Adam Madison, The Triplicate

Del Norte voters face tough choices in the two-man races for county auditor/controller and College of the Redwoods trustee.

The good news is that all four candidates are well qualified and could easily receive the endorsements of The Daily Triplicate. Today, however, only two of them do.


Clinton Schaad and Jeff Leighton are both qualified for the job of shepherding the county's finances, but their qualifications are strikingly different. Schaad touts his local roots, his experience in county government as a financial officer for the Sheriff's Office and his familiarity with the players in county government. Leighton points to the fact he is a certified public accountant with experience as a chief financial officer and as a management consultant serving not-for-profit organizations.

Schaad, who is also a volunteer firefighter and wrestling coach, said he would devote all of his professional attention to the auditor/controller position. Leighton, who is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and has provided pro-bono consultations to local organizations, has said he would shrink but not discontinue his consulting business if elected auditor/controller.

Voters would do well to base their decision on those facts, instead of being caught up in the controversy surrounding a perceived slight of the late Christie Babich, the longtime auditor/controller who died in June. In explaining his belief that the job could ultimately be accomplished in less than full-time hours, Leighton said during a public appearance that he had been told Babich sometimes worked 24 hours a week.

The fact of the matter is that elected officials are expected to fulfill the responsibilities of their office, whatever the hours required. Babich may very well have worked 24 hours some weeks, and perhaps far more some other weeks. She also often worked at home, so it's hard to say how many total hours she was putting in.

Leighton made that exact point during an interview with The Daily Triplicate, saying he would put in whatever hours are necessary as auditor/controller and that he expected the position would require "total immersion for some period of time."

He did not insult Babich. Frankly, negativity of any sort does not seem to be part of Leighton's repertoire.

Schaad is equally likable. Indeed, the term "total immersion" describes his life in Del Norte County as a sheriff's employee, a firefighter and a mentor of young athletes. He makes a compelling case that his experience managing the largest General Fund draw in the county for the Sheriff's Office has prepared him for the job of auditor/controller.

The position does not require being a CPA, but if Schaad is elected he should consider becoming one. He said he'd like to serve in this role for the foreseeable future, and he also said he already has the education, experience and knowledge that being a CPA requires. So why not study up for the exam and prove it?

Again, both candidates are qualified to be the auditor/controller. Furthermore, we're convinced that they would both devote sufficient time and effort to the position, even if Leighton does continue some consulting work. There's no wrong choice here, but we do lean toward the guy with the local experience and the commitment to making this job his sole professional focus.

The Triplicate endorses Clinton Schaad for county auditor/controller.


Is the Del Norte campus getting a fair shake from the rest of the Redwood Community College District?

No, says Stephen McCollum, a maintenance specialist and longtime employee at the college who is the challenger in the race for the Del Norte position on the district's Board of Trustees.

Yes, says incumbent Rick Bennett, who helped establish CR's local campus and served as its dean before being elected to the Board of Trustees 16 years ago.

Both candidates are thoroughly familiar with the College of the Redwoods and its issues. And both recognize that there's only so much Del Norte's lone representative can accomplish for the local campus while serving on a nine-member board.

McCollum notes the district has not replaced a Del Norte business technology instructor who departed last spring, and its failure so far to deliver a science lab facility that was promised years ago. He also points to the district's purchase of an elementary school site for renovation into an instructional site in Garberville, where he feels there is not an established need.

The district should be taking care of its existing campuses first, McCollum said, and Del Norte with all of its modular structures is in need of upgrades.

Bennett said Del Norte's needs for a new business technology instructor position and a science lab facility are not being ignored, but are simply caught up in the trustees' balancing act during a tight budget time. The trustees from elsewhere, mostly Humboldt County, value the Del Norte campus and have been supportive of it over the years, he said.

Both men want more for the Del Norte campus. McCollum would like to expand the science program and offer teacher credentials. Bennett would like to establish a park ranger academy and law enforcement certification classes. Both want more vocational training.

In reality, the current challenge may be to keep what we have in tough economic times. Regardless, McCollum and Bennett both seem capable of representing Del Norte well on the Board of Trustees.

At 82, Bennett is something of a local treasure. He continues to serve in various volunteer capacities, he has organized an annual wildflower show and co-authored a book detailing many of the region's most exotic wildflowers and the legacy of local naturalist Ruby Van Deventer.

But he has already served on the CR Board of Trustees for 16 years. He wants to continue because he believes in the value of the college. So, clearly does McCollum, 50.

It's another close call. Re-electing Bennett is not a bad option, but with a viable challenger, we're intrigued with the potential for a fresh approach to Del Norte's representation.

The Triplicate endorses Stephen McCollum for the CR Board of Trustees.

- The Triplicate