Press "Enter" to skip to content
Candidates for City Council respond to questions at Wednesday night forum / Laura Austin Photo

Candidates for Ridgecrest Mayor and City Council respond to questions at Wednesday night forum

By Patricia Farris News Review Publisher– A Candidate Forum was held Wednesday, October 28, at the Ridgecrest City Council Chambers featuring the candidates who are running for Ridgecrest Mayor and Ridgecrest City Council. 

  The forum was sponsored by the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce, the Ridgecrest Area Association of Realtors, and the Indian Wells Valley Economic Development Corporation. Chis Hill and James Mower served as moderators.

   The candidates were asked, “What are the greatest challenges and opportunities faced by our city?”

   Tom Witnich, a contender for Mayor said, “The City should be more fiscally conservative.” He sees our greatest challenge as water.


Candidates for Mayor Witnich and Incumbent Bruen respond to questions at Wednesday night forum / Laura Austin Photo

Mayor Eric Bruen, who is running for a second term as Mayor said that he was not going to choose to speak on challenges but he wants to focus on opportunities and will continue to invest in the community as in improving the parks.

   John (Skip) Gorman who is running for a seat on the Council said he believes our greatest challenge is water. He also said that he felt that Stan Rajtora who sits on the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Board was denied the opportunity to serve as chair when it came his time and he would like to lobby to turn that around.

   Scott Miller, who is also vying for a seat on the Council, stated that he supports Measure P and said he believes the community needs to pull together and be the best that Ridgecrest can be.

   Christopher Ellis, a new candidate for City Council, states that he does favor Measure P as he sees the need to support the Police Department and the Fire Department. He also stressed that the community does need a swimming pool.

   Incumbent Dr. Scott Hayman who is running again for a seat on the Council says he wants to see public safety addressed as in police and fire protection. He also wants to bring the City employees up to fair and reasonable salaries. He emphasized the need for more funding for roads.

   Candidate Witnich told The News-Review that a top priority is police, fire and crime prevention and we should increase our funding for police to protect the public. He stated, “Roads, infrastructure, water and Pinney Pool are priorities.” He expressed concern about the lack of transparency of the Council, saying, “Stop backroom decisions and negotiations behind closed doors.” He said, “I believe the Council is rushing to pass a second sales tax without considering other ways to accomplish what they are talking about doing if it passes. I think our city needs new leadership.”

   Incumbent Mayor Bruen told The News-Review that his first priority was public safety, saying it must remain our top priority. “Regulations and decisions at the State Legislative level have placed our local community at risk. We need to ensure that all of our local fire stations remain open and our police forces are well-manned and capable of swift response. We need to continue to build a community which supports the diverse demographics of Ridgecrest. Our community is growing and we have new families and new businesses coming in. We need to improve our quality of life, which means investing in parks and recreational facilities and restoring a community pool. Ridgecrest can no longer live in isolation. We need to stand as the hub of Eastern Kern encouraging tourism and regional shopping.”

   Council Candidate Gorman contends that he is an effective communicator and stressed the importance of communication between the City and the Council. He told The News Review, “I entered the arena to help shoulder the load of municipal housekeeping. We are currently blessed with a high-quality group of people in this building. Indeed here, as in most places, people are everything.”

   Candidate Ellis says, “I am running because I am interested in improving the quality of life for the residents and visitors of the Indian Wells Valley. I will work with the City Manager and Council members to find new ways to generate revenues and to deploy those funds back into the community to enhance the services available to our citizens. I believe Ridgecrest is an amazing place to live and raise a family, but I also believe it has tremendous potential for improvement. I am committed to making things better and will listen to concerns and look to viable solutions to our issues.” During the Forum Ellis asserted, “The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (GA) Board has been less than transparent. They have ignored the public from day one. I am not convinced that we are in a critical overdraft. At the end of the day, if we think water importation is our sole solution, we have a huge problem and no opportunity for growth here. To solve the problem we need to work together with the Department of Water Resources. Stop thinking about trying to pump water uphill which is going to be an operational cost that you have no idea what you are about to get into independent of the construction cost and the infrastructure costs which the GA has not been transparent about.”

  Council Incumbent Hayman told The News-Review he was vested in Ridgecrest and will continue to work hard to support and ensure that Ridgecrest continues to be a great community to live, work, and raise a family. He said, “My primary focus will be directed toward public safety and support of our Police Department, road improvements, quality of life, and our parks.” He added, “Water security for our future and fiscal responsibility to promote strong and sustainable growth.” In the early portion of the Forum Hayman stated he believed the GA had made stellar decisions on the groundwater issue and what we do there, saying, “The GA gets a lot of flak but I think they have made substantial good decisions. The State forced us to come up with a plan, we got a plan.”

   At press time The News Review had not heard from Candidate Scott Miller.

  The Sierra Sands Unified School District  School Board of Trustees Candidate Forum took place on Thursday, September 29. The News-Review will report on it in next week’s edition.