Meet Your Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Candidates

Caroline Griffith, EcoNews Journalist

Humboldt County Districts. Source:

The State of California has changed the date of the primary election to March 3, meaning the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors election is right around the corner. County Supervisors determine the character of our county in many ways, not least of which is through the shaping of land use policies. In addition to updating the county’s General Plan, which has been ongoing for the last decade and determines what activities can take place on properties, Supervisors also appoint Planning Commissioners who have an immense amount of say in how our natural resources are treated. Are our rivers, beaches, trees and soil resources to be exploited for profit? Or are they vital to our survival and in need of protection? Do business interests carry more weight than the public interest? How can we preserve our quality of life for future generations?

The EcoNews reached out to the five candidates running for Board of Supervisors for District 2 and the two candidates running for District 1 to ask them to about their environmental platform. Given the space constraints of this issue, they kept their statements to 250 words. We hope this will pique your interest and inspire you to look further into the candidates. The winners of these races will play an important role in determining how Humboldt County faces the climate crisis and sea level rise, how we meet our future energy needs, and what we do to protect our fisheries and drinking water. There is a lot at stake.


District 1

Incumbent, Rex Bohn
I love Humboldt, which means I love our environment. As a grandfather of three and a lifelong conservationist, I want to see that we have a clean and healthy planet in which to thrive.

As a supervisor it is our responsibility to implement policies that comply with California’s extensive environmental laws to ensure the protection of our natural resources. In my eight years as a public servant, I have championed many efforts for the benefit of the environment. Here are a few:

  • Trails: Secured funding for the completion of the Humboldt Bay Trail. Trails allow people to be physically active, connect with the outdoors, and help make Humboldt County a great place to live and visit.
  • Forests: Acquisition and expansion of the McKay Community Forest. I led discussions for the county and over the last five years we’ve added a thousand acres of community forest to Eureka to protect, restore and enhance one of the most biologically significant tracts of land in the region.
  • Climate change: It is time to get serious about climate change and we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. I introduced a resolution to create a citizen advisory council for the county’s climate action plan. I added language stipulating that all renewable energy be locally-sourced and created in the county. Humboldt County currently burns natural gas for the majority of our electricity, which is why I’ve been supportive of local on-shore and off-shore wind development. I ask for your vote on March 3, #LoveHumboldt.

Challenger, Cliff Berkowitz
I am a life-long environmentalist. I will make all decisions through the lens of what is best for the people of Humboldt County, the environment and climate crisis, and whether it preserves the unique qualities that make our area special. We must protect our forests, ag lands, and drinking water. One of the core principals of my candidacy is fair and transparent land use decisions.

My opponent says “Humboldt County is open for Business,” but business at what cost? In 2004 he supported the efforts to bring in a liquified natural gas terminal to Humboldt Bay. He supported the environmentally flawed Terra-Gen project.

All growth must be smart growth and environmentally appropriate to preserve what makes Humboldt County unique. We must act immediately to stem the effects of sea level rise and plan long-term for how to protect low lying areas such as the 101 corridor between Eureka and Arcata. I also support green energy solutions that make sense for Humboldt County.
For the past 12 years I have been an outspoken advocate for a regional trail system throughout the county. As supervisor, I will work hard for its completion. I am also proud to be endorsed by the Sierra Club.

Humboldt County is now at a critical crossroads. We have the potential now to create an amazing future. It is not the time for the status quo. Humboldt’s best days are still ahead of us.

District 2

Incumbent, Estelle Fennell
As 2nd District Supervisor, I will continue the work I am doing to protect our vital natural resources. I have a proven track record of stepping up and doing the hard work that it takes to ensure that our decision-making process is founded on wise management and protection of our environment. I am committed to working together toward environmentally sound solutions.

Aside from working to implement protections embodied in State law, I work to identify potential solutions to local challenges and ways to implement them: I sponsored and brought forward a resolution against the sales of anti-coagulant rodenticides in Humboldt County long before other jurisdictions recognized their use as incredibly harmful to threatened species.

Along with many other environmental policies, I worked to ensure that our General Plan Update included a prohibition against shale oil extraction (fracking) in Humboldt County.
I continue to work on ensuring that Humboldt’s cannabis industry becomes a leader in environmentally responsible practices.

I am currently working to identify and implement a resource-based regional solution to the Potter Valley Project which will restore water to the Eel River for our fisheries and communities as well as open up essential spawning grounds in the upper reaches of the natural basin.

As a strong advocate for alternative energy, I am working with numerous stakeholders to identify and implement strong sustainable solutions for our County and to find proactive projects that will be a win-win for our communities, environment and economy as we face the challenges of climate change.

Challenger, Michael McKaskle
I’m running for Supervisor to help steer our County towards being gentler on the planet and better at adapting to climate change. State and Federal laws constrain us so we need to be creative. Visionary action is necessary. Choices have consequences. Diversity enhances stability in Ecology and Economics.

We can have a more localized economy and still share our bounty of sustainable food and forest products, clean energy, innovation, and peak experiences with the world. We need green infrastructure, environmental remediation and fire-safe forest restoration. Intact ecosystems provide resources and good jobs, forever. We live among the world’s premiere forests! People want to visit. Let’s welcome them but keep impacts light.

Since joining Redway’s CSD board 11+ years ago I’m happiest about starting a countywide program for budget-neutral solar panel installation at public facilities. I’m also proud of attempting to stop public subsidies for airlines and opposing the State funding most of an infrastructure project but getting no ownership of it. I lost those votes 10 to 2. Modern Monetary Theory shows necessary projects can be paid for with Federal money without causing inflation or tax increases, provided a project’s needed inputs exist.

Share your vision, consume wisely, vote and lobby but most importantly, volunteer for a ‘minor’ public board yourself. They are easy to get on and where change starts. Just start attending the meetings, you’ll learn oodles and prepare yourself to act more effectively. Please be one of the many future officeholders needed to shift our course.

Challenger, Sean DeVries
Terragen wasn’t the answer to our climate problems. So now what?
In May 2018, an HSU student did their master’s thesis on the implementation of utility-grade solar at abandoned mill sites across Humboldt County. The study showed promise, with the proposed solar installations creating several hundred local jobs and about 30% or so of Humboldt’s energy needs.

The next step in exploring the feasibility of this proposal is to collect solar energy and shade data from each site to confirm its viability. The data won’t cost too much to collect and will provide the basis for obtaining funding for the project.
What else can we do?

We can work to implement improved mass-transit options throughout the county. Maybe fuel-cell or electric buses?

Maybe the county provides incentives for the installation of solar and battery systems across the county?

Maybe we work on strengthening our grid to allow for independence from PG&E blackouts? Blue Lake has shown us what a national-class micro-grid looks like and there is no reason we can’t work to install similar systems across our home.

I’ve only got 250 words, so please forgive the brevity, but lastly, we could sue Big Oil to help offset the costs of the climate change retrofits that will become necessary in the next decade. Several other municipalities in California have already done this, and it seems like a good move given that Humboldt County is second in the state when it comes to being impacted by climate change. Thank you.

Challenger, Richard French
Age 74. Married 44 years with 3 children and 4 grandchildren. Humboldt County resident for approximately 40 years, 6 years in Blocksburg and 34 years in Hydesville. Retired Water Manager, Hydesville County Water District.

My family has been a long term term supporter of Friends of the Eel. I live just 3 miles from the confluence of the Eel and Van Duzen and am a gravel consumer, so I have plenty of concerns in addition to fish populations. I do want to emphasize that our county government has definitely made many poor decisions that were based on greed and favoritism and not in the best interest of the county’s natural resources. Estelle is at the top of my list to be replaced. I’ll be relieved when the Attorney General’s office concludes their investigation of our county.

Simply put: I was provoked by the obvious, to me, corruption in the county government and am seeking to replace Estelle with an honest, trustworthy, public servant. As Ambrose Bierce said, “A corporation is an ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.”

Challenger, Michelle Bushnell
We live in an area which is less developed than other places. This is fortunate for us because where there is no development, we have an abundance of natural beauty. We are known for our towering Redwood forests, our beautiful rivers, the majestic Lost Coast, and of course our logging, fishing and cannabis industry heritage.

In all decisions regarding the management of our environment and the use of our resources, we must consider the preservation of our environment and its diverse ecosystems for the future.

Areas like ours also rely heavily on tourism and people from all over the world travel here to see what we have that is so special and unique. So we must also consider boosting our local economy by promoting those things which are inviting to tourists.

Living in a rural area like this is a choice. We who reside here do so intentionally and enjoy the slower pace and serenity it provides. But with the benefits of our rural lifestyle there are challenges too, such as the maintenance of our infrastructure. We have the resources to maintain our infrastructure, and it is time we make that a priority.

Our local government needs to build stepping stones for our local economy to thrive, not hurdles. We can manage our county responsibly and with respect for the ecosystem.