The race for District 1 Supervisor shifted into high gear last week at a candidate’s forum held at Pierce High School.
Merced Corona, 54, a retired law enforcement officer,and Johannes “Joe” Lauwerijssen, 63, an Arbuckle farmer and businessman, are seeking the seat on the Colusa County Board of Supervisors that will be vacated by Kim Dolbow Vann at the end of the year.
The District 1 Supervisor race is the only contested race in the June 5 primary election.
District 5 Supervisor Denise Carter, Sheriff Joe Garofalo, Assessor Arnie Gross, Auditor Peggy Scroggins, Treasurer Dan Charter, Clerk/Recorder Rose Gallo-Vasquez, Superintendent of Schools Mike West, District Attorney Matt Beauchamp, and Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Ufkes Olivera are all running for reelection unopposed.
The Pierce High School AP government class hosted the District 1 forum, which drew several dozen people. Superintendent Carol Geyer served as the moderator.
Both candidates are well known in the community.
Corona served 26 years with the Colusa County Sheriff’s Office, is a longtime community volunteer, and has been active in youth sports programs. Lauwerijssen heads the local Buyers Group for youth to receive fair prices for their livestock or goods at the Colusa County Fair, and has for many years opened his home as a host family for foreign exchange students.
Each candidate had about five minutes for opening remarks, and answered a variety of questions related to their supervisorial platforms and political beliefs.
Both offered to be strong advocates for road improvements in the Arbuckle area, and to build good relationships with county officials and department heads.
Corona grew up in Arbuckle. He graduated from Pierce High School in 1982, and earned his associate’s degree in criminal justice from Yuba College. He served three years in the Army infantry, and graduated from the 55th Butte Police Academy in 1986. He worked 26 years at for the Colusa County Sheriff’s Department, and retired in 2012.
“I did a lot of different assignments at the Sheriff’s Department,” Corona said. “I participated in pretty much every aspect of the department. I worked the schools, I ran the jail, and was commander of the Task Force for about 4.5 years. My specialty was narcotics, and I spent about 12.5 years working narcotics.”
Corona also coached a variety of sports at the high school and junior high, and ran the Pierce Football chain gang for more than 30 years. While at the Sheriff’s Department, Corona received the California Golden Oak service award for bringing the DARE program to Colusa County schools.
Corona also owns and operates the La Corona boxing club, a free private boxing club in California that has trained hundreds of kids from the county at no charge.
Lauwerijssen is a native of Holland, and came to the U.S. in 1978 to attend the University of Minnesota. He came to California to study agriculture, married in 1982 and stayed in the U.S. Lauwerijssen and family moved to Arbuckle from Dunnigan in 1991. He worked in farming, and started his own agriculture operation and grain dryer. He is vice-president of the Family Water Alliance, holds office in the Colusa County State of Jefferson committee, and is a member of the Pierce High School bond oversight committee. “I’m not just a farmer; I’m a businessman,” he said.
Lauwerijssen said his daughter would assume most of his business operations so he can serve as supervisor, if elected.
Corona is retired and said he will dedicate his time to being a supervisor, and will be accessible to the people, if elected.
Roads and public services were a topic for discussion, and both candidates suggested more effort needed to be made to tap into new and existing state transportation funding, and to spend money more wisely. Both also support the construction of the Sites Reservoir.
Where the two candidates mostly differ in opinion is in regard to Sanctuary (city, county, state) laws, and the manner of attracting and retaining new businesses.
Corona supports the current state sanctuary law for humanitarian reasons, and does not believe local law enforcement needs to be involved in federal immigration issues.
Lauwerijssen said he opposed the catch and release of undocumented criminals and believes the county and state should uphold federal immigration laws as they are written.
On attracting new businesses, Corona supports tax waivers, incentives and government subsidies to attract both large and small businesses to Colusa County.
“When you over regulate them and over tax them, then they are more apt to find somewhere else to go,” Corona said. “When you nickel and dime them to death, small mom and pop shops can’t stay afloat, and they will shut down. It is the government’s job, in my opinion, to get out of the way.”
Lauwerijssen said he didn’t oppose some incentives, but opposed government spending on start up businesses as a whole.
“I think it is throwing good money after bad,” he said.
When asked about their support for the State of Jefferson, both candidates acknowledged that Northern California counties lacked representation in the State Legislature, but they were divided about splitting California into two separate states as a solution.
Corona said he wasn’t necessarily against a state division, but believes the north could not survive without the money generated by metropolitan cities.
“We depend on a lot of money that comes from the state of California, and that includes our urban areas,” Corona said. “Those areas bring in a lot of revenue to the state. I cringe to think what would happen in the first year if we had fires like we’ve had. Where is the money going to come from? I know the schools depend on a lot of state money to do all the programs that they do.”
Lauwerijssen said the north would be self sufficient with the population and revenue similar to Idaho.
“I’m in favor of Jefferson,” Lauwerijssen said. “I think the North State could stand on its own two legs. We would have a population base of about 1.17 million people. We could run our own show here without the big cities, who put mandates on us and unfunded policies. We have eight people in the Legislature out of 120. They could stay home all year and nothing would change. They might as well not vote; they might as well not show up. It makes no difference.”
Lauwerijssen said that while the urban areas contribute a great deal of money, they also take the most money back, and the state’s management is causing people and businesses to flee to other states.
Both candidates said they opposed Colusa County allowing commercial cannabis operations, but they differ about marijuana’s future potential as an agricultural commodity.
Corona said he would always oppose cannabis cultivation in the county.
“I know what marijuana can do,” he said. “I’ve seen the human misery drugs bring to our county, and every county around us.”
Corona said that although the people have spoken on the legalization of marijuana, he still believes it is unsafe.
Lauwerijssen said he would take a “wait and see” approach, since cannabis is legal in the state.
“I’m definitely not in favor of this,” he said. “How I would vote on it – probably no – but since it is legal, I think we should at least wait and see how it plays out in other states and counties.”
Pierce government students Lupita De Los Santos, Rudy Sanchez, and Alexis Erickson assisted in the preparation of the forum and attended the event.
“I thought tonight was really nice how the community got together to participate in our sort of government that we have in our district,” Erickson said. “I thought the candidates did a good job of expressing their views, and I wish them both the best of luck.” n