Stanislaus County’s Supervisors’ District 4 includes a large swath of the City of Modesto. It’s by far the most urban district in the entire county. It’s also the district most impacted by homelessness and crime.
The incumbent supervisor, Dick Monteith, is by all accounts a good man, but no one thinks of him as pro-active. Now in his mid-eighties, Monteith has been a throwback to the supervisor of old, a part-time ambassador for conservative policy whose chief role is to affirm the ancient bromide, “That government is best which governs least.”
Whereas Supervisors Terry Withrow, Vito Chiesa and Jim DeMartini have been highly visible and pro-active, Monteith has been distinguished by inaction. It is Withrow who took the lead on addressing the homelessness which has been most noticeable and most detrimental in District 4, not Monteith. Instead, Dick Monteith has treated the supervisor’s position as a nice retirement gig.
Enter Tom Berryhill. Berryhill is running against Frank Damrell for Monteith’s seat on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. Just recently, Berryhill announced he’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He’s also recovering from a broken hip.
But what’s disturbing about Berryhill’s candidacy isn’t this recent announcement—anyone can experience illness and misfortune. What’s disturbing is Berryhill’s voting record prior to announcing his ailments.
State Senator Berryhill has had 18 opportunities to vote on key issues in 2018; this doesn’t include other less critical but nonetheless important votes. He voted only seven times on those key issues. Moreover, he’s been a virtual no-show during the campaign for supervisor. Yes, he’s been sick, but if he’s too sick to vote even on critical issues, he shouldn’t be running for office. And he could at least have sent staff representatives to the campaign events he missed, the latest being a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters in Modesto, but he didn’t. Oftentimes, neither Berryhill nor his staff even respond to questions from local media.
Berryhill also has a record of ignoring the needs of Stanislaus County residents. The most egregious example came when he declined to vote for the negative bailout in 2015, long before he announced his illness. That was the measure against a policy that had cost Stanislaus County some $74 million dollars over thirty years, a measure Supervisor Vito Chiesa fought hard for and won.
Given the increased demands on the supervisor’s office, the job can no longer be treated as a comfy retirement position. Especially in Stanislaus County’s District 4, the people are going to need a supervisor who hits the ground running and can sustain a marathoner’s pace.
Berryhill’s opponent, Frank Damrell, just recently completed his annual fundraiser for hydrocephalus. The fundraiser includes a swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco. Once again this year, Damrell completed the swim with relative ease.
Maybe even more importantly, Damrell has been endorsed by a diverse array of distinguished public servants, including former Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and former Stanislaus County Supervisor Ray Simon. Both are staunch Republicans who recognize in Democrat Damrell a political pragmatist ready and able to treat issues like homelessness and water as non-partisan problems in need of solutions.
Though known only to people on the ground with homelessness issues, Frank Damrell has long been a hands-on participant in efforts to address our homeless crisis. He’s especially prepared to use his expertise in legislation to help people with mental illness among the homeless population.
If Damrell has a problem, it’s his modesty about his ongoing contributions to his community. But people who want a pro-active approach to the critical problems of Stanislaus County’s District 4, especially homelessness and crime, need to get the word out: Frank Damrell will be there when needed, ready and able to serve and serve now.
John Gunderson says
Frank Damrell is the best candidate by far. The office of supervisor can no longer be regarded as a comfy retirement position. I can see how Tom Berryhill would regard it that way. There is some hard work to be done with some ducks falling in line. The Tuolumne River Regional Park’s rejuvenation program along with the sudden realization that the homeless issue ties in directly to the park’s success. And then there’s the neighborhoods and the other parks. I challenge Frank to look at the micro housing concept as part of the solution. I know it looks like communism but we have a problem that hinders our city, our county from attaining a better prosperity. I know there’s a lot of folks here yearning for that. We cry about not enough funding, so yeah, ok, do it on the cheap. We’re doing it with tents, why not a step or 2 better. Many questions need to be answered including legal questions. Duplicate what works in the North West…. doable.
Hi John, ‘Micro’ housing is being deployed throughout the area by the Housing Authority in partnership with several agencies such as the VA and BHRS. They are infill type projects however and as such are small projects. With a 20,000 affordable rental housing deficit in the county, we have a very long ways to go. Plus for many of the homeless, they can pay no or very little rent so we’re talking big subsidies if we want them housed.
Clare Noonan says
Really good reporting, Eric. Thank you.
I agree with Clare: nice reporting and great writing (“…a nice retirement gig”). These candidates and their histories are foreign to me and so is your district, but I always open the link just to read and enjoy your work. Thanks.
Joe Fenton says
Anybody who knows Frank Damrell would attest to his character. He’s honest, hard working and intelligent. He would be like a breath of fresh air.