Originally published in the North Coast Journal.

A handful of people gathered inside the meeting hall of the Samoa’s Women’s Club last Saturday, sipping coffee and feasting on pastries while they discussed the concerns facing the Samoa Peninsula with Jeff Leonard, a candidate for the Fourth District Humboldt Board of Supervisor seat. And it was ironic, in a way, to have a large campaign sign for Virginia Bass looming across the way.

It paints a picture of the battle manifesting itself for that hotly contested seat, a battle of two titans — incumbent Bonnie Neely and Bass, Mayor of Eureka — who have raised and spent tens of thousands of dollars and have support from powerful interests while Leonard plays the role of the underdog. But it is perhaps the oodles of cash in the race that drives Leonard to craft himself as the independent as he attempts to build a base of support at the grassroots level. This isn’t to say Leonard isn’t raising and spending cash of his own, just not as much.

“Our campaign is all about trying to make deep connections with a couple people at a time,” Leonard said.

This meeting was one of many such intimate neighborhood gatherings Leonard has organized to sell himself to the Fourth District. What Leonard has discovered while conversing with those within the Fourth District, he says, is a sense that Eureka is being left out of the county loop. So he has taken up a Eureka-centric flag, pledging to address the fallout from various county programs like drug treatment facilities.

But Leonard has ideas for how to help the county as a whole. He is passionate about developing green industries and points to Pacific Gas and Electric’s proposed wave energy project as an example of how the area can bring in jobs and green-tech street cred. He also wants to finish projects that are lingering in limbo, such as the Balloon Track/Marina Center project and the rail-to-trail conversion between Eureka and Arcata.

Leonard didn’t have all the answers to the problems facing the peninsula: The aftershock of the Samoa Pulp Mill’s closure, issues with sewer and water infrastructure, and the Samoa Peninsula Fire District, financially bleeding to death with a $100,000 deficit and resorting to fundraisers (one coming up May 8) for survival. But he did have the will to get involved, bring people together, and figure out a solution.

“I’m not interested in being a big fancy politician,” he said. “I’m interested in being a partner.”

2 Comments

  • JJ says:

    Virginia really had a poor showing at the last debate. Leonard & Neely ran circles around her. I could easily see Jeff and Bonnie moving on after June. It will be interesting to see if the developer money follows Jeff should he move on to November. If he wants to stick with the current platform, he better hold pat.

  • Neal Latt says:

    Jeff Leonard says he wants to “address the fallout from county programs like drug treatment facilities”? As Jeff should know, the overwhelming majority of drug treatment facilities in Eureka are private. Not long ago, Mr. Leonard supported placing a new 50-bed unit, Teen Challenge, into a West Side neighborhood already saturated with drug and alcohol recovery houses, against the fervent wishes of the neighborhood. What a hypocrite! Not only does the record show that Mr. Leonard has actively supported saturating the West Side with these businesses, now he is trying to manufacture this as a “county issue,” thereby allowing him to smear his opponent, Bonnie Neely, as responsible for a legacy he has been part and parcel of creating. Jeff, how stupid and forgetful do you think your constituents are?

    As for the Balloon Track cleanup, Mr. Leonard has again shown himself to be a grandstanding hypocrite. The record shows that for nearly the last six months, Security National has made NO progress in providing the information requested of it by the Coastal Commission to proceed with the next hearing for a cleanup. If Jeff were really interested in getting the Balloon Track cleaned up ASAP, he would be publicly and privately pushing SN to comply with this simple request. Instead, he has actively participated in an Arkley-funded disinformation campaign to smear Bonnie Neely as somehow responsible for SN’s illegal cleanup plan being shot down.

    Jeff Leonard’s duplicity and poor judgment are why I won’t be voting for him this year, or any time in the future.