Stanislaus LAFCO members resolved a political conflict between city and county interests by appointing former state Assemblyman Bill Berryhill to represent the public on their panel.
Local Agency Formation Commissioners said little Wednesday about Berryhill’s qualifications or experience; the Ceres farmer was a Republican representative in Sacramento from 2008 to 2012. That he largely has flown under the radar since, and is not perceived as aligned with the county or its cities, may have helped his candidacy.
“With a lifetime commitment to agriculture in Stanislaus County, this is something I would be well-suited for,” Berryhill said in brief comments to the panel.
Last month, commissioners – two from county leadership and two from city councils – failed to appoint a public representative when they deadlocked over applicants perceived as friendly to either level of government.
Taxpayers do not want to subsidize bad development.
Matt Beekman, Hughson
Much of the controversy centered on former Hughson Mayor Matt Beekman. He was dismissed in 2015 as a city representative to LAFCO when he supported a farmland preservation policy opposed by a majority of Stanislaus mayors; last year, he left public office and this year sought a return to LAFCO with an appointment to the public seat.
There is a way to thread the needle and allow cities to prosper while sustaining agriculture.
Edwin Pattison, Modesto
When current city representatives rejected Beekman in April, county representatives likewise rejected former Modesto planning commissioner Pat Gillum. LAFCO then called for new candidates and got four more: former Patterson trustee Amy Hussar; Mountain House Community Services District general manager Edwin Pattison; Salida’s Amanda Sorenson, who supported Beekman; and Berryhill.
I have the tenacity to see things through.
Pat Gillum, Modesto
Last month, commissioner Tom Dunlop – an Oakdale councilman – said he didn’t want a former official representing LAFCO’s public category.
On Wednesday, commissioner Kristin Olsen – a county supervisor – used similar logic to reject Beekman and Gillum anew.
The commission would become more politically oriented than policy oriented (with Beekman or Gillum).
Kristin Olsen, Stanislaus County supervisor
“I feel politics can destroy good policy,” Olsen said. Berryhill represents “a good compromise,” she said, and the others – county supervisor Terry Withrow, Turlock Councilwoman Amy Bublak, and Dunlop – agreed without further discussion.
Voting for Berryhill appeared to be “the only way we get through this thing,” Withrow said.
LAFCO has had a run in recent years of former officials filling the spot supposedly reserved for the public at large. Until last month, the position was held by former Modesto Councilman Brad Hawn, who continues to serve as an alternate. The last two public alternates were Annabel Gammon, a former county planning commissioner who supported Beekman, and Ron Freitas, the county’s former planning director.
Among other duties, LAFCOs weigh whether to allow cities to grow, based on various criteria including efforts to comply with farmland preservation guidelines.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390