Meet Baron Browning For Shasta County Supervisor

Four candidates are running for two open seats on the Shasta County Board of Supervisors this fall. Baron Browning says he’s running to see the same success in Shasta County that he’s seen in Anderson.

This story is part of Shasta Scout’s citizen-powered election coverage. For the November 8, 2022 general election, we’re focusing on three races: the Redding City Council, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors, and the Shasta County Board of Education.

Four candidates are running for two open seats on the Shasta County Board of Supervisors this fall. Our elections reporting flips the script by asking candidates to answer questions from the community. We’re conducting long-form, in-person interviews that last about an hour each and utilize questions drawn broadly from your responses to our Scout reader survey. Candidate responses have been curated and paraphrased for this format.

What would you like voters to know about you?

My wife was born and raised here, graduated from Simpson College and always wanted to move back. So in 2004, when I took a severance package from Budweiser after it was taken over, we moved back here from Sacramento. I took a year off and got involved with the community, joined the Rotary, got to know people, and then took over a staffing agency which I continue to run. And that business is going extremely well.

I’ve been on the Anderson City Council for eight years and I think we’ve done a great job there. We have the best economic growth we’ve had since the mills left. I attribute that to all of us in leadership coming out swinging from the very beginning. We’re a team and we do things together. Sometimes we disagree. Sometimes I’m wrong, and I’m okay with that. But we took law enforcement and public safety as our number one priority from the beginning. And I’ve always believed that when you make public safety your number one priority, other things fall into place. We’re now dubbed the safest city in the North State, and there’s a good reason for that. We’re very proactive when it comes to law enforcement, policing, and crime. 

Anderson attracts good people. We have good schools. And since we’ve made public safety the number one priority and we’re making this a good family environment, we have a lot to offer. We broke away from the Shasta Economic Development Corporation four years ago and formed our own, Anderson City Economic Development. We felt like representing ourselves would be the best option and we’ve had great results. We didn’t have any growth in the ten years before we left the Shasta EDC, and now in the last four years with our own EDC we’ve had ten new businesses open up. 

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You’ve been part of the Anderson City Council for some time now. Why did you decide to run for the county Board of Supervisors?

The success we’ve seen in Anderson is really why I’m running for Shasta County supervisor. I see very similar issues in the county where the jail and law enforcement response are really at the forefront, not that fire and water aren’t important. But I think when we put public safety first, working with the sheriff on recruitment and retention of staff, we’ll see progress for the county. I think we need to be recruiting for new law enforcement in areas with like-minded individuals, areas like ours, whether that’s the Central Valley, or the outskirts of San Diego.

Browning is running for a seat representing Shasta County’s District 5. Find out which district you live in here.

Can you respond to concerns about your funding sources? 

Sure. Yes, I’ve taken money from Reverge Anselmo. I take everybody’s money because no matter where the money comes from, I can use it for good. I’ve been very transparent about how I’ve spent my finances. And if someone’s trying to influence me, I don’t think $4,900 will get them anywhere. 

How would you describe yourself as a candidate?

I’m an experienced politician. I don’t think you can call me a career politician because I’m not really making any money off this job and the career politicians are all about the money.

When I served my country in the Marine Corps, I took vows that I continue to take today, to uphold the law and the Constitution. I’m very much a moderate Republican now. I used to be a Democrat and I left that party for very simple reasons: I didn’t want to pay high taxes, so I can put money into the charities I believe in instead. 

Do you think the county needs to be more open and transparent? If so, how would you work towards that?

I think when you’re in public office and you use public money, you always have to be working towards being more open and transparent. We use some local community money, but much of the money we use as a government in Shasta County isn’t actually local money. Property tax is one of the few local pots of money we do get. But the rest comes to us from the state.

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In Anderson, we passed a half-cent sales tax. That sales tax passed because we had the public’s trust. We said we would put at least half of that money towards public safety and we’ve put closer to 65%. We also told the public that we would put some of the money towards family-friendly things and we’ve done that too. We just put in almost a million-and-a-half dollar splash pad and we’ve put in a new skating rink. Now we’re getting bids for a community park near the splash pad. We’re a very low-income community and our families need a place to go where they can feel safe, take their kids and have fun. 

Do you think there needs to be more unity and collaboration on the board? If so, how would you work towards that. 

That’s a great question. I think you can look at my eight years in office and see that I am committed to collaboration. I got advice when I ran to listen to what everybody says intently so I can understand what their needs are, without judgment. That’s important, because if we listen hard enough, we’ll always find some areas of agreement. This is a non-partisan race and once elected we represent everybody. 

What is Shasta County law enforcement doing well and what can they do better?

I think forming the marijuana eradication team right off the bat was a great move by Sheriff Johnson and I think we need to enhance that. We also need to understand what’s happening with our retention and recruitment issues and how much of it is related to money versus other things. From what I’m hearing, a lot of our recruitment has to do with the layout of the jail that makes it not conducive to staff safety. 

The supervisors recently voted to put in a 257-bed jail next to the old jail when the court leaves, and I’m not in favor of that whatsoever. They also voted to continue building the new jail and now they’re going to be spending money on both at the same time.  It’s going to cost $200–300 million for this 257-bed jail but only $700–800 million for the new jail with 1,000 beds. The new jail will need more correctional officers overall because of more inmates, but it will use 30% less correctional officers to monitor the same number of inmates because of the horseshoe-shaped pod and easy visualization. 

What about the funds it will take to run the new bigger jail? 

Thank you for that question. Drug rehabilitation and mental health services can be paid for through other funds, like Health and Human Services funds. Building those parts of the jail can be paid for by them too. We definitely need those wraparound services. They won’t work for everyone, but they will help a lot more people than we can help without them. And if we have someone in jail and we send them for services and they don’t want to take them, then we send them right back to jail. Having access to the services provides accountability. 

What do you see as the most important issue or issues facing Shasta County right now?

There are three. Obviously number one is public safety. Number two is water and third would be our fire mitigation issues. There’s a lot happening in the county with fire safe councils, so I think that’s going really well. I think you’ll see a lot of funding coming through the Shasta County Fire Safe Council and dispersed to more local fire safe councils. As supervisors, we need to be an integral part of that process, asking the local fire safe councils what they need and helping them access it.

The water issues are much bigger and broader.  Much of that is a State Water Board issue and a Department of Water Resources issue, so we need to be having regular conversations with those entities and with the board of the Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District (A.C.I.D.) so we know what’s going on. The south county has experienced devastating environmental impact from the loss of water this year, dead trees, dry ponds, dead fish. And a bigger issue is all the dry wells. For 100 years, A.C.I.D. helped refill wells because it leaked so badly and both A.C.I.D. and the State Water Board knew this because they said A.C.I.D. couldn’t line the canals because they replenish the wells. We need to stay in conversation with these folks so this doesn’t happen again next year. 

How would you address the significant number of people living without housing in our community?

First we have to figure out where we’re failing. Where are we weak on this, where can we strengthen our response. If it’s a staffing issue, then let’s find a third party, to hire, to collaborate with the cities, to make sure that we’re getting out there, and we’re getting to that population and figuring out what their needs are. I can tell you that I’ve been on a lot of encampment calls over the last eight years with law enforcement. I can only speak to the Anderson Police Department, but they’re very good about talking to them about all of the services, and giving them papers with all the services. And in eight years I’ve only seen three people take them up on that. But if people are not wanting to take services, we have to understand why and look at some smaller in-between steps. Some aren’t ready to live on their own. After they get mental health treatment or drug rehabilitation, they may need to learn how to open a checking account or balance a checkbook. We have to look at providing job skills and connecting people with jobs. You can’t just expect to take someone from the street to an apartment and leave them there.  

How would you address concerns about our community’s access to water during a historic drought?

Was the board of A.C.I.D. transparent enough? Probably not. But that’s a different issue than what we’re dealing with now. They made the decision, that’s done now. Now we’re focused on not wanting those people to lose their water rights next year. What conversations need to be had now? We need to be engaging in those conversations. I firmly believe the Peter Pan Fire wouldn’t have gotten near as far as it did if all of those fields would have been green and the canals in that area had been running. And we can’t let this happen again.

How would you help our community prepare for and reduce the risk of wildfire?

I’ve spent the last year on a panel of seven elected leaders with PG&E. Through that, we’ve worked to harden the areas all around Anderson, with some still in process. That hardening includes shut-off mechanisms that stop power from flowing in tenths of a second when there’s danger. It also includes brush reduction and other things. Obviously, PG&E has been one of our biggest fire risks, so it’s important that they understand our needs and we understand how they’re going to work to meet them. As a county, we need to be doing the same thing and I know they’re working on this as well, but I’m not sure yet to what degree. 

We also need to support our local low-income people with grants that we acquire through fire safe councils so they can clean up their properties and we can work with them to do that. And we need to be having regular conversations with our state and federal allies, really pushing information back to our state and federal partners to say, here’s some areas of concern for us and here’s what we need and here’s how you can help. 

Thank you for your time! How can people learn more about your campaign?

They can find me on my website or reach me on social media.

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