Deidre Kelsey Sums Up 25 Years As County Supervisor

By  John Derby
Times Publisher
September 22, 2016

No 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 and retirement.”
“Why is the county paying $24,000 a year for health care for deputies who are in the prime of their life?” asked Kelsey.
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 Wilson.
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 Leadership.
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 not weenies!”


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