Seven candidates push for two, four-year seats on Truckee Town Council
Seven candidates are running for two, four-year seats on the Truckee Town Council.
This November voters will decide between Frank Bernhard, Courtney Henderson, Nicholas Sielchan, Marcy Dolan, Jack Forbes, Dow Costa and Lindsay Romack.
Frank Bernhard, 48, brings experience as a management consultant and data science executive. He said he sees affordable housing, a potential budget shortfall due to COVID-19, wildfires and fire insurance rates as key issues facing the town.
“I think we’re at a crossroads in our community right now that is very tenuous with a number of issues that are before the council,” said Bernhard. “What we do today in addressing things in a pandemic has big impact right down the road. The reason for running is to make unity and bring people together to deliver outcomes.”
Bernhard is also critical of the handling of certain sectors of business during COVID-19, citing restaurants and other local businesses that are now entering the shoulder season after missing out on much of the summer.
“One of the big reasons for running is I felt that there’s a lot of tension and dissension within the council and we need to bring people together collaboratively to solve these problems,” said Bernhard. “My role, and what sets me apart, is I’m trying to bring mature stewardship … we’re custodians of culture and we’re custodians of why we live here and to embrace the great values that this community has and to elevate it.”
On the matter of wildfires, Bernhard said there is much town council can do to push for more aggressive reductions of fuel sources while also creating partnerships to encourage slower fire insurance rates.
Courtney Henderson has a background that includes roughly 15 years experience in the public health and energy sector, which has included stops throughout the U.S., India and Africa.
“We really need someone on town council with that perspective,” said Henderson.
She is also on the technical advisory group for the Sierra Business Council, and said she’d focus on improving public health and safety, economic recovery, balanced growth and development, and environmental stewardship.
“We need really strong leadership in our town,” said Henderson. “I’m running because I believe in our community and I’m going to work incredibly hard for our community and it really goes back to my core values growing up in a very small, rural town.”
Henderson stumped for the importance of social distancing and mask wearing in order to keep the community and its businesses open. She also takes a different approach when it comes to public health, eyeing the potential fire risk the town faces.
“When I think about public health, I also think about things like investing in wildfire risk and vegetation mitigation projects, ensuring we have appropriate infrastructure for evacuation routes,” she said.
Along the line of the outbreak of COVID-19, Henderson expressed concern for businesses as the winter season approaches, and how the amount of people stuck indoors may affect the local economy.
“I would love to pull together a small business taskforce where we bring together business representatives across a lot of different sectors because we have so much diversity in our businesses, so that we can start building out solutions for everyone with really robust community input,” said Henderson.
Henderson also singled out housing accessibility as another important issue facing the town.
“I believe that we need a very multi-pronged approach to meet the diverse needs of our community to ensure that people who work here can also live here,” she said. “I don’t want to see us become a town where people who work here only live in Reno or Sacramento.”
Henderson added that she’d push for deed restricted housing for locals, along with taking examples from mountain towns around the nation.
“Truckee is a really unique place, but we also share a lot of similarities with a lot of other mountain towns that are very much driven by a tourism economy,” said Henderson. “Because I’m a researcher at my core, I say let’s take the lessons that we can learn from other places and see what applies here.”
Lastly, Henderson talked on the importance of environmental stewardship, citing her young child and desire to preserve the Truckee area for generations to come.
“I really want to ensure our community that we’re doing everything we can to make sure that this place remains a sustainable and healthy place to live,” said Henderson. “To me, that means doing things like ensuring that we are conserving open space, that we are investing in trail infrastructure … and it also means ensuring that our town continues to remain committed to and make investments to help us achieve the 100% renewable resolution the town adopted.”
Nicholas Sielchan, 27, is a stay-at-home father, whose family has been in the community for more than 20 years.
He said he made the decision to run for town council in order to push for more transparency and accountability within local government.
“Being there and representing the community and answering for a lot of people — like I’ve spoken to — that are feeling misrepresented, unrepresented, or are possibly looking to move out of Truckee in the future,” said Sielchan on running.
Specifically, Sielchan said he’d seek to hold the planning commission accountable and questioned some of the decisions made on past projects like Coburn Crossing and the town’s new grocery stores.
“The council, that is an elected body, should push back when necessary,” said Sielchan. “In a mountain town like this you don’t want to build something that may not be affordable … there needs to be a different approach by the planning committee about what their idea of supply and demand means.”
Sielchan added that increasing affordable housing is an important issue facing Truckee, but that it needs to be “true affordable housing, actual vetted affordable housing.”
Additionally, Sielchan said infrastructure within the town’s public transit system needs to be addressed, while also calling for more transparency within local government.
“It’s better to be more transparent right now because people are worried and concerned, and I don’t blame them,” he said.
Marcy Dolan, 57, has lived in Truckee for 26 years, and brings experience in running an array of businesses in the area. Currently, she works as a respiratory therapist and asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease case manager.
“I would like to give back to the community, and I would like to maintain some sort of balance between what Truckee has been to me and what’s coming down the pipeline,” said Dolan.
Housing and environment are among the key issues Dolan is running on.
“Affordable housing is huge,” said Dolan. “We need to somehow change the idea of what it’s like to live in Truckee. We need to think in terms of being creative … and in some ways change the expectation of what housing is in this town.”
Dolan listed making accessory dwelling unit permitting easier, and incentivizing turning short-term rental units into long-term housing for locals as ways to improve housing in Truckee. She also added that creating more local housing reduces the carbon footprint of the numerous people traveling to Truckee for work.
On the environmental side, Dolan said she’d focus on collaborating with nonprofits and other organizations on projects.
“There’s a lot of great groups out there like the Shane McConkey Foundation, the Tahoe Fund, the Tahoe Truckee Litter Group … I feel like there’s all these great groups, so why do we not do something really radical and have a meeting of these great minds and these great organizations to come up with solutions that the town can sponsor,” added Dolan.
Dolan also listed the importance of fiscal responsibility during the pandemic, making Truckee more inclusive, and finding research-based solutions to issues facing the town.
Jack Forbes, 34, works in property management, and said he’s running for town council in order to “serve the backbone of our community which continues to be underrepresented by the objectives of the council and the general plan.”
Forbes underscored the cost of housing as one of the key issues facing the town.
“I’ve seen Truckee transform from a working-class town, which used tourism to get through the lean seasons to a luxury resort destination completely driven by over-tourism and outside influence. I’ve seen this influence push out longtime residents by driving up the costs of housing and living, while simultaneously stripping and homogenizing Truckee’s character so that it sells nicely for a top-10 list or magazine cover,” said Forbes in an email to the Sun. “I want to represent the underserved populations so we can be afforded the same opportunities to live in Truckee as our more affluent residents and I believe it’s the obligation of council to provide realistic, achievable solutions to marry affordable housing and open space with sustainable tourism – or at the very least, have the courage to tell this resident population that council has no intention of making Truckee affordable for those who earn less than the area median income of $64,700.”
If elected, Forbes said he’d push for a larger variety of housing for low to middle class residents by instituting deed-restricted starter homes for residents. Additionally Forbes said he’d like to streamline the building permit process, better allocating resources for public transit, and encourage competition between telecommunication services.
“Finally, I’d like to phase back our dependence on tourism by returning to peak summer and winter seasons and allowing for the spring and fall shoulders, so residents can enjoy and recreate in our town without direct competition with our tourists,” concluded Forbes. “I want to shape Truckee into a well-rounded community that provides the same quality of life for low to middle class residents, as it does for affluent residents and tourists.”
Dow Costa, 58, has lived in Truckee for two decades, and has a background as a project manager for Sprint, and said he’s running to give back to the community.
Costa has volunteered as a youth coach across a number of sports and has volunteered for several organizations like the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe.
“I raised my kids here and I love Truckee,” said Costa. “I’m a common man with a lot of common sense. I just want to do something where I can be part what’s happening. I don’t have any agenda … I just want to do the right thing.”
Costa said he believes key issues facing the town include affordable housing, wildfire and police enforcement.
Costa called the issue of affordable housing a “big challenge,” stating the best approach is to attack the problem in multiple ways.
“You’ve got the new developments going in that are geared toward affordable housing,” said Costa. “Those are good, but you can’t just continue to do that.”
Costa added that deed restrictions and the town’s grant program for converting short-term rentals to long-term units for locals.
“You just kind of keep putting little things together to get you there,” added Costa.
Costa also spoke on the state of the town’s police department, saying that officers will be taxed with greater enforcement of regulations as more people move to and visit the area.
“The police force hasn’t grown at all over the years. They haven’t increased head count since we’ve been incorporated, for the most part,” said Costa. “As more people come here and more people come here for longer periods of time, just the demand on services is that much greater.”
Costa said if elected he’d explore the possibility of increasing the police budget in order to hire additional officers.
On the subject of wildfires, Costa said the key is collaborating with other groups in the region.
“We’re surrounded by thousands and thousands of acres of tinderbox,” said Costa. “It’s a bigger issue than just the town. The town has to be a big part of it but it’s all the different fire districts, the forest service, it’s anybody that owns land. Anyone who has got a hand in land has to be part of a bigger coalition that’s working towards doing the right things to mitigate the fuel that’s built up over the last 60 years. No one group can do it. It has to be all interested parties.”
Lindsay Romack, 38, has lived in the area for 16 years, and currently works as a district director for Placer County. She has past experience as a member of the municipal advisory council in Olympic Valley and currently is on the Mountain Housing Council.
“I’m running because I want to ensure that Truckee continues to provide opportunities for others to grow and establish roots here,” said Romack.
She called affordable housing one of the biggest challenges facing Truckee.
“We have to be creative with our solutions,” said Romack. “I’ve been a member of the Mountain Housing Council since it started in 2017, so that’s been a great opportunity to get some innovative ideas.”
Among those ideas, Romack said she supports some of the initiatives the town recently passed, such as the town’s Long-Term Rental Grant Program. Romack said she also supports Measure K, which would add a 2% increase to the transient occupancy tax, with funds being directed toward affordable housing and wildfire protection.
As far as the threat of wildfires, Romack spoke on the importance of a collaborative effort with regional partners.
“This is a regional issue and the town needs to be at the table and participate in conversations with our regional partners, the forest service, Truckee Fire Protection District and North Tahoe too — the whole region,” said Romack.
Romack also stressed the importance of protecting Truckee’s natural environment, while increasing options for public transit and continuing to connect the town’s bike and pedestrian trails and pathways.
“We all live in this area because we love the great outdoors, so we need to make sure we are doing our part to combat climate change,” said Romack.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643.
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