Man throws hat in 5 rings
A growing discontent with the decisions of local elected officials and a desire to do something for his community inspired candidate Michael Lipe to run for office this year.
Unlike his counterparts on the Nevada and Placer County ballots, Lipe is not investing all of his energy into one campaign or one issue. Instead, he chose to throw himself into the running for five special district seats.
Truckee voters will see his name as a candidate for four district seats on November’s ballot – for the Truckee Tahoe Airport District board, the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board, the Sierra College board of trustees and the Tahoe Forest Hospital board.
Lipe, a Homewood resident, is also running for the Tahoe City Public Utility District board.
Some have questioned his qualifications for each of these seats – which represent a wide array of district interests and knowledge.
“I think my qualification is that I’m a Placer County resident who pays taxes and I have a right to run for office,” Lipe said. “I’m not running to run against people. I feel I’m a qualified individual. I can step outside of my shoes and look at the big picture.”
Lipe is particularly focused on education and, if he doesn’t win all five seats, hopes he can be a part of the local education system.
He said he feels he has a grasp on the hospital system after spending seven months in a hospital when he helped take care of his quadriplegic mother.
As for the airport district and the PUD, Lipe said he’s concerned with recent decisions made by both boards.
“I’m concerned with anything where our tax dollars go,” he said.
Lipe said he’s heard from his share of critics, as well as people who are excited to see someone new run for these seats.
“I have a lot of friends in this community that don’t necessarily like the people on these boards, the decisions they make,” Lipe said. “I’m a regular person, I do enjoy Tahoe and they feel I’m a breath of fresh air.”
Is this legal?
California State law allows for candidates to run for multiple offices on the same ballot, but Nevada County Clerk-Recorder Lorraine Jewett-Burdick said she warns candidates that the offices could be considered a conflict of interest based on an Attorney General opinion.
“We get candidates who want to file for multiple offices,” Jewett-Burdick said. “They come into the Election Office and ask which elected positions they are eligible to run for.”
She said she reminds candidates that elections are a serious matter and that they do cost districts money.
The airport board and the Tahoe City PUD election would have been unopposed if Lipe hadn’t decided to run.
He said some people have accused him of causing districts to spend money on elections that they wouldn’t have had to spend without him.
“As a board member, if you did not budget for an election, I don’t think you were doing your district a service, you were doing them a disservice,” Lipe said.
As far as board policies and bylaws go, none have been able to find specific clauses regarding sitting on two boards at the same time.
Tahoe Forest Hospital boardmember Leonard Shaheen said he sat on both the hospital board and the Tahoe City PUD board at the same time and didn’t have any problems.
Shaheen said that hospital board members typically spend up to seven or eight hours a month on board business, but it all depends on the individual.
Other agencies, though, said the time commitment for their district board is a lot bigger.
School Superintendent Pat Gemma and Airport General Manager Dave Gotschall estimate that their boards spend about 10 hours per week on board business.
“It is huge. The time commitment is huge,” Gemma said.
Lipe said he would expect his duties to be a full time job, if not more, if he’s elected to all five boards.
“If I get elected it’s like being in school again,” he said. “I get to study and I get to do my best.”
Who is Michael Lipe?
Candidates for the boards Lipe is running for, as well as district heads have been asking, who is Michael Lipe?
Gemma said he held a workshop for non-incumbent candidates to help them understand school board policies and issues, but Lipe didn’t show up, and he’s had a hard time contacting him.
Sierra College President Sue Fisher said she has yet to meet him as well.
“I know him only because his name was forwarded to me by the elections office,” she said.
Lipe said he has been missing in action for a while, but that’s because he’s been visiting his 6-year-old son in Salinas this summer.
“I have not been to any of the board meetings however I have kept myself educated about what’s been happening in the last three board meetings in each district I’ve been running for,” Lipe said.
The 28-year-old candidate has been a North Tahoe resident for most of his life, despite moving away with his parents when he was young and leaving the area to go to college.
He is a real estate agent at Hooper Real Estate in Tahoe City and has private investments that help supplement his income.
Lipe said he’s accustomed to working 80 to 90 hours a week and would thrive if given the chance to serve on all five boards.
“I worked best in college when I took 20 units,” he said. “I just look at this as an extension of my higher education.”