Big crowd turns out for candidate debate | RecordCourier.com

Big crowd turns out for candidate debate

If the turnout at Wednesday's town hall debate between commission and sheriff's candidates is any indication, turnout in the primary election is going to be brisk.

An estimated 600 people attended the function moderated by East Fork Justice of the Peace Tom Perkins and sponsored by the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce, Business Council of Douglas County and The Record-Courier at the Douglas County Community & Senior Center in Gardnerville.

Lake Tahoe residents Janet Murphy and Wes Rice are running to replace term-limited commissioner Nancy McDermid.

Commission Chairman Steve Thaler is being challenged by Chambers Field resident John Engels.

All four candidates are Republicans, which means the Thaler-Engels race will be resolved in the June 12 primary. Murphy and Rice are seeking the party's nomination to meet nonpartisan candidate Kristi Kandel in the general election. Kandel attended Wednesday's town hall.

All four commission candidates said they wanted to preserve Douglas County's natural beauty, but landed at different places on the spectrum when it came to providing housing.

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"There's going to be a choice and it's going to be decided by the five commissioners, rural or urban, it's time to make a decision," Engels said.

He said he recognized the need for apartments in the county, but said those projects should be much smaller groups of 10-15 units.

"Affordable housing is fine, but we need to keep it small," he said. "I fully understand there are people who want to live in an apartment."

Thaler said it is a major issue that people who work in Douglas County can't afford to live here.

"There is a serious lack of inventory," he said. "As fast as an apartment goes on the market, it's eaten up. It's not going to happen on a gigantic scale."

Murphy said she was concerned that the county was considering federally subsidized housing.

Rice pointed out that the market has priced homes out of the reach of many working families.

"There's no place where they can afford to live," he said. "The locals who grew up here and should have a right to live here are forced out and I think that's just wrong."

Rice has served on the Roundhill General Improvement District, Thaler was on the Minden Town Board and Murphy manages a sewer district.

"I'm not opposed to the general improvement districts if they're well managed," Engels said. "What do we pay our property taxes for? If the roads aren't maintained for some reason where does it all go?"

Thaler said the districts and towns do a good job and serve as a government closer to the residents.

"Lots of GIDs do a phenomenal job taking the heat off Douglas County," he said. "I don't want to do anything but build them up and not get in their way."

The candidates differed on a redevelopment area designed to fund construction of an events center at Stateline.

Murphy said she hasn't seen a feasibility study on construction of the center.

"I'm all about the numbers," she said. "There are other means of funding that and other solutions you have to look at."

Rice is in favor of redevelopment, saying its critical to maintaining Douglas County's financial health.

"Forty percent of tax money is coming off the hill," he said. "The casinos have to reinvent themselves, they need to become a destination."

Engels said he felt the casinos can put in their own events center and is opposed to the area.

Thaler said while he voted to establish the redevelopment area, most of the discussion on it so far has been speculation.

Sheriff's captains Dan Coverley and Joe Duffy, former county commissioner Dave Brady and retired Marine Dean Paris are running to replace Sheriff Ron Pierini, who is retiring after this year.

The office of sheriff is nonpartisan and the top-two vote-getters will move on to the general election, unless one receives 50 percent plus one, in which case that candidate will be declared the winner.

Acknowledging he was the underdog in the race for sheriff, Paris came out swinging on Wednesday night.

Paris opened his statement by attacking Duffy and Coverley.

"Do you want a sheriff who was the subject of an investigation that allegedly had a decline of morale within the office and a loss of valuable assets? Or a sheriff that misled the community by redirecting web sites to his own and was also the subject of an excessive force complaint? Even when that individual had the opportunity to discuss the situation he failed to mention all the details. Or do you want a sheriff who has never had his ethics, leadership dedication and morals questioned?"

Duffy was the subject of a grand jury investigation into deputy retention while Coverley's campaign used Duffy and Brady web addresses to lead searchers to his site. Coverley was also involved in a use of force lawsuit earlier in his career at Douglas County.

The real debate though focused on the future of the sheriff's office.

This is Brady's second run for the county's top law enforcement spot.

"My campaign is to bring new leadership with a fresh perspective," he said. "I want to bring an action plan that transitions the department into the 21st Century. With the talent we have in the organization we can make a difference."

Brady said he will seek an operational audit and work on a strategic plan for the sheriff's office.

Coverley said he believed it's difficult to take charge of an organization like the sheriff's office without having law enforcement experience.

"How we're policing when I became a deputy is not how we're policing today," he said. "Without that historical perspective, you are very, very behind. I feel blessed that I've been able to work my 21 years under Sheriff Ron Pierini. The sheriff's office is doing a good job, and that didn't happen by accident, and I've been part of that."

Duffy pointed out that unlike Brady or Paris, he won't have to go to the police academy.

"When my wife and I visited a friend here, we noticed there was no graffiti, and people were actually nice," he said. "I want to try my best to keep Douglas County the way I found it 23 years ago."

The debate will appear on Douglas County Community Access Television Channel 193 in Carson Valley and Channel 192 at Lake Tahoe before early voting begins on May 26.

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The debate will appear on Douglas County Community Access Television Channel 193 in Carson Valley and Channel 192 at Lake Tahoe before early voting begins on May 26. The Record-Courier will report the times when they become available.