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Weidman running for Board of Supervisors
Former Stanislaus County Sheriff Les Weidman is itching to get back into local government and feels becoming the District 2 county supervisor is the perfect niche for him.

"I'm passionate about local government and serving the community," said Weidman, 59, who announced his candidacy last week. Incumbent Supervisor Tom Mayfield has announced that he is stepping down next year. So far - and it's early - the race has drawn the candidacies of Weidman and Hughson farmer Vito Chiesa.

District 2 encompasses parts of east Ceres, and all of Hughson, Keyes, Denair, Hickman, and La Grange. It's a mostly agricultural based area. Weidman has been running farming and cattle ranching operations east of Hickman since leaving the governor's office as his public safety liaison in August 2005. Previously Weidman served as sheriff of Stanislaus County for 14 years. Weidman said he left the governor because of the extensive travel requirements.

Weidman says he's hearing a lot of concerns about the economy with the high foreclosure rate.

"In Turlock in particular you hear a lot of stuff about what's going ... with some of the old businesses are closing down," said Weidman. "The building industry and real estate housing market has had a huge rippling effect."

Because of that, the county needs to focus on strengthening the local economy.

"We know that job creation is important," said Weidman. "We've got a lot of houses in this county but we don't have near enough jobs to go around. So our housing to jobs balance is really skewed."

He said the county needs to adopt a "business friendly environment" as well as building-ready sites and a ready workforce.

Weidman's contacts in Sacramento will make him more effective, he feels. He's calling for building a coalition of county officials to take on the tax allocation inequity which he says is robbing Stanislaus County of untold millions.

"In this county we collect over $400 million in property taxes," said Weidman. "It goes to Sacramento. We get back 11 cents on the dollar. We are the lowest among all the counties in the state of California."

San Francisco, by contrast, gets 62 cents on the dollar. The average county receives 18 to 22 cents on the dollar.

Weidman said the inequity goes back to a formula that is unfair and at odds with the equal protection clause. Counties which had low taxes and high reserves were stiffed over counties which were on the verge of bankruptcy.

"It is not a level playing field; it hasn't been since the '30s."

Each time a bill has been drafted to correct it, the Legislature and/or the governor balks. Legislators in urban areas know that if Stanislaus County gets an increased return on taxes that other counties - mostly urban counties - will forfeit the difference.

If Stanislaus County were treated as the average, the county's property tax share would increase from $41 million to $82 million annually.

"We need to go back and really enlist the support of those other counties at the same level we are, rally those troops, get the best and brightest from those counties and ask how is our effective way to get this in the Legislature? If not, what's our option? And litigation it may be."

The former sheriff said he will focus on strong public safety if on the Board of Supervisors. He applauded Ceres for recently supporting the half-cent sales tax to bolster police and fire services.

"Seventy-five percent is unheard of," said Weidman of Measure H's support. "That's huge. That is a very very popular tax to someone who says I am concerned about public safety."

Weidman takes some of the credit for the reduced methamphetamine manufacturing in Stanislaus County. He said as sheriff, he reached out with other county officials and stressed the need for the state and federal government resources to help out.

"We have virtually driven out the dope manufacturers that used to be here," said Weidman. "When was the last time you've had a big dope-manufacturing case? Haven't had one for three years."

"Gangs are insidious but kids make up gangs. Young people are very moldable. They'll take to a gang because there's nothing better on the inside. So you convince the kid there is a better life than gangs and they're going to go for it. If you get some structure in that kid's life, you have an opportunity to turn those kids around."

He said the county needs to fund a hard suppression program, get the community involved and have a good education component. "Schools have embraced the gang education programs," said Weidman.

Weidman dismissed a recent comment made by Chiesa's camp that called him a career politician. He said he has been a career law enforcement agent and said he has no desire to serve in statewide office.

Weidman said he would keep close tabs on the communities he represents.