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A mayor at the crossroads

Jamie Bate
Incumbent town council candidate Josh Susman near the site of the proposed downtown Mill Site project.
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The way Josh Susman sees things, Truckee is split between people who realize the town is going to grow and people who don’t want it to grow at all.Somewhere in the middle of that notion sits Susman, who for the last seven and a half years on the Truckee Town Council has gauged the pros and cons of the development proposals that will alter Truckee’s character forever. It’s exactly those decisions – and ones that were being made years ago – that have compelled Susman to seek a third term on the council.”We’re at the crossroads of doing things really, really well or really, really badly,” Susman said. “There are going to be critics. We take a lot of heat on the town council that we approve everything.”Old Greenwood and Gray’s Crossing being examples. Still, Susman, who voted in favor of those developments, said his decisions didn’t come easily considering the events that spurred him to get involved in community issues in the first place. It was a proposal in 1987 to build a 200,000-square-foot shopping center with a K-Mart near the Truckee cemetery that turned Susman-the-resident into Susman-the-activist. When the project was denied by the then-eastern county steering committee, developers appealed the decision to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors. The board voted to reverse the planning commission’s action – essentially saying it knew what was best for Truckee.The resulting outrage in the community was channeled into the formation of the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, which Susman headed as president for nine years before running for town council in 1996.Measure M was another high-water event in Susman’s civic service. Measure M, which lost at the polls in November 1997, would have scaled back allowed land uses for what was then being proposed for Planned Community 2, now Gray’s Crossing.

The measure was supported by MAPF. When it came before the town council for an endorsement, Susman, in his first term, was on the short end of a 4-1 vote.While the proposal for PC 2 eventually faded away Susman continued on the council long enough to deal with the second would-be developer of the site – East West Partners. By then, Susman had honed his approach to governing: Listen to everyone. Susman said he doesn’t want to be typecast one way or another. The fact that he is in the real estate business probably wrankles a few no-growthers in town.”I think there can be a perception of a conflict of interest there,” Susman said. “But the vocation and occupation of members of the council cannot be stereotyped.”I was involved in working toward a quality community before I became involved in real estate.”And that is the same approach Susman takes when it comes to campaign contributions. For his current bid for town council, Susman has accepted $500 each from East West Partners and Teichert and Sons, which owns much of the property within Planned Community 1 near Coldstream Canyon. Susman also accepted $2,000 from the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe.He noted that the many of the contributors he has this year haven’t supported him in the past. And the acceptance of the money doesn’t mean quid pro quo.”They know at least that they can come before the council and get fair and equal time to be heard.”

Plus, he said, politics “breeds strange bedfellows.””In light of the candidates who are running, my campaign contributors represent a broad spectrum of the community.”Accepting money doesn’t automatically make a candidate beholden to the donor, said Kathleen Eagan, the first mayor of Truckee.”It doesn’t have to be the case,” she said. “It’s up to the voter to look to the character of the individual.”She recalled a candidate forum during her town council bid in which all 26 hopefuls were asked if they had received money from the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors. Eagan, who could be called a slow-growther, and three others stepped forward.”It demonstrates a candidate’s openness and level playing field by accepting a donation from East West Partners, or say MAPF,” she said. “It shows you’re not there to be for anybody or against anybody.”And if there is a “body” out there Susman wants to represent, it is the community – not one constituent or industry. Collaboration is key.

“I feel I’ve always been motivated by what I believe is for what is in the best interest of the people of Truckee,” he said. “There are people out there who think I should vote no at a drop of a hat just to create a position.”And, Susman asked, what Truckee would be like if MAPF “hadn’t been born?””It is the nature of this community to rally – from CATT to MAPF,” he said. Only when the compromise is too onerous is it time to take the “no” position, he said.As he seeks his third stint on the council, Susman can look back on his first two.”The first term I learned,” he said. “In the second term I applied what I learned. In the third I want to follow through and see to fruition some of those seeds I’ve planted.”That includes the future of infill development, particularly the potential of the downtown Mill Site.”I’m looking forward to that being a quality, prideful project,” he said. “I think the standard Truckee is holding developers to is something I’m proud to be a part of.”


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