Meet Tenessa Audette for City Council

There are three seats open for this November’s election for Redding City Council. Candidate Tenessa Audette says she decided to run because those she tried to recruit for office were intimidated by Shasta County’s tense political climate.

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. View all of the Meet the Candidate interviews.

Ten candidates, including one incumbent, are running for three open seats on the Redding City Council 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 from you, via our Scout reader survey. Candidate responses have been curated and paraphrased for this format.

What should we know about you?

I’ve lived in Redding for nine years and I have a degree in political science. Early in my career, I worked in business and marketing for Black and Decker and a couple of their subsidiaries. After having my kids, I stayed home with them, doing nonprofit work. When my youngest started school, I went to Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM), where I attended for all three years.

My third year at BSSM was an internship on a political campaign, and I found that I loved politics and I loved governmental structure, so after that I went to the Republican National Committee’s Campaign Management College. I’m a political nerd and I’m passionate about how we can do government better and draw more people in.  

Seven years ago, I started a company called Called to Action Consulting and I’ve run ten campaigns since then. Megan Dahle’s campaign was the third one I ran. Through her campaign, I became interested in state politics and decided to work as a district representative for Brian Dahle, our state senator. I handle his constituent services, helping anybody local that has an issue with any state entity, advocating for them, and getting their issues resolved. That role has given me a healthy expectation of what government does well and also what we can’t do. 

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Why did you decide to run for city council?

Normally, I’m someone who is recruiting candidates for city council, because I run campaigns. But because of all the political tension in the county, I had trouble finding anyone who would want to take the risk to run for city council. People were concerned about how the tone of politics might affect their businesses and they were also concerned about their personal safety. I decided to step up because I’m just not afraid. I’m very confident in what good government can do. And the timing was also right for my kids and my family. 

I’m running at the city level because I’m a firm believer that you should start where you have influence. I’ve been working with candidates in the city of Redding for a while now, and I have a good knowledge base in the city and can do a really good job as a council member.

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

When you lead people, if you lose their trust, you can’t accomplish much. Many times, I think leaders decide not to tell people the whole story, thinking it’s for their own good. But you just can’t do that. Because we’re not just the government, we’re the people’s government. It’s difficult to share the truth and doing so takes risk. But that’s the work of an elected official, to stay connected to the electorate, and to explain what you’re doing, and why. 

If you are affiliated with a religious community how would that affect your role on the City Council?

I go to Bethel. And I teach the God and Government track at the Bethel School of Ministry. I volunteer to do that because I’m trying to raise the responsibility level of people that feel called to government. I want to make sure they understand that they really shouldn’t be evangelizing as they run for office. If you think that you’re in government to convert people, sorry, that’s not your job. 

I teach constitutional principles and values at Bethel. The Constitution makes it clear that we shouldn’t even be able to notice the religion of our government officials, they should just be a moral people with character and integrity and honesty. No religion holds the high ground on morality. And you don’t even have to believe in religion to have morals. It’s character and integrity that matter, wherever you source them from. One of the things that is difficult for me as a Christian is the way we often alienate others by using the phrase “Christian nation.” Our constitution has Judeo-Christian values attached to it, but we also pulled from the Romans, the Greeks . . . we pulled from a lot of different things to create this American experiment. To say that you have to be a Christian to be an American is unnecessary.

I teach the separation of church and state.  Jefferson wrote religion into the Virginia Constitution and he wrote religion out of the federal Constitution. Later, Jefferson said that having religion codified as part of Virginia’s government was a problem, a divider, which prevented the best and brightest from coming to the state, and eventually it was removed from the state’s code.

What is the Redding Police Department doing well? What can they do better?

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I think they’re doing well with the Crisis Intervention Response (CIRT) program and I think you’ll see that expand. Community outreach is a big part of policing. In the current climate, you can’t hold people in jail for smaller crimes. Arresting them is a way to make contact with them, but it takes something like eight hundred and ten contacts with them to actually get them to agree to the services they need. But with CIRT, they’re making contact in a way that restores a little bit of people’s trust in humanity, especially with an authority figure. 

I’m in community groups with various officers and they know it’s their job not to harm but to help protect and serve. Some officers have learned it’s better to be on people’s side, no matter who they are, then it is to be against people. To be a police officer is a low position, not a high position, but when you have a badge and a uniform, you come in with authority over people. So you have to make the effort to make people feel like you’re there to serve. That’s true of the government as a whole, but definitely true of RPD. Fortunately, our officers live in the community they serve, so if they step out of line, we’re going to know pretty quickly if they are a good officer or a bad officer.  

There’s nothing specifically that I can think of that the police could do better.

What do you see as Redding’s most important issue or issues right now?

It really is homelessness because it affects our businesses and our personal sense of safety. We want the homeless community to have a home and feel safe and we also want our citizens to feel safe at home and in their businesses.

We should also all be concerned about how warming fires built by the homeless can increase our risk of wildfire.

On homelessness, it’s so important to move towards solutions that we can all get on board with and make a real plan. 

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

I’m only going to talk about what the government can do well. Not everything can be solved by the government. We can add more police officers, but just having more is not what we need. But I think maybe more training in negotiation and how to establish a human connection for all of our police would be good. 

We also need programs for the homeless that don’t just shelter them, but help them to decompress while they’re sheltered so that they feel safe and stable. When I spoke to a Chico organization working to shelter the homeless, they explained that it may take a month or more for the homeless just to realize that the new shelter they’ve been given will last, that it won’t just disappear, and that they won’t get kicked out. They need to experience some consistency from us before they’re willing to really receive something. 

Given state requirements, we need to think about things differently. If we can’t require people to shelter, how can we invite them in? How can we work with different entities, including the county, to create pathways to building better relationships with the homeless? Can we be smart about pairing what government can do well and what other organizations can do? 

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

People are suffering. The Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District (A.C.I.D.) has no water. People’s wells are going dry. Suddenly we’re all thinking we need to know everything about water and water rights and our vocabulary is changing. The city of Redding is in a good position with water, but we have to remember we’re geographically closely connected to A.C.I.D., which has no water at all right now.

How would you address the need for housing in our community?

From what I understand, it’s too expensive in California to build market-rate houses, so most of the housing being built is state-funded. In Redding, we seem to have an influx of affordable housing, transitional housing, and low-income housing available because of grant funding. But market-rate housing is the problem. Locally, I think we’ve done as much as we can on this.

How would you address climate concern as a Redding leader?

One of the most immediate things is figuring out how we deal with food waste. There’s a new California law that will require businesses to compost and we’re going to have to roll that out. It’s going to require a lot of education, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of grace because it’s new to people.  

Energy consumption is the biggest offender on climate and that’s always going to be driven in large part by our homes. Older homes are a bigger energy drain, but since we have our own electric utility, we can work on helping people find fixes: new appliances, new windows. And our electric utility is 80% carbon free, which is amazing. We’re doing a pretty good job with meeting the state’s requirements. We’re ahead of the game.

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

So we have a pretty good wildfire mitigation plan, and we have Firewatch, which will really help with early wildfire detection. We also have the goat squad, which is helping eradicate fuel that would increase fire risk. The bigger issue is going to be people losing their home insurance due to wildfire risk, but that’s not an issue the city can address.

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

They can find me at VoteTenessa.com and I’m also on Facebook and Instagram. They can also call me at 530-255-4033 or email me at [email protected]

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