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And just like that (snap fingers), the political landscape of Mammoth and Mono County changed.
In last Tuesday's elections. incumbent supervisors Duane "Hap" Hazard and Vikki Bauer were drummed out of office. In another supervisor race, neither Tim Fesko nor Bob Peters gained a majority vote, and will face off in November. Candidate Jan Huggans finished a distant third in that race, but won enough votes to prevent the other two from taking a clear-cut victory.
All of this means there will be new faces on the Board of Supervisors, making policy decisions alongside one-term Supe Larry Johnston and the only long-term supervisor left, Byng Hunt.
Both Alpers and Peters have served on the board before.Newcomer Fred Stump, the chief of the Long Valley Fire District, takes over Hazard’s seat in South County and is new to county elective office.
Meanwhile, in Mammoth, the shoot-from-the-hip Skip Harvey served in his final Town Council meeting on Wednesday, with businessman Michael Raimondo (Old New York Deli in the Village) taking over in a town that is rife with dire economic problems (see P.1).
To conclude in one word, “Whew!”
To us, the puzzlement in the Board of Supervisors races was not that Alpers and Stump took out the incumbents. Rather, it was the margin of their victories that stumped us, pardon the pun.
Hazard lost his seat to Stump—55 percent to 45 percent. In political terms, that qualifies as a landslide. Bauer lost her seat to Alpers, 67.5 percent to 32.5 percent—an avalanche.
Why did it happen?
First, both Stump and Alpers ran hard with positive campaigns that did not attempt to hide the realities of our situation. They could afford to do that. Hazard and Bauer also tried to keep things on the nicey-nice, but had to answer for eight years of economic decline in both the town and the county.
To that, the voters said enough is enough.
It wasn’t just here. If there was any grand theme to Tuesday’s elections, the “Get Rid of the Bums” mentality played out in statewide California elections, and in the nation as a whole (Wisconsin excepted, as usual).
The people have run out of patience.
A Mammoth voter dropped by our offices the other day to gather election results. Her take, amplified by others, was “What has he/she done for me?”
That approach is highly simplistic, and reflects a severe lack of perspective on how hard these people work at their jobs. But our voter friend was not that sympathetic. “I think Vikki enjoyed her trips to Washington a little too much,” she said, “and I think Hap enjoyed his trips to Sacramento a little too much.”
Meanwhile, in Mammoth, the Town Council, carrying a legacy of perceived blunders and do-nothingness, lost Harvey to political retirement. It is a real blow to the town.
Skip was strident. He had strong political views and he voiced them, at times maybe a little bit too much.
But with business-friendly Raimondo on board, it looks to us as if we will have at least two more years of 5-0 votes on policies that could help Mammoth come back, or break it entirely.
We’ll miss Skip. We’ll miss Vikki Bauer and Hap Hazard, too. We wish we could say we were surprised by the results.
We were not.