Meet the Candidates: Eric Bruen

Ridgecrest Mayor

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Meet the Candidates: Eric BruenEric Bruen came to Ridgecrest when he was 27 years old. Sixteen years later, he has built up operations at Desert Valleys Credit Union, a family, and relationships with people who have encouraged him to get more involved.

“I didn’t know anybody, and the first person I got to work with was Chip Holloway. The second person was Peggy Breeden. You talk about getting a lucky roll of the dice! I’ve had 16 years of mentorship with Chip and I’ve had Peggy as a friend for that long,” said Bruen.

“Let me be blunt,” he said about his reasons for running. “We made a terrible decision in 2016 as a community. What we did was we allowed what was so great about Ridgecrest, which is our sense of community … we allowed one issue to create an incredible amount of divisiveness. That was the casino … We let divisiveness become a part of our fabric when it didn’t exist that way before.”

Bruen said he was “disgusted” by the way the newly seated council treated current Mayor Peggy Breeden in 2018. “Peggy is above reproach in what she has given this community,” he said.

“I said, ‘no, that’s not right.’ Me and Peggy began a discussion about the future of the council and future roles and I had always been a little bit in the background, working behind the scenes. I didn’t always want to be an up-front person.

“My concern is that Peggy has already given so much of herself. I finally said ‘I know I need to be the candidate this year in order to make sure we don’t continue this divisive nature.’”

Bruen said he considers himself a moderate. He pointed to his success in “building the brand” of Desert Valleys, “which has been sarcastically called ‘Eric’s credit union’ on more than one occasion.”

However, he said, “the city doesn’t brand ourselves very well. We are actually terrible at branding.”

He said that the first thing he’d like to address is the “isolationist mentality” in the community. “Ridgecrest has a really good ability to look at a great idea and find a way to pooh-pooh it. We say, ‘not in my backyard’ or ‘I don’t want that.’ And it may be only a select group of people, but it happens over and over and over again … it’s one of the reasons we’ve stayed as isolated as we have.”

Bruen said that he believes that “Secret City” mentality started when the base came in the 1940s, and has persisted every since.

“The more we isolate, the more we hurt ourselves.” He said that Ridgecrest is well positioned to be a hub community, which can capitalize on nearby residents and visitors. “Our bread and butter is people passing through. It’s not making money over and over and over again on a resident workforce. PILT [Payment in lieu of taxes] doesn’t exist, Navy support doesn’t exist. We have to look at ourselves differently.”

Bruen said that Ridgecrest also has a “territorial” mentality, where agencies that promote tourism, industry or entrepreneurial advocacy do not work together. “If you take and divide people into lots of little groups, with different costs and salaries and office spaces, how can you be effective?”

He said that the city puts up hurdles rather than breaks down barriers with new business ideas. “We are not developer-friendly. We need to think outside of the box.”

Bruen said that he believes the city needs to increase its revenues, and supports the development of a casino and possibly even a parks and rec tax to support community needs.

“We have to accept something as a community, and I don’t think we accept it well: if we want a pool, we are going to have to pay for a pool. We cannot wait around and expect some government agency or someone else to solve the problem. We made a really poor decision with [not passing] the parks tax.”

Bruen also supports the recently passed water replenishment fee imposed by the Groundwater Authority, and said that the council leaving the GA would be “negligent.”

“There’s two facts that we have to agree on. One, people are innately selfish and if you tell them, ‘I’m going to increase your water bill,’ they’re not going to like it. Second, we live in a desert, we have agriculture and sufficient scientific evidence of a water problem to solve.”

He said that he believes the council, public and media need to “look for solutions instead of this first action toward divisiveness. We are spending all this energy on getting riled up.”

Story First Published: 2020-10-09