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 should we know about you?
I was a paper boy for the Record Searchlight, from the time I was 12 until I was allowed to start a job in a grocery store at 16. By the time I was 19, I was managing a store down here in Anderson. I was good at it. I taught myself everything there was to do in a grocery store. I was going to Shasta College at the same time and when I wasn’t in class, I was down at the store, opening, closing, managing, handling everything. I vividly remember taking an Introduction to Business class. I’ll never forget when the professor standing in the auditorium said: “What is profit?” And then he told us, “Profit is the amount of money you have left over after the initial cost of an item when your overhead is deducted from the selling price.” And I’m thinking, no kidding, and I look around and everybody’s frantically writing this down and I couldn’t believe it. I was like, why am I here? What am I doing? I’m wasting my time here. I mean, in my job I’m already figuring out net profits and gross profits and labor dollars and labor hours. Why am I here?
I’ve been involved in managing and leading people for forever. I spent some time in Sacramento and then moved back up here. This is where we’re from. This was always home. Since then, I’ve gotten involved in a few of the local groups, including the Tea Party, and built relationships. Speaking of relationships, you know my supervisor Les Baugh just endorsed me. He called me up and we had a very good talk and I was humbled and appreciative of his support. He asked me if he could share it on social media and I was driving home and my phone was blowing up, but I couldn’t read any of the posts. By the time I got home, I realized that Les must have blocked me from his social media at some point in the past when we had a difference of opinion. When I got home, I sent him a text and said “I thought maybe I was the one who blocked you but I checked and you’re not on my block list so I’m afraid I might be on yours.” And he texted me back and said, “This is hilarious, I’m going to unblock you now.” Pretty crazy, but it shows that you can have differences of opinion with people and you can come back from that. You don’t have to agree with everybody all the time and you can still remain friendly.
Why did you decide to run for the Shasta County Board of Supervisors?
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I was born and raised right here in Shasta County. I graduated from the same high school that my parents did. I stayed out of local politics for a number of years until it really began to affect me. The more I’ve watched politicians, the more I realize how many are self-serving and not actually representing the people. And I got tired of waiting for a better kind of politician. The saying is that all that it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing. So I decided to step forward and that’s why I’m here.
A lot of people tell me, thank you, or good luck, or I voted for you and all those mean the world to me, and I really appreciate it. But the ones that come up to me and say, thank you for stepping forward and doing this. Those are the ones that mean everything to me, because they understand why I’m doing this, for everybody, all the normal people out there that want representation and for people to listen to them and do what they want. I’m sick of watching politicians make promises and then break them for three-and-a-half years after they win the election. I make it clear, I’m not a politician. But I plan on winning now. That’s my competitive nature. But I’m doing it for the people, the common people that were locked out of the Board of Supervisors meetings, and couldn’t get their voices heard. I’m doing it for the common people that say you can’t close down my business, you can’t force a vaccine on me, you can’t keep my kid out of school, you have to do something for me. I’m doing it for people like that because I am a person like that.
Can you respond to concerns about your funding sources?
The Liberty Committee and the Shasta General Purpose Fund have done things for me, TV commercials and things. And Reverge Anselmo has apparently sent money to them, so people refer to me as this bad guy for Reverge Anselmo. But here’s the thing: I’ve never met him, talked to him, emailed or texted him. And he’s never donated directly to me, but ironically he’s donated the maximum contribution to my opponent.
The way all this started was with a little meet-and-greet. I wanted to rent a community center in Happy Valley and the owner wanted to charge me $300. It seemed a little steep. But then it dawned on me: I’ve kind of made friends with John Green. I’ve kind of made friends with Eric Jensen. I’ve kind of made friends with Bryan Caples. I’ve kind of made friends with Bob Holsinger. And they all want to win Happy Valley. And I have their numbers. So I just put them all on a big group chat and said, Hey, guys, I’m thinking about going out to Happy Valley. Is anybody interested in going with me? And every one of them said, Yeah, I’ll be there. So guess what? $300 divided by all those candidates isn’t such a big deal.
So we were all in the community center and we were all completely independent. This was the first time we’d done anything together. A lot of people came because there were so many different candidates and it worked really well. And after that, we’d call on each other to do events in various places and we did a float together in the Cottonwood Rodeo parade. It was never a slate of candidates. It was just a bunch of guys that agreed on a lot of stuff and started doing things together. And then the other side tried to form their own group to keep up with us.
How would you describe yourself as a candidate?
You can call me anti-establishment if you like. You can call me a constitutionalist because I’m going to follow the Constitution and I’m not going to take anybody’s rights away. It’s important to remember that a mandate is not a law, a mandate is a bureaucrat’s recommendation, basically. So I would certainly not hinder somebody’s constitutional rights or even remotely whittle them away in any way, shape, or form over a mandate. The Constitution comes first and everything else after.
How would you respond to people who call you an extremist?
Sure. I am an extreme constitutionalist. I will defend the Constitution to the extreme. I took an oath just to run for office, to uphold the Constitution. I will defend everybody’s constitutional rights even if I don’t agree with them. We’ve been down here protesting mask mandates and others are down here protesting us. I can’t believe they think masks are going to save the world, but they have the right to show up and protest and when they come to where we are on the steps of the Board of Supervisors, we’ll let them have a turn at the microphone. This all started with Carlos Zapata making his speech that went viral and that touched a nerve with so many people. And suddenly everyone thought we were all militia. But no, this is basically a bunch of grandmothers and mothers and Carlos just happened to be the spokesperson that day, who hadn’t even planned on speaking.
Are you a member of the militia?
I’m not a member of the militia at all. I’ve never gone to one of their meetings. I know a lot of the guys who are involved, and my sign is outside their headquarters in Cottonwood, but I was asked to put a sign there and by golly, I’m gonna put a sign anywhere I can. You know, Woody Clendenen right? Well he’s a very good friend of mine. I’ve known him for 20 years as my barber and as my friend and as a good guy in Cottonwood. He’s very involved in the militia. The militia is in the Constitution. It’s been around forever. And you and I would be in tea and crumpets right now if it wasn’t for the militia, because the militia is who fought the British. The militia has been demonized, but from the members I know, I can guarantee you there’s not a racist bone in their bodies. They’re not some right-wing extremist group. They believe in their community. They believe in their constitutional rights. And the militia is part of the constitution. So no, I’m not a member of the militia. But I certainly have nothing against them.
Do you think the county needs to be more open and transparent? If so, how would you work towards that?
Shasta County is definitely not as bad with transparency as the city of Redding. But I do think there’s some transparency issues. Right now, we have a situation up in Shingletown. There’s a lot up there that the county took back because they weren’t paying their taxes. It’s still owned by the bank and nobody really has interest in taking care of it, so it’s full of junk cars and motorhomes and trailers and now the transients are living there and it’s just a disaster. Lo and behold, after a year-and-a-half, five months before an election, they finally start working on it and clearing it out. But then, after the election, nothing. I talked to Sheriff Johnson about it and he said they’ve run into some issues. It’s very possible that there are legitimate issues. In fact, one real issue is that there really is no place to take old motorhomes and trailers in the county right now. I’ve talked to waste management representatives and auto dismantlers and the public works director, but no one is doing anything about this problem. And at the lot, they’ve wrapped a chain around the gate and locked it and now the chain’s been broken for weeks and they’re right back to where they were before. I notice these kinds of things. And I wonder if we would be working harder on this problem if it was right before an election.
After I get elected, I’m going to remain very transparent. My campaign phone number is out there. My campaign email is out there. And I want to find a side job I can do while I’m a supervisor that will allow me to be accessible to people. Maybe drive a delivery truck or work for A.C.I.D. I want to be doing something where people know where to find me when I’m not doing county business and where they can come and talk to me and I can be accessible. It’s a big deal to me.
Do you think there needs to be more unity and collaboration on the board? If so, how would you work towards that.
Yes. I’m all for unity and I’m all for working together and I will try to do that. I usually get along with people, but I won’t compromise who I am to get along. I won’t back down from my beliefs or my morals to appease somebody. Differences of opinion are great, but changing who I am and what I believe is not going to happen. I will work with everybody I possibly can, but even if I’m the one dissenting vote on the board, I won’t back off from what my constituents want me to do or from my beliefs. I’m there to do what the people want, as a representative, not representing myself. So even if they want me to do something that I don’t particularly agree with, I’m supposed to be there to represent them, not me. So if I have to be the one vote on the board that everybody else disagrees with, that’s okay. I can do that. I will do that before I give up on my principles.
There was a recent vote about advertising for marijuana collectives. And the supervisors were all agreeing that they didn’t want to allow advertising like that on billboards within the county. Now, I’m not a big proponent of pot by any means, but I am a proponent of liberty and freedoms. And I’m thinking to myself as I sit in that boardroom, where do the First Amendment rights for these people start and stop? I’m going to protect the rights of marijuana people as much as I’m going to protect anybody else’s. If this is legal, and you’re going through all the hoops to make your business legal and within the boundaries, I don’t think it’s right to tell them they can’t advertise. That was a 5–0 vote and everybody was happy about it, but if I were on the board I would have been the one dissenting vote. And I would have explained why. It’s not that I’m a proponent of marijuana, but that I’m a proponent of free speech.
What is Shasta County law enforcement doing well and what can they do better?
Well, they can certainly run the jail better. We do have a gentleman as Sheriff right now and one who used to be a wonderful police chief. That shows, the morale in the sheriff’s department is up and police on the streets are happy. But the number one priority of a sheriff is to run the jail and he’s new at that, so when I get into office I’ll help him any way I can. There are some huge problems with the jail and if you don’t have a good place to take criminals, morale is eventually going to go back down. I think we could train some new and different positions at the jail and cross-train those on the streets so we could pull them off the streets to help in the jail when needed.
I don’t support Sheriff Johnson’s big new jail. If money grew on trees, it would be a great idea. They’re estimating $600 million and 6–8 years, but it’s going to be more like a billion dollars and 10–12 years before it’s actually done. And building the jail way out away from downtown is also a big problem. Every time an inmate needs to go to court, it’s going to take two officers half a day to get him there and back. We need more jail space, but I don’t support this idea because it’s going to take too long.
How would you address the significant number of people living without housing in our community?
It’s definitely a huge problem. We’ve been throwing money at it for a long time, but it doesn’t seem to be helping. I always distinguish between the homeless and criminal transients. For the homeless people that want to re-enter society, work, get into housing and better themselves, I am 100% for helping them any way we possibly can. But I think a large majority of the people that I see today, just looking at them, although I don’t want to judge, I don’t think any of them really have any desire to enter back into society. Helping those people is throwing money at a problem that you’re not going to fix. So I think we need to focus our energies on those that do want to be fixed, and want to be helped.
When I found out that the Good News Rescue Mission has never turned anyone away, my compassion level went down quite a bit. I know it could happen to anybody, we’re all one paycheck away from it ourselves. But if it did happen to us, we could follow some simple rules and get a warm bed and a warm meal and a hot shower and enter into a program that would help us get back on our feet.
How would you address concerns about our community’s access to water during a historic drought?
I’m not a water user, but my property line is on the Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District (A.C.I.D.) canal, so I care about this. I think the A.C.I.D. board did the best they could. I wish a different decision could have been made, but I think they made the right one. Next year, it’s time to think outside the box. We can’t let this happen again. And quite frankly, if I’m on the Board of Supervisors, I won’t let it happen again. If that means I have to defy a judge’s orders, I’m willing to defy a judge’s orders. If I have to go against the Bureau of Reclamation I will. They’ve taken our water rights and the Fifth Amendment says you can’t take personal property without due process. They took those rights and they trampled on them. And that canal was built in 1914. So there was water in that canal before Shasta Dam was ever there. No environmental impact report was done before our water rights were taken. No geological survey was done. Nothing was done to see how much damage this is going to cause. It’s just based on one judge’s orders for one environmental group down south. You know, that environmental group had their heart in the right place. But they’ve destroyed our environment up here.
One of my ideas is diverting water at a different point, near Reading Island, where there’s a natural diversion. We wouldn’t be taking our water, just diverting it to replenish the aquifers for the wetlands at the Mouth of Cottonwood Creek area. I brought this idea up to one of the board members and was told we can’t do that, because it’s not a diversion point. They said the Bureau of Reclamation would stop us. But I won’t be asking for permission, I’m ready to just go do it and ask for forgiveness later.
How would you address the need for housing in our community?
We have to do everything we can to improve wages, make the county more business friendly, lower the cost of permits, lower the cost of houses, the whole bit. Everybody wants affordable housing. I want affordable housing.
How would you help our community prepare for and reduce the risk of wildfire?
One of the things I want to do is write a county ordinance to force the state and federal government to manage their lands better. Also, I don’t want to burden local landowners, but sometimes it seems like there are people who need to do a better job of keeping their property clean. So I may want to rewrite an ordinance for private landowners with some teeth in it, to ensure that people keep things cleaned up to prevent fire. But you know we should only use that if we need to, if people are really not doing the right thing. For some people we don’t need to make a big deal of it.
Thank you for your time! How can people learn more about your campaign?
- Here are Chris Kelstrom’s 460s documenting direct donations to his campaign.
- Here is his official candidate statement.
- Here is his form 700, documenting potential conflicts of interest.
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