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Loose Cheeks: Hot Tips
By Lucas Smithereen
Loose Cheeks Senior Editor
Got a hot tip for Loose Cheeks? Call the Loose Cheeks hot-tip line: (000) CHE-EEKS. We’ll get back to you whenever.
Loose Cheeks' intrepid reporter A.J. Gangle picked up this interesting tidbit in Mama McClatchy's local outlet the other day:
“I have other obligations. I do other things that make me healthy,” (retiring Merced County Supervisor Deidre) Kelsey said. “My mental health is very important to me. It’s a private health issue.” -- Brianna Calix, Merced Sun-Star, Sept. 2, 2016
The Loose Cheeks management and staff have never doubted the state of mental health of Supervisor Deidre Kelsey. We have seen her as the Queen of the River Dimwitz for 20 years. We were somewhat surprised to see the number of absences noted by the newspaper because we didn't miss either her ramblings, rants or rebukes.
But Gangle offered an alternative interpretation of the above quote, which most McClatchy readers must have taken for a combination of gross arrogance and a confession all wrapped up in one illogicality. As for the timing and placement of the quote, "oh well," Gangle said, "she's never been a deep thinker, our Deidre."
"On the other hand," Gangle continued to the hooting, booing staff hurling french fries: "Stay with me here. You all do not attend supervisor and city council meetings. You don't know diddly and you don't have any right to judge."
His argument was that if by walking out on Community and Economic Development Director Mark Hendrickson's dreary, developer-cliche ridden monologue about how a new team of out-of-town, hedgy-fundy type consultants will develop the former Castle Air Force Base (just as soon as they can locate the water pipes), Kelsey had in fact been making a protest ... if this veteran supervisor had actually been saying she believed that leading a zumba pump 'n jump session down at the corporate monopoly gym would be marginally more conducive to mental health than listening to Hendrickson ... well, that would be more wit, common sense, and humor than we've ever seen or heard out of Deidre.
"The prospect of retirement appears to have awakened her," Gangle concluded, "and the sale of the ranch will probably offset the loss of the county salary and its recent 'automatic' increase of $2,400. 'person could buy a lot of zumba for that."
Other Loose Cheeks columns dealing with Supervisor Kelsey:
Loose Cheeks, May 17, 2008, http://badlandsjournal.com/2008-05-17/00444
Loose Cheeks, June 1 Primary Election Extra, http://badlandsjournal.com/2008-06-01/00451
Loose Cheeks, June 24, 2008, http://badlandsjournal.com/2008-06-24/00462
Badlands Journal articles dealing with Supervisor Kelsey:
Central Valley Safe Environment Network reply to a Merced County Planning Commissioner, July 10, 2007, http://badlandsjournal.com/2007-07-10/00328
Open letter from Stevinson resident Robby Avilla to Supervisor Diedre Kelsey and Assistant Planning Director Bill Nicholson, Nov. 11, 2007, http://badlandsjournal.com/2007-11-11/00382
Political storm brewing over racetrack traffic, Dec. 3, 2006, http://badlandsjournal.com/2006-12-03/00204
Supervisor Kelsey Has Failing Attendance Record Brianna Calix
Deidre Kelsey, the elected supervisor for Merced County District 4, has missed or skipped out early from half of the twice-monthly Board of Supervisors meetings held this year, the worst attendance record of any of the five officials.
At the most recent Board of Supervisors meeting that began at 10 a.m. Tuesday, during a presentation on a “visionary” plan for the future of Castle Commerce Center, Kelsey quietly rose and left the room.
According to a class calendar posted online by the In-Shape gym on Yosemite Avenue in Merced, Kelsey was scheduled to lead a Body Pump class at 11:45 a.m. that same day.
How long Kelsey has been teaching a weightlifting class that conflicts with the regularly scheduled Board of Supervisors meetings is unclear. The board meetings normally are held on Tuesdays twice a month. Of the 16 meetings held so far in 2016, Kelsey has missed or left early for eight of them, according to meeting minutes and videos posted on the county’s website.
In a phone conversation with the Merced Sun-Star on Friday, Kelsey, 61, declined to discuss her schedule at the private fitness center.
“I have other obligations. I do other things that make me healthy,” Kelsey said. “My mental health is very important to me. It’s a private health issue.”
Kelsey was appointed to the District 4 seat in 1995 and has won re-election five times since then. Last year, she announced she would not seek a sixth term in order to spend more time sailing, gardening and spending time with her family.
As a county supervisor, Kelsey earned $99,090.16 in pay in 2015. Supervisors do not earn sick or vacation time and do not punch a timecard. As a longtime county employee, Kelsey stands to collect pension payments upon her retirement, according to the Merced County Employees’ Retirement Association member handbook.
A manager at the In-Shape gym declined to comment to the Sun-Star about Kelsey’s employment there.
Kelsey said the board chairman, Hub Walsh, was allowing meetings to run too long by “inviting the public to ask questions.”
“I set up my schedule according to what’s going to be on the agenda,” she said. “The chairperson switches back and forth with public comment.”
Walsh said he believes the public has the right to speak at meetings and ask questions.
“I will own responsibility for meetings running longer,” he said. “But it’s my commitment for transparency and affording the opportunity to the public to ask questions, and it will probably continue.”
Walsh said he could let his fellow supervisors know ahead of time if the meeting agenda is long. But typically he clears his schedule on days when board meetings are scheduled, he said.
“Frankly, I knew she had prior obligations and, at times, needs to step away,” he said. “But for me, Tuesday is a long day. It is for all of us. I adjust my calendar to make accommodations. I try not to schedule lunch meetings.”
District 5 Supervisor Jerry O’Banion said he was unaware of any health issue that requires Kelsey to be away from board meetings.
“I think it conflicts with her responsibilities as a county supervisor if it’s solely for the gym class,” O’Banion said. “If she has health issues of her own, I can understand it. But if not, it’s not right, and it’s not fair to the other four board members.”
District 3 Supervisor Daron McDaniel wouldn’t comment specifically on Kelsey’s attendance but said he makes it a priority to be at every meeting. “I do everything I can to make 100 percent of the meetings,” he said. “That’s what I was elected to do. I couldn’t imagine not doing it.”
John Pedrozo, supervisor for District 1, did not return calls for comment.
Kelsey is scheduled to teach the Body Pump class for the next two Tuesdays at 11:45 a.m., the gym’s website shows. The next regular board meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 13.
Kelsey’s absences have come during discussion of some of the biggest issues facing Merced County.
She was absent April 26 when Sheriff Vern Warnke and District Attorney Larry Morse II gave a public safety update to the board, pleading for more funding in a county that’s held the record-high for murders per capita the past few years.
Many of the shootings occurred in Kelsey’s District 4, which includes Delhi and Winton.
Kelsey also was absent during votes on public works items for major projects, including the renovation of the old county hospital for mental health services and renovation of the John Latorraca Correction Center through state funding.
Rodrigo Espinoza, Livingston’s mayor who defeated Pedrozo in June, said the two outgoing supervisors won’t face voters again this year and no longer care about their duties.
“They’re obviously on their way out,” Espinoza said. “What can I say? They don’t care about what goes on. The citizens can’t do much because they’re on their way out. I’m still mayor and I’m still attending (Livingston City Council) meetings.”
Pedrozo, who was elected to the board in 2004, has attended every full board meeting in 2016, along with McDaniel and Walsh. O’Banion left the June 7 meeting early and had one absence, on July 19.