Crocker and Smith are evenly matched
A small, intimate crowd gathered Monday evening as they
watched Tulare County District 1 Supervisor candidates Kuyler Crocker and Dennis Smith duel it out at the candidate forum at the Lindsay Community Theater.
The forum was hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Lindsay and was moderated by legendary Fresno Bee reporter George Hostetter.
Crocker, who embodied the image of a businessman, felt right at home in his native town as he confidently walked on stage.
The 29-year-old energy advisor for PG&E said that he not only believes in giving back to the communities of Tulare County, but also helping communities continue to flourish, something he feels can be done by increasing public safety, creating more jobs, and fixing the county’s water problem.
“As a fifth-generation farmer in Tulare County I believe that I have the knowledge and skill sets needed to tackle the tough issues that are facing Tulare County,” Crocker said. “I also believe that my knowledge of business and energy efficiency that I have gained through working at PG&E has given me an advantage to understanding what businesses need to be competitive in a world market that requires goods and services throughout our world.”
Smith, who took on a more western cowboy look, is a Fresno native, who was raised on the east side of Visalia. He said he believes his 39 years of business experience, which he gained from running National Builders Supply, a door shop in Farmersville that he co-founded and co-owns, has given him the skills necessary to be a proficient District 1 supervisor.
“After 39 years of running your own business you have not only the knowledge, but the experience of running that business and the experience of dealing with bureaucrats and new regulations being applied to your business yearly, and the additional cost that that incurs,” Smith said. “At 64 years old I still have enough energy to keep me going for 10 to 12 hours a day at the job site and I think that I can serve the citizens of Tulare County.”
From his grandmother being robbed at gunpoint at the Walmart parking lot to being a victim of crime himself, Crocker said increasing public safety personnel is something he feels is not only necessary, but critical if Tulare County wants to continue moving forward.
“This is something that I take very seriously as far as our public safety and making sure that we can live and do our work and farm and send our kids to school without having to worry about the threat of a thug assaulting us,” Crocker said. “I am proud to have the support and endorsement of former Sheriff Bill Wittman who agrees that we’ve got to tackle our gang issues that are happening throughout Tulare County.”
Crocker added that in addition to putting more people in jail, the county needs to also establish more preventive measures.
Among all the other issues affecting Tulare County residents, Smith said he believes water is the most important.
“We are dealing with water being the top priority because without water on our property our farms are going to dry up and blow away, and we will be bankrupt,” Smith said. “So water is going to be the single, biggest issue I would certainly hope of not only the Tulare County government, but all of the county governments that are in the rural areas.”
Having a new well drilled in during the peak of the drought several years ago was not only a major investment for Crocker and his family, but an investment that made him more aware of the water problems affecting those living in Tulare County and around the world.
“As a farmer I know the needs that we need for getting additional water storage, which is critical because if we have water we are able to farm and we are able to attract new businesses that need water to do their processes,” Crocker said.
Another issue Smith believes should be a priority is cleaning up the dead and drying trees in the national forest and taking advantage of their economic potential by logging them before they burn. “You may be aware that Governor Brown has set aside $200 million for cleaning up some of the trees, which, a big chuck of that is going to go to Caltrans, and if you trust Caltrans to get things done efficiently you can see where that’s going,” Smith said. “I believe that needs to be handled on a county level, and it needs to be handled on a private, industry level in conjunction with the county so the county has the ability to help that to move along.”
As a way to create more jobs and job training for communities, Crocker said he believes the county needs to make sure it is, among other things, transparent, business friendly and continues to work on developing private partnerships with corporations.
“Additionally, I think it is very important for us to build coalitions, establish great relationships and to work together with our surrounding counties to make sure we are all on the same page tackling these tough issues,” Crocker said. “When we look at public safety, when we look at job creation, and when we look at water, all of those issues are bigger than Tulare County, they are bigger than District 1 or the city of Lindsay.”
Crocker said he is so invested into bettering Tulare County that, if elected, he will resign from his current position at PG&E.
The third and last issue Smith said he feels strongly about is the lack of upkeep of roads, specifically those in the rural areas.
“I believe TCAG [Tulare County Association of Governments] is not taking care of us in the rural area,” Smith said. “I also wasn’t happy with TCAG because what they did is it moved our tax dollars from roads and stuff to 14 percent of that money got rolled into fuzzy, feel-good projects like bike paths and lanes and walking trails and stuff like that and I think we lost 14 percent right off the top.”
Before concluding, Smith reiterated the fact that his most prized asset in the race is his experience.
“I’ve got the life experience in business that it takes to step in this position, I’ve got the drive, and I think I’ve got the anger to be able to push and push and push until we get some things changed,” Smith said. “I am going to be in and do my job and whether it is four years or eight years, I can guarantee you one thing, it won’t be any longer than eight years, and I believe four years is all it is going to take.”
Crocker ended by reemphasizing his commitment to making Tulare County a better place to live.
“I am committed to working with all of our communities whether incorporated or unincorporated to make sure that we are finding solutions for our problems,” Crocker said. “I will also fight tirelessly against Sacramento and Washington, against policies that are attacking our livelihoods.”