Deidre Kelsey Sums Up 25 Years As County Supervisor
September 22, 2016
one wants to be slammed on the front page of the daily newspaper,
and when Deidre Kelsey read the story in the Merced Sun
Star about her missing board meetings or leaving some early,
she was not surprised.
She had been trashed in the past, why stop now?
Yes she has missed some regular meetings due to an assortment
of problems all hitting her at once. She has been teaching
a class in physical fitness at a local gym in order to reduce
the stress in her life. She has been managing a several
thousand acre family farm while still being a county supervisor.
And she has already given notice that she would not be running
for another term.
In a Times interview, she said: “No one ever counts
the hours of overtime spent at meetings and handling complaints
of people in her district, nor have there been complaints
when other supervisors missed meetings.”
Suddenly because of the election, the agenda has been extended,
and Kelsey, at times, finds herself torn between personal
commitments and finishing routine consent items.
Then there are those who want to see her leave as soon as
possible. But Deidre says she won’t go quietly.
She said her class has been rescheduled so there shouldn’t
be a conflict with the job of County Supervisor during the
next three months of her term of office. Her last day on
the job will be December 31, 2016.
She explained there has been a big push to have her and
other supervisors replaced in the coming election. The big
push has come from the sheriff and the district attorney
over pay increases and additional staff.
Kelsey feels she has always been supportive of the Sheriff’s
Department and its deputies. “They are being paid
on a level with Fresno County Sheriffs deputies, but often
what is overlooked in the total pay is the medical benefits
“Why is the county paying $24,000 a year for health
care for deputies who are in the prime of their life?”
She also countered District Attorney Larry Morse’s
remark that no County Supervisor had come to him to discuss
problems in his department. “Not true!” said
Kelsey, who insists she met with Morse and they were working
on a plan when he and the sheriff showed up at a board meeting
earlier this year, making big headlines about rampant crime
in the region and lack of staffing for law enforcement.
All of this is nothing new for Kelsey who will be completing
her fifth term as Supervisor, the longest any woman has
served on the Board of Supervisors in Merced County. She
started in 1996 when she was appointed by Governor Pete
She was originally asked to run by Dean Peterson of Hilmar,
who said he would not be completing his term and wanted
her to replace him.
Kelsey was a young mother then with three children —
Anja, Ellie and Eamon — living on a family ranch with
her husband John Kelsey in Snelling. Her only experience
in politics was serving on the Municipal Advisory Council.
She joined the California Women for Agriculture, and she
was inspired by such women as Carol Whiteside, the former
mayor of Modesto, and Supervisor Ann Klinger.
She would also learn a lot after being selected as one of
the 30 people to join the California Foundation of Agriculture
Dean Peterson asked her to serve on the Planning Commission,
and she learned a lot of lessons about economics and infrastructure.
For instance, Kelsey said there is a direct relationship
between the number and quality of roads, and the agricultural
income of the area where those roads exist.
Her job as Merced County Supervisor was a continuing education.
She learned that big government is not always a friend of
the county. Programs are started with federal or state mandates,
but frequently the funds run out, and the county ends up
paying the bill.
Kelsey saw many changes on the Board during her five terms,
some of them were not the best for the county. “I
have never been one of the crowd,” she said, however,
that did not concern her as much as receiving the support
of the communities which she represented.
Her district is one of the largest of the five districts,
and it was all unincorporated until the city of Gustine
was later added.
Her first challenge was to get the Williamson Act approved
for Merced County. This saved farmland from being gobbled
up by development.
Merced county libraries were another priority at the top
of her bucket list — at a time when some of the other
supervisors could care less. She pushed for more computers,
and the book mobile.
Sheriff’s substations have been a part of her plan
to bring greater safety to rural communities like Delhi,
Hilmar and Winton. These areas continue to be hot spots.
When asked what she thought about the prospect of the county
passing a transportation tax, she said the city of Merced
and the City of Los Banos have undermined it by “bailing
on development impact fees.”
At times during the interview she said, “and this
is not for print,” meaning she did not want to hurt
someone’s feelings over an issue.
Then finally, on the subject of her being slammed on the
front page of a newspaper, or when her daughter suffered
the same type of treatment in the daily news …
Her response was: “We’re Kelsey Women, we are