Morgan appointed to City Council

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Morgan appointed to City CouncilThe members of the Ridgecrest City Council voted 3-1 last week to appoint Steven Morgan to the vacancy on the five-member board.

Morgan, who has served 16 years on the council and was in the middle of his second term on the Ridgecrest Planning Commission, will complete the term of Jason Patin, who resigned last month to accept a job at the city.

Several members of the council voiced a desire to appoint someone who had experience working in city government, though the public encouraged them to find a fresh face.

During the three-hour meeting, members of the council allowed the 11 applicants to give brief statements. Afterwards each council member nominated two applicants and allowed those finalists an opportunity to give extended statements and answer questions from the council.

The applicants

Matthew Bauduin, who came to China Lake as a Marine and ended up staying with his family after retirement, said that he wanted to gain understanding of city workings and help build trust within the community. He said he wanted to make Ridgecrest a safe, secure place to work and raise families.

Nellevan Jeglum said she has lived in Ridgecrest since 1945, working in leadership positions in numerous community organizations. “I am levelheaded and honest. I know how to look at what’s best for the community and put personal feelings aside. And I am here for the long haul.”

Morgan said that in addition to his experience with the city he is active in the Lions and ultimately responsible for the fireworks show at the fairgrounds. “I have the knowledge to enter into this 14-month term hitting the ground running.” He said he understands the budget and the problems created by the state.

Mike Mower, a 39-year resident of Ridgecrest, is also a former member of the council. He has been a businessman and general contractor in the community for 34 years, in addition to serving on the planning commission and multiple community organizations. “I have a deep love for the city and a desire to serve.

Michael Peterson, an aerospace engineer with a master’s degree in systems engineering, said that his background has trained him to see big picture while being able to drill down and manage details. He serves on the Measure L Oversight board.

“Honestly, it would be much easier to spend time with my family, but these are not easy times. We need to get up off the bench. It’s not enough to complain on the sidelines.”

Carter Pope, who has a background in finance, said he has been in leadership and management roles his entire career. He ran for council as a write-in candidate in the 1990s and in 2010 moved back to Ridgecrest. He is currently serving on the Planning Commission and is an active volunteer and coach in local sports.

Wade Tallman retired as a Naval aviator after 29 years in the service. He said during his eight years in Ridgecrest he has worked and volunteered with numerous community boards and organizations. “As an engineer I look at things from a logical point of view.” He said he wants to examine city policies and make changes where things are not correct.

Jerry Taylor, a 50-year resident of Ridgecrest, is also a former member of the City Council and Planning Commission. He said that he is active in youthcentric and patriotic programs and has positive relationships with higher elected leaders. He said the city is at a critical point and needs to make decisions that will improve the city’s fiscal health.

Christina Witt said she has lived in Ridgecrest her whole life and until recently was a stay-at-home mother. She now works in information technology, but says that her most important experience comes from the challenges of being a mother and budgeting for a family on a single income. She said she wants to work toward more transparency in the city.

Dale Howard has worked in business and construction in Ridgecrest since 1945. He said his outsider’s perspective would keep the council sharp and honest. “You need me, or someone like me. This whole town is run by a very small segment of the population that is immersed in government action. I don’t have the experience, but I have the know-how.”

The nominations

Clark — Morgan, Tallman

Holloway — Morgan, Pope

Sanders — Bauduin, Mower

Acton — Bauduin, Morgan

Morgan, the first finalist to be called forward, gave more details about his experience, including that as a member of the IWV Airport Board of Directors, which is a supporter of the Cal UAS Portal team.

Sanders asked if he would have done anything differently with the budget. Morgan said it was an impossible question to answer without additional insight into the city’s financial situation.

Holloway said that Morgan is unanimously respected by community leaders, but even some of them expressed concerns about his baggage. “How would you answer those critics?”

“I will give you my word that I will be a kindler, gentler councilperson. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. When I am attacked unjustly, I react. I am not going to do that any more. All I am going to do is work hard on issues to create a better Ridgecrest.”

Bauduin said that he could not compete with Morgan’s experience, but that his extensive leadership experience would translate to the responsibilities of a councilmember. He added that coming without baggage could be an asset.

Among his priorities with the city would be finding activities for youth in the community and creating and maintaining a balanced budget with a reserve and a plan for contingencies.

“I know you don’t have experience, but are you willing to learn?” asked Acton. “The voters said they want change. That’s why me and Mr. Sanders are sitting up here.”

Clark asked what he would do if members of the staff or community said they wanted him to do things differently. Bauduin said that good governance comes down to telling someone no and having them thank you for it.

Sanders asked how much sway public opinion would have over him. Bauduin answered that he learned from 21 years in the Marine Corps to solicit other opinions. “Einstein was not the smartest man on the planet, he just knew who to ask.”

Tallman said he stood before the council alone and unafraid, and wearing the bulletproof vest that was required of a councilman. He said that differed from Morgan because he didn’t have city experience, but noted that he also had a wide range of experience in other areas. He said he believed in listening to the public, including those who did not regularly attend meetings.

Mower said that he understood the necessity of adapting in order to survive. He said he would approach city challenges with a logical frame of mind. He would make decisions that were best for the community, but would not do anything that went against the grain of his moral fiber. “I want to see this city prosper.”

Asked what he would do to increase transparency, Mower noted that he got on the council after members of the public recalled councilmembers for not being transparent enough. “You’ve got to do everything you can to make people see that you are willing to listen and that good decisions are being made openly in public.”

Pope said that city government was not the only experience necessary, but underscored the value of leadership experience. “I truly listen to what people say, and then I take what they say so that they can understand that their opinion may not be exactly what we’re talking about.”

He described himself as a partisan maverick who ran a state Senate campaign against Jean Fuller. “I am the most conservative Democrat you’ll meet in your life,” he said.

“You cannot be an effective leader standing on either side of the spectrum.”

Sanders asked what principles he believed led to good government. “Pure honesty,” said Pope.

When Clark opened up public comment, he asked speakers to limit their input to support of the candidates they like. “Have some compassion. The candidates are patriots for being willing to expose themselves.”

Witt said she was troubled by some of the councilmembers, who referenced private discussions with candidates before the public meeting. She asked if candidates reached out to councilmembers, or vice versa. None responded.

“You asked about transparency,” Robert Eierman said to the council. “You had an opportunity to answer and you blew it again. That’s why you don’t have the trust of the public. You sit there like bumps on a log and won’t respond.”

He said the trend of local voters had shifted in recent years from repeatedly electing all incumbents to re-electing only half incumbents to re-electing no incumbents. “Listen to what the public is saying.”

Scott Garver reiterated that concept. “At every turn the voters have suggested that new blood is the way to go. I know that Morgan has the qualifications, the honoraria, the titles and has given countless hours … I wish you the best of luck and hope and trust that the four of you will do what is best for the community.”

In the end Holloway, Clark and Acton voted for Morgan, and Sanders voted for Bauduin.

“To the community of Ridgecrest, I promise you I will work hard,” said Morgan, who was sworn in after the vote.

“I already heard the comment as I walked up to the lectern, ‘The fix is in.’ You’re going to have to deal with that for the next 14 months. I am sorry certain individuals in the community feel that way.”

“Frankly, I’m sick of trying to appease this crowd over here,” said Holloway. “Some people are never going to be happy. I am confident in our decision. Let the jabs begin.”

Morgan’s appointment leaves an opening on the Planning Commission. City Manager Dennis Speer said he expected the council to fill that vacancy at a future meeting.

Story First Published: 2013-09-18