communities. It runs from Siskiyou County, Lassen County and Modoc County in the northeast and to Interstate 5 on the west. My home is located 80 miles from the County Administration building. The district covers thousands of acres of timberland, farmland and rural residential communities. It also includes the southeast portion of Redding known as Enterprise. Undoubtedly one of our biggest concerns is the threat of wildfires. Maintaining our roads, especially in the winter can also be challenging. Adequate law enforcement presence continues to be a difficult problem considering the large expansive area the deputies must serve.

A News Cafe: How long have you lived in your district?

Supervisor Mary Rickert: I have lived in my district for 35 years in McArthur on a hay, wild rice and cattle grazing operation.

A News Cafe: Your thoughts about the current supervisors’ decision to suspend impact fees?

Supervisor Mary Rickert: As chair of the board in 2020, we voted to suspend an increase in impact fees. We also continued with another suspension of the fee hikes in 2022. This recent decision to eliminate impact fees is an impulsive move, with little to no analysis or research as to what other counties have done throughout the state. Having no knowledge that this item was coming forward on the agenda until the board packets were posted, it gave me little time to evaluate how this loss of revenue would impact department’s budgets.

Reducing more than $1 million a year in revenues will result in less public safety dollars, a slowdown in our much-needed jail expansion, fewer animal control services, and cutbacks at our libraries. Our county has many empty lots in the footprint of the Carr and Fawn Fires where the impact fees have been suspended if a landowner wished to rebuild. Why not focus on encouraging people to build on those lots? The infrastructure is already in place with water, sewer and sidewalks for many of these lots. The board needed additional time to analyze and research this very important issue and what the long-term loss of revenue effects it will have for our county.

A News Cafe: Your thoughts about the board majority’s decision to cancel the Dominion voting system contract?

Supervisor Mary Rickert: The termination of the Dominion voting machines was another example of a decision made with no forethought or consultation with our Registrar of Voters. Many tax dollars have been wasted by canceling the Dominion contract, and consequently being required by state law to purchase replacement machines. In addition, an exorbitant amount of time and money has been spent to create a hand count system in the ROV’s office. In the meantime, the state legislature passed AB969, and the governor signed into law that a county cannot use hand counting for elections unless there are fewer than 1,000 voters. Millions of dollars were wasted, and this whole process triggered an expensive recall ballot measure. It has also taken its toll on our county with the engagement of My Pillow Guy, Mike Lindell involved in the process.

A News Cafe: Your thoughts about the firing of former Health Officer Karen Ramstrom, and the hiring of Dr. James Mu?

Supervisor Mary Rickert: The firing of Dr. Karen Ramstrom was unjustified. Dr. Ramstrom was one of the most lenient public health officers in the state during the COVID 19 pandemic. She cared deeply for the health and welfare of the residents of this county and worked tirelessly to educate the public on how best to protect themselves and those at risk. Few people are aware that Shasta County was the only county in the state that had positive economic growth during the pandemic. It was a tremendous loss for Shasta County when she was dismissed without cause and she is missed by many.

A News Cafe: Your thoughts about the board’s recent decision to offer generous severance packages to the new health officer, the CEO and the new county counsel?

Supervisor Mary Rickert: The three recent severance packages awarded to our new CEO, Public Health officer and the new County Counsel totals more than $1 million. This was designed by the board majority to place these individuals in these positions and make it difficult for future boards to dismiss them for cause. These decisions were not made in the best interest of Shasta County citizens. None of these new hires has a proven track record of a strong performance which would warrant these severance packages. It is an unfair statement being made to the dozens of current county employees and department heads who have invested decades into the county system. These decisions never should have been made.

A News Cafe: What issues, under the jurisdiction of the board of supervisors, do you feel most passionate about, and what solutions would you propose to help those issues?

Supervisor Mary Rickert: The biggest issues I see for our county is public safety, homelessness and high Adverse Childhood (ACE) scores. They end up impacting the quality of life for all our citizens. Wildfire hazard is another passion of mine and I’ve held workshops at the county level to educate the public on home hardening and defensible space.

I also worked with former County Counsel Jim Ross for the county to receive proceeds from the state’s opioid settlement cases. These settlements will include millions of dollars that the county can use to mitigate the negative impacts of substance use in our county. Substance use is often associated with criminal behavior. The vast majority of our inmates (roughly 80-90%) have a mental health or substance use problem. That is why the Medically Assisted Treatment Program (MAT) and Jail Based Competency Programs (JBCT) are such important programs in the jail. We also utilize the services of the Day Reporting Center, the Addicted Offender Program and the STEP-UP program through Shasta College to assist those in the system to become productive members of society.

One additional issue that I have made some strides with the last couple of years is the illegal marijuana eradication program we implemented. Sheriff Johnson, his team and other government agencies have executed numerous busts and arrests to help rid our county of these grows that destroy our environment and potentially do harm to our children.

A News Cafe: What else would you like us to know?

Supervisor Mary Rickert: As a 50 years resident of Shasta County, and with grandchildren who are 6th generation in this county, I am committed to improving our resources and the quality of life for everyone. I come from a long line of high achievers who have made their mark on California higher education. Living up to that standard I hope to do my part here in Shasta County. I want this county to be a place for our residents to enjoy the incredible natural resources and thrive with their family and businesses. I want to put “People Before Politics” and serve one more term as your Shasta County District 3 Supervisor.

Click here for more information about Supervisor May Rickert’s campaign
Click here to donate to Supervisor Mary Rickert’s campaign

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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 Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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