Meet the Candidates: Lindsey Stephens

Ridgecrest Mayor

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Meet the Candidates:  Lindsey StephensLindsey Stephens is at the end of her first four-year term on the City Council, but decided this election to run for the two-year mayor seat.

“I waited a long time to pull papers because I was waiting to see what the makeup would look like in each race. I think we have had a very interesting past four years with the council dynamics. I wanted to feel sure that the person overseeing the meetings and building the agenda and setting the tone was representing the interests of our citizens,” she said.

“I am running to make sure the people have a clear voice on the council. I feel the best way to do that is to run for mayor.”

Stephens moved to Ridgecrest in 2012, when her husband accepted a job at China Lake. Although she has a masters degree in urban planning and seven years experience working in that field, when she moved to Ridgecrest she focused on rearing her three children.

Four years ago, she chose to pursue a seat on the council. “I think I have been successful representing the interests of our citizens during my service,” she said.

Through her work on committees she discovered purchasing contracts, which allowed the city to fund long-deferred park repairs at a greatly reduced cost. She advocated for the purchase of a slurry seal machine, which has allowed the city to do more road repairs — also at a reduced cost.

“I think being willing to research ideas and bring them to the table has not typically been done on past councils,” she said. “I think we still have some work to do in the way of economic development, but it’s a very long process.

“We are just now starting to see our efforts bear fruit on some of the projects I worked on during my first year on council.”

Stephens got involved prior to the 2016 election because she said she was concerned about the lack of transparency on the City Council.

“I think a lot of people, with all of the coronavirus restrictions, still feel they are not being heard. The council chambers are closed to the public, and the perception for some is that the council is making decisions without having to listen to outside input from our citizens.”

One issue she’s concerned about is the recently passed “replenishment fee” imposed by the IWV Groundwater Authority, which includes a delegate from the council.

“People are upset, understandably, because their bills are increasing substantially. Searles Valley Minerals, which employs hundreds of residents, may have to shut down.

“There is an overwhelming number of people in opposition of this, and I believe part of the reason is that people were not allowed to show up and participate in the discussion. People feel they haven’t been listened to — and rightly so.”

She said that the fee does not actually cover the costs of water importation, nor has the GA identified a source that is willing to sell the commodity. The GA should have looked into digging exploratory wells and possibly treating or desalinating existing groundwater resources, she said.

“Are we opening ourselves up to litigation by steamrolling forward with these drastic measures? I think there are a lot of other solutions that were never considered.”

Stephens said that the GA did not demonstrate due diligence in reining in costs. The groundwater sustainability plan manager put in a $250,000 bid to write the plan, “but the GA has already spent $3 million on the plan.”

She said that she remains opposed to the casino on the grounds that it will consume money that is currently spent on other local operations without feeding into the same tax base that funds local services. “I still think most people don’t understand that the casino does not pay taxes like other businesses.”

Stephens said that her main focus moving forward will be continuing to find ways to reduce costs and increase revenues.

“One thing we can do is make ourselves more business-friendly to developers,” she said. “California already makes the climate unfriendly, so we are fighting an uphill battle.”

She said that by reducing up-front costs, many developments will be able to contribute more to the city by operating successfully into the future rather than dying in the planning stages.

“I also want to address the issue of ‘dissent.’ I don’t think the City Council needs to vote unanimously on every decision. Having differing opinions is what helps us refine ideas,” said Stephens.

“I know there have been some intense moments between councilmembers, but I think that our job is to make sure we are serving the public to the best of our ability.”

Story First Published: 2020-10-09