Meet the Candidates: Thomas Wiknich

Ridgecrest Mayor

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Meet the Candidates: Thomas WiknichThomas Wiknich said that he wants to restore relationships between the city and council to the days when the public had more say in the issues.

“When I first got involved, I was new to Ridgecrest,” he said. He moved here in the 1980s to work on the base. One day a neighbor came and asked him to accompany him to City Hall. “I grew up thinking you couldn’t fight city hall. But at that time there was an issue, people came down and fought it, and they beat it.”

The council was open to people at that time, he said. “But there is not that same dynamic today.”

Wiknich served a term in the 1980s, and another in the early 2000s, and has since been on the ballot for council or mayor in every election since 2010.

“We don’t have an incumbent running this time,” he said. “Peggy did the job, and she did the job for six years. Now it’s someone else’s turn. Basically, the people have to decide whose turn it is going to be.”

Wiknich said that one of his most important qualifications is his experience.

“The mayor position is a two-year seat and there’s no time for OJT training, more or less. And I would hope that the voters, when they decide on the four candidates for mayor, they look at our backgrounds, our educations, our experience and what we bring to the position.

“I’m ready to do the job Day One. Since there’s not an incumbent running, it’s a wide open field. Ive always placed very well in every election. There’s always been a large contingency in the town that has backed me in the past.”

Professionally, Wiknich has worked in civil service as well as in private business. He has served on the Ridgecrest Planning Commission and City Council, as vice mayor and on numerous committees associated with the city. “Each one of those steps is a learning process.”

He said that he would like to see more openness at the council. “I have an extreme desire that I want people involved in the process. There is so much done behind closed doors. And now with COVID-19, and them not opening up the meetings to the public, I think that is the wrong thing to do. We can have proper distancing, we can wear masks. There is no, in my opinion, good reason why they can’t open it up.”

Other than running the meetings and setting the agenda, the mayor “has no more authority than a council member,” he said. “The only part it does change is when you leave town.” He said that when he was involved in the League of California Cities he discovered that some trainings and presentations were only open to mayors.

“Locally, there is no difference at all.”

Wiknich said that he believes the city should maintain a seat on the IWV Groundwater Authority, but disagreed with the way the replenishment fee was handled.

“The fact that the people can’t participate, the way the meeting was run, how many letters in opposition were ignored … they should have delayed it a couple of months so that people could participate. They don’t have anything really targeted for the fee, other than ‘let’s get it passed because we need to have it,’ then why not wait?”

The casino is “a dead issue,” he said, now that the council has signed a new agreement. “It’s in the state’s hands at this point. And with the developers, in terms of whether they can do it or not. We just have to wait and see what happens.”

Wiknich said that the city sometimes makes it harder than necessary for new businesses and developments.

“I think the city should have an open Town Hall and invite any businesses that want to participate and have an open discussion on what the city can do to help our business community. This is a serious thing. People think there are businesses getting rich in this community, and they are not. The city needs to listen to the people.”

Wiknich would like to see the city — which gets the lowest share of property tax of any municipality in Kern County — renegotiate its share of the tax. “It’s always brought up during campaigns and then we never hear about it again.”

Part of the job of a mayor is to fight for their people. “I don’t see that at the city. Not in the way they run the meetings. Not in the way they ask the city manager and attorney what to do. The council should be the leaders.”

Story First Published: 2020-10-09