Destination Angels Camp (DAC) and the Angels Camp Business Association (ACBA) hosted a forum Thursday evening spotlighting the five candidates vying for three seats on the Angels Camp City Council. A fourth seat vacated by incoming District 4 Supervisor Amanda Folendorf will be filled by council appointment.
The event, which could be viewed in-person or via Zoom, was moderated by DAC Board of Directors Chairperson Tim Oskey at the Calaveras County fairgrounds. Three of the five candidates running for the Mark Twain Union Elementary School District Board of Directors also participated.
Meet the City Council candidates
Jennifer Davis-Herndon is a multi-generational native of Angels Camp. She works as a project manager for the Calaveras County Department of Public Works and was previously the director for the county Chamber of Commerce, as well as administrative officer for ACBA. Herndon’s volunteer experience includes AMA youth sports, the Calaveras Cancer Society and junior livestock organizations for the fair. She is currently a director on the Friends of the Fair board.
Incumbent Linda Hermann has spent the past four years serving on the City Council after moving to Angels Camp seven years ago. While living in San Jose, Hermann served on a school board and was board president of a neighborhood group. Her volunteer work in Calaveras County includes helping organize events in the city’s historic downtown and serving as a past executive director and board member for the Calaveras Door of Hope Pregnancy Center.
Jeremy Leonard is a fifth-generation Angels Camp native, business owner and volunteer. His company Whiskey Slide Productions has staged events for local causes. He serves on advisory boards for the Calaveras Visitors Bureau and the Angels Camp Community Club, and previously served on the Friends of the Fair board. His second company, Whiskey Slide Land Services, has partnered with the Calaveras Foothills Fire Safe Council to clear defensible space at the homes of seniors and the disabled.
Kara Scott is a business owner and volunteer in the community. She has served on advisory boards for Studio 4 School of Dance and Mind Matters Clinic for mental health services. Scott has coached various youth sports and volunteered as a school yard duty. Other volunteer work includes helping organize school fundraisers and events, serving meals at the fair, and visiting residents at the Foothill Village Senior Living Community with her children.
Gretel Tiscornia is a lifelong Calaveras County resident and owner of the popular Pickle Patch Deli, which she opened 22 years ago in San Andreas. She recently opened a boutique in downtown Angels Camp called Mingo’s on Main, and plans to unveil a second restaurant at the city’s Visitor Center next year. Tiscornia currently serves on the ACBA Board of Directors and often donates to community causes via her businesses.
Question: Describe the top three objectives you hope to accomplish in your term of office.
Build up Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) ...
“That comes from the tourism. So, WorldMark, getting them back, and then getting literature up to WorldMark about all the things we have in Angels Camp that they can take advantage of, rather than going up to Murphys or Arnold.”
“Downtown has been hit the hardest. Some have closed and some are still just kind of waiting. We need to have more stability. We need to have more assurance that once they open, they can stay open. And so, we need to find that common sense. … That’s what we’re looking for with COVID-19. What is common sense, and when is the cure worse than the disease? So, right now we’re at the point where the cure and disease are kind of here, and we’ve got to get the cure going or we’re going to lag too far behind, and the disease is going to be much worse than COVID. It’s going to be poverty.”
“We found that, in this last fire, that it is something that’s very dangerous, and we have a lot of woods area. … We need to start cleaning out those forests. I know it’s not easy. I would hope we could find grants or something like this where it doesn’t burden the owners as much. But still, something has to be done, because that was a warning.”
“I would like to see if there’s a way that we can maybe come alongside the businesses as council members and see how we can help them. If there’s any grants where we can help get things back on track with the whole situation with COVID.”
“We don’t have very many restaurants in Angels Camp, and that’s really sad as well… because we go up to Murphys, because Murphys has a lot of them. So can we bring that back? The one thing I think is great is we’re right in the process of making Angels Camp more attractive by putting the sidewalks in and all the things we’ve already put into motion. So, I’m hoping that maybe those will be helpful in continuing to help grow Angels Camp.”
More family activities…
“Jeremy mentioned the park. I think that’s a great place to start.”
“Getting businesses in the empty buildings down there. … We need that bad. Too many people that come to visit, they’re bypassing Angels Camp. We need to get people downtown and get it back to the way it was when we were all growing up as kids here.”
Increasing police funding…
“We need more officers, for the safety of the town and our community. We’re growing, they’re shrinking. That’s a huge focus for me right now.”
Being a “bridge” to the community…
“I’d like to sit down with somebody, hear their concerns and take that back to city hall. Be a team player for our community and our town.”
“Like Linda said, the fire was just way too close. … We really need to focus on public safety. I fully support the plan that staff has recommended for the fire program that they’re putting in place, which is abatement – earlier abatement – for years to come, public outreach and community involvement.”
Progress and growth…
“Economically, we’re dying on the vine if we can’t get some sort of progress growth and more sales tax for the city. … It has to be the right kind of growth. We all want to preserve our rural heritage and rural lifestyle, but let’s definitely bring some more sales tax and more events, and more things to the city.”
“I think that that comes hand in hand with private ownership. … Ways that we could definitely get the town cleaned up, this could be through code compliance and ‘clean up your yard,’ less broken-down vehicles, throw some paint on your fence. Both businesses and neighborhoods could be cleaned up, and it could make a difference and attract new buyers and new businesses.”
“I really would like to see it be a mecca for people to come. … Once they come into town, I think that it will keep more of our tax dollars here because they will shop at Save Mart, they will go to the feedstore, they’ll go to Middleton’s. … Once we have that draw, whether it be restaurants or shops that keeps all our revenue within our city… that’s a huge pull.”
Water and sewer improvements…
“If you don’t have a functioning sewer system and water system, you don’t have a town, and we’re definitely having an issue with that. It affects every single person here. It affects the tourists that come in. It affects businesses that want to come in here.”
Civil employee retention…
“They come here, they learn how to do the job, and then they leave. … We need to change that. One of the sweet things about having a city is having your own fire department and your own police department, but having a constant training ground? … We need to work on fixing that and keeping our locals here working.”
Q: What would you do to revitalize the historic district?
“Maybe if we had a brewery (or) something like that. Something that we can have as our own little trademark. … It would be interesting to see what kinds of businesses would rejuvenate downtown.”
“Getting businesses in those empty buildings. We just all need to get through this COVID era that we’re in now. … Working with the Angels Camp Community Club, revitalizing the playground structure at Utica Park, maybe a water playground or another feature at the park. … We just need to fill those buildings. I know it breaks my heart and other locals here when we drive through town and see those empty buildings.”
“I’ve always thought that the historic district has been kind of a forgotten child. …There’s too many vacancies. We need to motivate the landowners in some way. … Maybe some sort of an incentive to get them to rent or lease or sell. It’s their property, they have land use rights, but we can motivate them some way. … Working closely with DAC and ACBA to get them as many opportunities as possible.”
“You have a few landowners who own half of downtown, and they’re not motivated at all. So there has to be some type of way to get them to recognize (it). … (Like) if you have a shop that’s open for three or six months, and it stays empty, we’re going to impose a fine on you. Some kind of something that motivates these people to work with business owners. …
Encouraging business owners to spruce up the fronts of their businesses would be another plus. I think kind of working with them, whether ACBA or DAC says, ‘Hey if we supply the paint at cost will you put it on your building?’ (Also) getting the theatre back open will be huge. …What can we do to get angels to participate in using the creek? … All these little towns that have rivers do amazing.”
“We were having great success, we really were, in revitalizing the downtown. New shops were moving in before COVID came. … And one of the things we had planned, we were going to work out (Visitors Bureau tours). ... (We’re) looking towards having something called Angels Creek Trail. …
When we were first starting to stimulate downtown, there were the owners that won’t lease, right? So we said, ‘OK, we’re going to forget them.’ … We’re going to go for what is, what we can do, and that’s when we got the Utica Hotel and now, with Gretel … It’s not going to be easy, but when we start doing it, shop downtown.
Q: What are your financial priorities for the city and what are some ideas that you have to generate new revenue?
“I personally aim to sink my teeth into the budget. … I’m fiscally conservative. I’m frugal. … There might be something on the budget that stands out where spending doesn’t make sense to me or a cut could be made, or something else could be transferred over a different way. …
Generating new revenue? We’ve got to get this town opened back up. … If we can continue with the shop local atmosphere and mindset, if we can generate new business, get new businesses here, maximize grants… reach out to partners, there is a way to get businesses opened back up.”
“There has to be a way that we can staff properly, handle the retirement issues and make the city run properly without hearing the city’s broke. … As far as new ideas, I would love to try and make this a walking town. … The sidewalks are a fantastic addition, and the whole town should be paved in sidewalks at some point.”
“One thing is increasing the sales tax. And one thing that will help that is Frog Jump Plaza. There’s the thought of expanding in the back and having more shops there in the back which would bring more sales tax. …
“What we can do is save some money, like Utica Water and Power Authority (UWPA). The state has been very difficult with the smaller water districts, and there may be a hope for the future that we could start getting something through a program… that is associated with (Pacific Gas and Electric Company)… the city is carrying UWPA right now because electricity is going solar, and they’re not selling as much electricity through the water district.”
“As a small business owner, I’m actually a numbers nerd. I love dealing with the money and where the money is going… Sales tax. How can we bring businesses here? … We spend so much of our money in Sonora or going over to Amador, and it’s not staying here. …
The negotiations for the power the water is generating. Where are we on that? Are we in a contract there? Is that a way that we can bring in money, by selling the power at a higher price?
“I’d kind of like to echo everyone’s statements. I’m still going through the current budget now and getting up to speed on it. … I’d like to be able to sit down with many of our successful business owners here in town, a lot of them are here tonight, (talk) on their thoughts and what’s worked for them keeping their businesses going for many, many years here. …
Tourism is huge. And with Martin Huberty back there with our Visitors Bureau, he’s got a lot of great ideas coming for the future.”