With less than a month left before Election Day, the county’s two contenders for the Board of Supervisors say they are the best qualified person to spend the next four years tackling the budget, strengthening the health system and ensuring public safety.
As the two top vote-getters out of a six-candidate pool in the June primary, Shelly Masur and Warren Slocum are in runoff race on the Nov. 6 ballot. Slocum, the retired chief elections officer and assessor-county clerk-recorder, secured 39.03 percent of the June vote followed by Masur, a trustee on the Redwood City Elementary School District Board, who received 21.13 percent. Both also carried District Four which includes Redwood City, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto and the unincorporated areas of North Fair Oaks and Oak Knoll. Although a supervisor represents his or her district, they are chosen by voters countywide.
On Thursday night, each argued their qualifications and positions on specific issues at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the San Mateo Library.
"The county needs passion, but it also needs experience,” Masur said, highlighting her years as a board trustee and her master’s degree in public health.
The county’s health system and services are "absolutely a priority for me,” she said.
The Affordable Care Act and realignment of state prison inmates back to local facilities makes the need for the county’s systems to be strong and even more keen, she said.
Slocum wants to make sure veterans, particular those with mental health issues, are cared for.
Slocum said he is ready to roll up his sleeves and work on the county budget because "you can’t continue to spend money you don’t have.”
Masur also cites the budget as a priority along with bolstering the county’s service safety net for children and seniors.
A question about so-called "double-dipping” seems specifically tailored to the candidates as Slocum draws a pension and could potentially receive a salary as a supervisor. Slocum told the audience last night that like Supervisor Don Horsley before him, he won’t accept a paycheck if elected.
"The bottom line is, I will work without a salary and just live on the pension that’s given to me,” he said.
If elected, Slocum said he would request an analysis of the county’s unfunded liabilities as a step toward pension reform.
Both Masur and Slocum favor district elections rather than the at-large system currently in play and think the county has made great strides in reining in the number of employees and associated costs. Slocum sees a future of collaboration and shared services. Masur also wants to look at areas where the county overlaps with education to find efficiencies and savings.
Measure A, the county’s proposed half-cent sales tax, is backed by both candidates who noted its expiration date.
"It buys us some time,” Slocum said, adding the county needs to have guidelines for its use and should invest a "significant” portion in items like technology that can pay dividends.
Masur said the funds will let the county shift from remediation to prevention.
Despite many similarities, Masur and Slocum drew some distinctions between themselves.
Masur said her public health experience is "critical” to serving as a supervisor as is her work with nonprofits. She also pointed to her seven years as an elected board member, knowing how to understand complex funding mechanisms and restrictions while doing a good job.
Slocum, reelected five times, said his experience is countywide over a couple of decades and is noted for innovation and "thinking outside the box to get to solutions that work.”
In the end, the candidates were asked for the bottom line — why do they want the job.
Masur wants to create a place where her children can live and thrive while having her "perspective as a public health person represented on the board.”
Slocum said its clear government is always changing.
"I would like to have a hand in shaping that different future,” he said.
Michelle Durand can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.