Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – Ryan Sundberg officially kicked off his campaign for a third term as Fifth District supervisor during a gathering Monday night at Azalea Hall in McKinleyville.
Humboldt County’s first Native American county supervisor, and one of only three in the State of California, said he would like to continue serving the residents of the sprawling Fifth District, which includes McKinleyville, Trinidad, Orick, Fieldbrook, Willow Creek and Hoopa.
On June 5, voters will choose between Sundberg and challenger Steven Madrone, who announced his candidacy in September. (“Madrone seeks Fifth District seat,” Mad River Union, Sept. 6, 2017.)
Before being elected to his first term in 2010, Sundberg, 43, served on the Trinidad Rancheria Tribal Council and worked at the Sundberg Insurance Agency in Arcata.
One of Sundberg’s political advantages is that he’s well known in McKinleyville, which is the largest community in the Fifth District, with a population of more than 15,000, according to the last Census.
Sundberg grew up in McKinleyville and attended Dow’s Prairie School, McKinleyville High and graduated from Humboldt State with a degree in business administration.
A member of the Mad River Rotary Club, Sundberg has developed a reputation over the past eight years for providing constituent services such as helping residents deal with potholes, nuisance abatements, abandoned vehicles and trash pickups.
“I actually enjoy it,” said Sundberg in an interview last week. Moments before the interview, Sundberg was on Gwin Road in McKinleyville working with volunteers to fill in potholes.
The busy road, which serves several subdivisions and mobile home parks, is privately owned and was never brought into the county’s road system. Because the road is private property, the county cannot legally spend money making road repairs.
So in order to fill the gaping potholes, Sundberg organized a group of volunteers and donors to get the job done. Hooven and Company Inc., Mercer-Fraser, adjacent property owners and others descended on Gwin Road last Friday morning to fill the craters.
Sundberg said he is also working on a long-term fix for Gwin Road, which would be the creation of a road association. Property owners along the road would have to vote to tax themselves to pay for ongoing maintenance.
Sundberg said he receives a constant stream of requests to help solve such problems. He often obtains dumpsters to help with trash cleanups, and is called to neighborhoods to help move along the process of removing abandoned vehicles and other nuisances.
“Random things come up,” he said.”I have enough contacts now that I can make things happen.”
Sundberg said that among his accomplishments during his time in office is the approval of the Humboldt County General Plan Update, which the board OK’d late last year after a 17-year process. Sundberg noted that the plan has not faced a court challenge.
Another major accomplishment is the formation of the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC), which gives the unincorporated community a voice in county matters.
The creation of the committee was called for in the McKinleyville Community Plan, approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2001. However, the committee wasn’t formed until 2012, two years into Sundberg’s first term.
Among the reasons cited for the delay in the committee’s formation, Sundberg said, was a lack of funding. But Sundberg pressed for its creation. ”We did it for free,” Sundberg said. “I think it’s working pretty well.”
The committee also helped solve another problem that McKinleyville residents have complained about for years – the lack of law enforcement officers in town.
The McKMAC sought a solution to the deputy shortage and ultimately recommended that the County of Humboldt pursue a sales tax measure to fund public safety services. The county placed Measure Z on the ballot in 2014 and voters approved the half-cent sales tax increase.
The result is that McKinleyville has more deputies assigned to the Northern Command, which operates out of the Law Enforcement Facility at Pierson Park.
“Now the Law Enforcement Facility in McKinleyville is fully staffed with a lieutenant, two sergeants, and 11 deputies, serving Northern Humboldt County and McKinleyville,” states a press release issued by the Sundberg announcing his campaign kickoff. “By the end of this year, the goal is to have 22 deputies when new deputies are hired. Before this, there were only two deputies serving the entire Northern Humboldt area who came out of Eureka.”
“They’re able to be proactive now,” Sundberg said about the deputies.
In almost every election for Fifth District supervisor, the issue of incorporation comes up. Why isn’t McKinleyville, the largest community in the district, a city?
At the recent State of McKinleyville meeting sponsored by the McKinleyville Chamber of Commerce, Sundberg explained that state law makes incorporation financially unfeasible. There is a requirement that when new cities form, they must be “revenue neutral” to the counties. So if McKinleyville were to become a city, it would not be allowed to take the tax revenues that the county now receives from the town.
Rather than focus on the unlikely possibility of incorporation, Sundberg said he would rather focus on improving services.
“If we’re not going to be a city, how do we make sure we have all the services that a city would have?” Sundberg said.
Sundberg noted that McKinleyville has a new fire station, a library and more deputies. The McKinleyville Community Services District, he said, has ”great parks” and provides sewer, water and other services.
Thanks to Measure Z and the new state-wide gas tax, the county has more money than it has had for years to repair roads.
“With $10 million a year, we can really start making a big difference,” Sundberg said. “They’re going to see a lot of work done in McKinleyville.”
Another reason Sundberg wants to be reelected is so he can retain his seat on the California Coastal Commission, to which he was appointed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Sundberg said he has forged relationships with the commissioners and has become better acquainted with the process.
Among the projects he looks forward to working on is the creation of a cannabis advisory committee to advise the board on all cannabis-related issues.