A lot has changed in the landscape of America during the last two years – or, more accurately, Americans in the landscape. I am writing in response to two recent opinion pieces in the Sierra Star. The first is a commentary from Marc Sobel; the second is a letter to the editor from Sandra Forsberg. Both took the opportunity to share their opinions about Supervisor Tom Wheeler being re-elected as District 5 Supervisor. Mr. Sobel was one of his opponents.
In more “politically correct” times, a losing opponent would concede an election with an acknowledgment of the outcome (at the least), and more often than not, a congratulatory remark. Mr. Sobel, however, used his “power of the pen” to air his grievances about Supervisor Wheeler, leaving his well-wishes to the last line of his critique. Ms. Forsberg attempted to reinforce Mr. Sobel’s comments by opining on what she understands to be Supervisor Wheeler’s actions (or inactions), as well as tell us the way Tom “thinks.”
I’ve known Supervisor Wheeler for over 30 years. I know that he is one of the most conscientious public servants we have had in our mountain community. Ms. Forsberg is correct. He does try “to show up at every event that comes along” – because he knows those events are where many of his constituents will be, and where he knows he’ll get feedback on what needs to be worked on in the district. He also attends events because he is an actual supporter of their causes. His record shows he divides his time between all the communities in his district, and I know this because I attend many of the same events.
Ms. Forsberg remarked that Tom “thinks nothing about” doing something for North Fork “because he lives there,” but that is her biased opinion. Regarding her remarks about the roundabout in North Fork (part of his district regardless of where he lives), I believe Tom put a lot of thought into that improvement, not an improvement which everyone welcomes. Roundabouts have come late to this country, but research supports the use of them for traffic control and safety. The North Fork intersection where this will be constructed is one of the more dangerous in our mountain area. The logging truckers, tourists (especially from other countries), and distracted drivers, will hopefully be much safer when it is constructed, as will the hundreds of school children being driven to and from the adjacent school, through that intersection, twice daily. My experience with Tom, my neighbor, is that he thought a lot about it, which has always been my experience with him.
Ms. Forsberg’s and Mr. Sobel’s complaints about Tom limiting his constituents to an allotted time to speak at town hall meetings tells me more about them than him. These meetings draw hundreds of citizens and must have guidelines. A town hall meeting, where many citizens want to be heard and responded to, probably is not the best venue for in-depth discussions. Asking why we don’t have a hospital in Oakhurst, or dividing strips on Highway 41, are questions for which you might want to make an appointment in order to discuss at length. Have you looked into forming a proactive group to help research and support these changes in our district?
Those of you who want to know what all Tom has done for our communities can discover those facts by going online, calling his office with a request for literature or a meeting, or maybe just asking around outside of your comfort zone. One thing I do know is Tom works hard for us, no matter what our political biases or affiliation, or which community we live in. (FYI, his district is larger than all of the other districts together.)
I assert that in more civil times we might have found people working together for mutual goals… relying on essential character traits of truthfulness and reliability… beneficial to all our mountain communities. That is what I remember of more “politically correct” times – when political correctness meant respectfully, politely and cooperatively working toward mutual goals, as well as sharing your thoughts if you have concerns or when something displeases you. With that in mind, I believe Supervisor Wheeler can make the mountain communities safer and more prosperous with our encouragement and support.
Nancy McPherson is a retired teacher from North Fork.