Facing a backlash from a small group of conservatives, Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg has withdrawn his appointment of environmentalist Jen Kalt to the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC).
Kalt’s appointment to the McKMAC was previously heralded by Sundberg as an effort to bring balance to the McKinleyville committee.
But soon after his Oct. 7 announcement of the appointment, Sundberg began hearing grumblings from conservative individuals, whom he declined to name.
“There’s been quite the backlash for her being picked for that [the McKMAC],” Sundberg said in an interview last week.
One of the concerns raised by the conservatives, he said, is that Kalt is a paid staff member of Humboldt Baykeeper. Kalt serves as the environmental organization’s director. Kalt has also been active in the update of the county’s General Plan. But the McKinleyville resident’s politics may not have been the only issue at play.
“I think a lot of it was personal,” Sundberg said.
Concerned that Kalt’s opponents would somehow disrupt the McKMAC, Sundberg decided to yank Kalt’s appointment.
Kalt’s opponents, Sundberg said, might cause problems by attending McKMAC meetings and working to undermine the committee. Or, he said, “they can do things behind the scenes.”
Sundberg has replaced Kalt with Craig Tucker, a McKinleyville resident who is the head fisheries biologist for the Karuk Tribe.
“I had a goal of balancing out the advisory committee and this accomplishes that goal without the risk of even more controversy,” Sundberg said.
Having her appointment rescinded came as a surprise to Kalt, who was asked to join the McKMAC by Sundberg on Oct. 3. Kalt, who has never attended a McKMAC meeting, said it took a lot of courage for Sundberg to appoint her.
After the appointment, Kalt received a roster of McKMAC members from Humboldt County Clerk of the Board Kathy Hayes, showing that she was on the committee. Kalt was also scheduled to meet and discuss the committee with McKMAC Chair Ben Shepherd, who she said was supportive of her appointment.
While Kalt was preparing to serve on the McKMAC and attend her first meeting, the unnamed conservatives were lobbying Sundberg to reverse his appointment.
“He [Sundberg] said he’s gotten a lot of heat over approving me,” Kalt said.
Kalt said she understood Sundberg’s decision and agreed to step down for the good of the McKMAC.
“There are some people who will make the public process intolerable,” said Kalt, who also observed, “There’s a problem with bullying in politics.”
Asked for a comment on the rescinded appointment, McKMAC Chair Shepherd stated “I was supportive of Jen’s appointment to the MMAC [McKMAC] and would like to see voices from a diverse range of people that represent McKinleyville. I also support Ryan and how he chooses to select appointees. My many years of experience on boards and commissions also help me understand that whether deserved or not, controversy can impair both the individual and the Board’s ability to function effectively.”
The McKMAC is a seven-member committee which advises the county Board of Supervisors and county departments on issues affecting McKinleyville. The authority to appoint members to the committee is divvied up between the Fifth District Supervisor, the Board of Supervisors as a whole and the McKinleyville Community Services District.
As the Fifth District Supervisor, Sundberg gets to choose three of the seven committee members. He appointed, and then removed, Kalt, who was going to replace Tim Hooven, who resigned. Tucker now replaces Kalt. Earlier this month, Sundberg also re-appointed McKMAC members Barbara Georgianna and Eleanor Sullivan.
Patrick Barsanti, Kevin Dreyer and Ben Shepherd were appointed by the Board of Supervisors.
The McKinleyville Community Services District appointed Helen Edwards. Whoever holds the position of MCSD Manager, which is now Greg Orsini, also serves on the committee, but as a non-voting member.
The McKMAC meets on the last Wednesday of every month at 5 p.m. at the Azalea Conference Center, located behind McKinleyville Middle School at 275 Central Ave.