Help Wanted

Will county elections bring new faces?

By Howard Schmidt
August 2021

Sacramento County will have a new Board of Supervisors next year. Exactly how new is an open question.

Three board seats are up for grabs in 2022, but county residents might have just one serious choice with the retirement of veteran member Don Nottoli. Incumbents Phil Serna and Patrick Kennedy hold the other two seats under consideration. Both will run to keep their jobs. The big question is whether they will have viable opponents.

Nottoli began his board service in 1994, which means younger voters in District 5, which encompasses much of the county’s southern regions, will choose a new supervisor for the first time in their lives.

Several politicians have announced their desire to replace Nottoli. Elk Grove City Councilmember Pat Hume, former Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis and Cosumnes Community Services District board member Jaclyn Moreno are in the race. Isleton resident Vernon David Swart also filed campaign papers.

As for Serna and Kennedy, the field is less crowded, at least for now. No formal opponent against Serna had materialized when summer began. Kennedy has one challenger, Duke Cooney, a South Sacramento resident, conservation policy advocate and law student. As a newcomer, Cooney must prove he can raise funds, gain endorsements and build support to challenge Kennedy, a two-term incumbent.

Kennedy represents South Sacramento neighborhoods including Land Park, Hollywood Park, Pocket and Greenhaven. His board tenure has reflected a moderate-to-liberal viewpoint, but he’s been leaning left with efforts to combat climate change and install oversight for the sheriff’s department.

The Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association ran a full-page ad in The Bee soliciting candidates—a strong indication there are no experienced candidates ready to oppose Kennedy or Serna. The deputy labor group says, “Time after time, polls have clearly stated that the majority of people do NOT want their law enforcement defunded.”

There’s plenty of time for challengers to surface against Serna and Kennedy. The law enforcement ad claims polling shows Sacramento City Councilmember Angelique Ashby could beat Serna, but Ashby is running for state Senate. The poll also claims voters want to replace Kennedy. As for the accuracy of all that, time will tell.

Supervisors adopted a preliminary budget of $6.5 billion this summer for the upcoming fiscal year. You can expect those numbers to change by September, when the state updates its revenue information and the county adopts its final budget.

Interim County Executive Ann Edwards says the budget will allow the county “to implement initiatives, plans and processes to accomplish real change and advancement.” She says the county will focus on “diversity, equity and inclusion across county departments and in the community.”

Serna, Kennedy and Nottoli went on record last year to declare racism a public health crisis. They agreed to promote racial equity with respect to policies and resources.

The June preliminary budget includes $12 million to fund an Alternative Emergency Response for people experiencing mental health issues. The word “alternative” means non-law enforcement. The new response will eventually have a standalone phone number independent from 911.

While law enforcement participation will be excluded from the new effort, the current Mobile Crisis Support Teams will continue to operate under 911 protocols. Those teams combine law enforcement with behavioral health experts.

The sheriff’s department took a $428,000 hit with the elimination of the Tobacco Abatement Team, which worked to prevent smoking among juveniles.

Howard Schmidt has worked on the federal, state and local levels of government, including 16 years for Sacramento County. He can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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