James Sanders

Spotlight on the Candidate: Ridgecrest City Council

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

James Sanders “One of the things that has frustrated me as a citizen is not always understanding the decisions made by our council,” said James Sanders. “I know that some actions need to be discussed in closed session, but I think government works best when as much as possible is discussed openly. With a lot of issues, it seems like they are not bringing things out in the open when they could.”

That transparency engenders not only public understanding, he said, but also public trust.

Sanders said he moved to the area five years ago to accept a job as an aerospace engineer. He fell in love with the community, and decided to make this the permanent home for himself, his wife and their three children.

His interest in government led him to seek an appointment on the Planning Commission. His commission responsibilities include reviewing and approving projects that come before the city. Commissioners also serve on committees that oversee day-to-day functions of the city.

“Serving on the commission has been a fantastic learning experience.”

He said the fact that an overwhelming majority of our voters asked for term limits indicates that citizens want a fresh perspective on the council. “So I sat down and made a list of all the qualities I was looking for in a candidate. Unfortunately, I felt that those were not necessarily reflected by the people who were running,” he said.

“I was not looking for this job, but I felt unless people like me were willing to get out of their comfort zones and put themselves on the line, we were going to continue to get people who were never going to get the candidates that some of us are looking for.”

He said among the most important issues to him are making sure the city has a balanced budget, hiring a capable city manager and protecting the expenditure of Measure L funds.

“The budget is obviously going to be a key issue for everyone. But before we talk numbers, I want to see the council set priorities. In my opinion, the council as a whole has not clearly identified what those are.” That results in a budget process that funds nice-to-haves before necessities.

Sanders said public safety is his first concern, followed by streets and infrastructure. “I love our parks. It’s a great thing to have for our children. But I would like to look at having some of those programs run by parent volunteers. That is something most of us can do, whereas we can’t fix the roads by ourselves.”

He said he would like to hire a city manager who fits the unique needs of the city, but who is also honest without fear of political ramifications. “We have problems that need to be addressed. I think if citizens knew exactly what the challenges were, we could get behind a solution.

“I also have a firm conviction that Measure L should be used on police and streets, like it was promised,” he said. “Our community really went out on a limb to trust the council with a tax increase. If that trust is abandoned, even by those not in office when it passed, people are going to lose hope in city leadership.”

Sanders said that participation in his church and Boy Scouts instilled in him the values of hard work, integrity and giving back to the community. “All of those things are a part of who I am,” he said.

“I think that what I bring to the table is an ability to objectively evaluate issues. We need someone who can listen to and weigh diverse perspectives, but still have the conviction to stand their ground when it is important.”

He also wants to rebuild the communication and trust between city officials and the residents it serves.

“When it comes to community involvement, I don’t think too much is bad. But we have recently seen that too little can be.”

Story First Published: 2012-10-10