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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow The Year in Review: Newsmakers of the Year

The Year in Review: Newsmakers of the Year

Elections, turnover in the top spots at the city, national park and state prison, and tests of leadership all marked 2006 in Del Norte County.

As the year closes, several local residents stood out as The Daily Triplicate's "Newsmakers of the Year."

Not all of the newsmakers we've selected made headlines from week to week. In many cases, they rose to prominent positions and worked quietly running operations that affect thousands of people every day.

Other newsmakers faced and often overcame great challenges, maintaining their cool through it all.

In a couple of instances, the newsmakers did something entirely unique, and quite possibly groundbreaking for the rest of the nation.

In no particular order other than alphabetical, here are our selections for top newsmakers of 2006.

Steve Chaney – Many Del Norte County residents may not recognize the name. But in November, Steve Chaney became superintendent of an area larger than Crescent City and Smith River combined and one that brings more than 300,000 people a year to the region: Redwood National Park.

A 30-year Park Service veteran, Chaney most recently oversaw the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. While there, the park's size almost quadrupled.

Chaney will oversee incorporation of acreage into Redwood National Park as well. Most notable is the 25,000-acre Mill Creek addition.

Another project is construction of a $10 million joint maintenance facility for state and national parks

staff. It will be located on Elk Valley Road.

Chaney took over as superintendent in November. He replaced Bill Pierce, who retired in August.

Rich Enea – Rich Enea's star rose and fell during 2006. Appointed to the Crescent City Council 19 months ago, Enea previously served on the city Planning Commission, where he helped bring Home Depot here.

While on the council, he was actively involved in establishing a visitors bureau, a much needed step for marketing our area to potential tourists. He also spearheaded zoning changes so downtown businesses can have apartments above their stores, which in turn brings people to the business district while increasing the local stock of housing in an area with limited private land availability.

On his own time, he helped form a number of Neighborhood Watch programs in the city, a proven way of curbing crime in many other municipalities.

But in November, running for the position to which he had been appointed, he garnered third place in a race for two posts and found himself off the council.

Bob Horel – On June 1, Bob Horel took command of Pelican Bay State Prison as its new warden, replacing Richard Kirkland.

Horel inherited a troubled prison. On Jan. 1, inmate Jesse Sosa was found dead from strangulation in his cell. It marked the second inmate death at the facility in four months. In February, prison officials discover that inmates had possession of personnel documents for 64 past and present employees, most of them guards. In March, investigators searched the prison for a rifle cartridge that went missing from the facility's control room; concerned correctional officers said too little was being done to find the bullet, however. In April, about 25 inmates attack 10 others in the prison's outdoor yard. A couple of weeks later, a brawl at Facility B left a dozen inmates injured; corrections officers quelled the fight among 24 inmates with pepper spray and rubber bullets.

Since Horel arrived, however, the prison has been much quieter. Among the reasons was a massive reorganization. of the prison's two general inmate population facilities. Horel oversaw that change.

Dave Mason – After two years — almost to the day — of working as the county's Code Enforcement Officer, Dave Mason perhaps made the greatest impact of any single person during the past year in the way Del Norte County appears.

Mason is charged with cleaning up blight, and he worked to wipe out several acres of junk piles and abandoned buildings.

His boss, Community Development Department Director Ernie Perry, said the board of supervisors wanted to take more action taken via its blight abatement program.

"He's achieved that," Perry said. "He's familiar with the process and the steps to take in dealing with a private property."

Most owners understand why Mason approaches them, Perry said but added that, "the exceptions are exceptional."

"It encourages others not to let their property get to that point," he said.

Sheriff Dean Wilson has high praise for Mason's work, calling him "critical" in ridding the area of meth houses.

"It's just nice to have someone out there working hard," Wilson said.

Raquel Mitola and Tasha Riddle – Crescent City natives Tasha Riddle and Raquel Mitola have been inseparable since they met on the Bess Maxwell School playground more than two decades ago.

They've sloshed through puddles in galoshes together.

They've done the county fair together (in matching outfits).

And in 2006, the two friends had babies together.

More specifically, they had Tasha Riddle's babies together. Both women were implanted with Riddle's embryos in September 2005.

"My husband and I were trying to have a baby for about seven years," said Riddle, who now lives in Coos Bay, Ore.

Riddle suffered through several miscarriages and were at the point of considering adoption.

Then Mitola, of Crescent City, offered to be a surrogate.

But here's where the story gets really interesting: The implanted embryos resulted in Mitola becoming pregnant with twins.

And then Riddle succeeded as well in becoming pregnant – with twins.

On May 10, Mitola gave birth to the twins at Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City. The saga ended four days later when Riddle gave birth.

Though, as any parent knows, giving birth is really just the beginning ...

Eli Naffah – Looking for a city manager who could encourage economic development, Crescent City found their man in Eli Naffah. Bringing extensive economic development background to the table, Naffah, 55, was chosen last spring from a field of more than 40 applicants.

The former Rio Dell city manager, Eli Naffah, quickly moved to the post after being offered the job in May.

While Naffah hasn't made many headlines since then, he's been settling into the position and beginning to work on development. In his most visible moved, he went to Palm Springs in October marketing Crescent City to businesses at a convention of retailers looking to expand in across California.

Mike Riese – Del Norte County's district attorney suffered a long a year of controversy. Finishing his first term in office, Mike Riese faced a feisty challenge from local attorney Jon Alexander, who said Riese was "soft on dope."

Good news came to Riese in June, however. On June 1, the Del Norte Sheriff's Office determined he committed no crime when he sold an automatic weapon registered to his office. Five days later, Riese won re-election, handily defeating Alexander.

But the controversy didn't end there. As June waned, the 2005-06 Del Norte County Grand Jury report admonished Riese for dropping felony charges against three individuals accused of bilking $730,000 after his office garnered $1.2 million in restitution for the alleged victims.

Kelly Schellong – Active in the community for more than 15 years, Schellong decided to run for the City Council in the November election, a bold move given that both incumbents were seeking re-election. She won in a landslide, however, garnering more votes than any of the other candidates.

In addition to sitting on the board of the Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of Commerce, Schellong had volunteered with and eventually became president of the JayCees, started as an advocate with and sat on the Court Appointed Special Advocates board, chaired the city's crab races and Fourth of July celebration, was on the committee behind the California Redwood Birding Trail and directed the Junior Miss Scholarship pageant.

"If you can direct a pageant with 17 teenagers, you could run a city, right?" Schellong joked last summer after announcing her candidacy.

A large number of city voters agreed on Nov. 7, electing her to the council.

Kim Schmidt – Head of this area's Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority, Schmidt's primary focus is economic development, a skill he parlayed effectively in Washington and is now applying to Del Norte County.

His history includes "extensive" work bringing public and private entities together to work toward business recruitment, said Hambro Vice President/Controller Jay Freeman.

"It's what's needed here," Freeman said. "Thinking long-term is what you need in creating an economic base."

During his time here, Schmidt has focused hard on the HAZ199.com issue, which addresses the myriad transportation-related obstacles blocking the county's economic development.

Schmidt also has quietly searched for investors interested in opening a restaurant at Crescent City Harbor — a large part of the harbor area's master plan. He also is part of an ongoing effort to attract an industrial park to Del Norte County Airport.

At year's end he was busy continuing his efforts to bring better, more complete fiberoptics communication to this technically challenged Northcoast county.

Richard Young – If anyone in Del Norte County deserves a bottle of antacid, it's Richard Young, Crescent City's harbormaster. As head of one of northern California's top fishing ports, he's faced a number of challenges.

The year began with three live-in boats sinking in four months, all while moored at the harbor. In one case, harbor officials didn't know who owned the boat.

In October, reports of buried cables near Abalone International at Whaler Island delayed the harbor's dredging project for several days.

Then, in November, a 5.9 foot tsunami wave struck the harbor, causing $1.2 million in damage.

All of this came as the Harbor Commission charged Young with implementing a new master plan that aims to remake the facility by mixing waterfront hotels, restaurants, retail stores, museum and pedestrian promenade with a working fishing port.

But Young met each of these challenges and others with grace. And there is great confidence among many that he's up to the task of reconstructing and rejuvenating the harbor during the years ahead.

Triplicate staff writer Cornelia de Bruin contributed to this story.

 


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