While many Americans are focused on the upcoming presidential election in November, some county residents are gearing up for an election closer to home.
In the Presidential Primary Election on March 3, Angels Camp Mayor Amanda Folendorf will square off against incumbent Supervisor Dennis Mills for the seat representing District 4, which includes the communities of Angels Camp, Altaville, Salt Spring Valley and Copperopolis.
On Jan. 4, Folendorf held a fundraiser and campaign kickoff event at the Sutton Barn in Vallecito. Supporters mingled over food and drinks, while a DJ played music in the background.
Folendorf is a multigenerational resident of Angels Camp, where she was born and raised. Deaf from infancy, she attended Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the only deaf university in the world, after graduating from Bret Harte High School in 2004.
Eventually transferring to California State University, Sacramento, Folendorf graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations. While in Sacramento, she also interned for Rep. Dan Lungren, Sen. Tom Harman and the Republican Senate Caucus, among other legislative offices where her work included researching legislation, preparing op-eds and engaging with constituents. Following graduation, she worked for various federal government agencies.
In 2014, Folendorf moved back to Angels Camp and successfully ran for city council. After serving as vice mayor for two years, she was appointed mayor in 2018, making her the first deaf female mayor in the country, and the youngest mayor in the history of Angels Camp. She was re-elected in 2018, and reappointed mayor in 2019.
Folendorf said the Jan. 4 event was much more than a fundraiser.
“This is also a kickoff, just to get my name out there, to get everyone together, get the energy going and just connect with everyone in the community,” she said.
Folendorf said that she decided to run because she felt she could bring positive change to county government.
“We just need more unity, more cohesiveness, on the county board, and I think with my experience on city council and as mayor, I have the knowledge and the expertise to do that, and I want to be able to make sure that all of the voices in D4 are being heard, not just a section of it,” she said.
Folendorf said that supporting county workers and building partnerships are among her top priorities.
“I’ve been talking about public safety, bringing together the workforce in the county and just making sure that the county employees are being supported,” she said. “And then partnerships, unifying the board and expanding those partnerships outside of just the county, just bringing the community to come back and be involved. I think my track record at city hall has shown that I’m able to do that.”
Folendorf said that her family taught her the importance of civil service.
“My mom was very active in the community with the historical society, and with the visitors bureau,” she said. “My uncle was a longtime board member, and is still active in the fair. And then my dad is very active in the community as well. So I grew up around it. It’s not anything new. Both my sister and I were expected to participate, and that’s where the civil service comes in. I think it’s important to give back to the community, and make sure that they are being heard.”
While Folendorf said that her close ties to the community would serve her well in gauging local needs, she is still open to new ideas.
“I’m willing to be taught as well,” she said. “What is not being said? What is not being talked about? I want to make sure that if it’s not, it’s being recognized, and it’s being heard. There are things that always come up, and I want to make sure that we listen to what the public is saying.”
Folendorf said that despite her age, she has the experience necessary for the job.
“I’ve won two city council elections. I have a history of experience, and almost more experience than some in the county (government),” she said. “We have a lot of things in the city limits (like fire, water and sewer services) that I have been fortunate to be educated on and have that experience to deal with … In the county, they just don’t have that because the county doesn’t oversee those things. I think it’s really good to have those perspectives when you’re having that dialogue.”
While in Sacramento, she gained insight into the workings of government, Folendorf said.
“I did a lot of internships, and once I graduated, I worked for various federal government agencies, so I have that experience and background, and understand how government processes work,” she said.
Folendorf said she was excited to see supporters beginning to set up her signs across the district.
“We got our signs Christmas Eve, and it’s been awesome seeing people putting them up and seeing them out there,” she said. “It just brings more of that energy, and that excitement to it.”
Creating a better future for the county will require many people working together, Folendorf said.
“We’re all on the same team,” she said. “We want to make not just D4, but Calaveras County better, and we all have that same goal. We all want to live here. We want to be able to invest in our future, and it’s going to take everybody from all of our different paths that brought us here to do it.”
Folendorf supporter David Sweet was among those who attended the event. He pointed out that the average age of county residents has increased significantly in recent years.
“We’re literally a dying county,” he said. “So what do you do to change that? Well, one of the things, I think, is that you have to have younger people involved in politics, both running for office and being actively engaged in politics. And they have to understand that their future is directly correlated to what policies are being enacted by the board … I’m super encouraged about the fact that somebody from this area is running to change things. A younger person is even better.”
Local resident Tami Rakstad-Schaner also attended the event to show her support.
“I think it’s great that she’s going to be targeting younger people, because they have kind of been forgotten about,” she said. “The event was great.”
Due to changes brought about by the California Voter’s Choice Act in 2016, all registered county voters will receive vote-by-mail ballots for the upcoming election. Ballots can be submitted through the mail, at a ballot drop-off location or in-person at a vote center.
Two vote centers will be open in the county beginning 10 days before the election, and another two will open beginning three days before the election. Registered voters can cast their ballots at any location.
All vote centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the days leading up to the election, and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day.