Voter Guide 2024: Marin County Supervisor, District 2

*The contents of this page have been reproduced from KQED's voter guide, which can be accessed here.*

Why does this race matter?

Current Marin County District 2 Supervisor Katie Rice is not seeking reelection after more than a decade in office. With no incumbent, the field to replace her is crowded with four hopefuls running to represent a district that includes Fairfax, Larkspur, Ross and San Anselmo.

What does a county supervisor do?

Supervisors govern county programs and departments and approve the county budget. Their largest area of spending is traditionally health care and human services. Supervisors are also responsible for local jails and elections, and they make decisions on law enforcement and housing in unincorporated areas of the county. If a supervisor candidate receives over 50% of the vote in the primary, they take office for a four-year term. Otherwise, the top two candidates face off in the November general election.


Candidates

Brian Colbert – Town Council Member, San Anselmo
Heather McPhail Sridharan – Former Trustee, Kentfield School District
Ryan O’Neil – Trustee, Ross Valley School District
Gabe Paulson – City Council Member, Larkspur

Key Supporters

For Colbert:

  • Kate Colin, mayor, San Rafael
  • Damon Connolly, state Assembly member
  • Eric Lucan, supervisor, Marin County
  • Stephanie Moulton-Peters, supervisor, Marin County
  • Katie Rice, supervisor, Marin County

For McPhail Sridharan:

  • Laura Anderson, former president, Tamalpais Union High School District Board of Trustees
  • Paul Austin, founder and CE, Play Marin
  • Elizabeth Brekhus, mayor, Ross
  • Mary Jane Burke, former superintendent of schools, Marin County
  • Catherine Way, vice mayor, Larkspur

For O’Neil:

  • Judy Arnold, former supervisor, Marin County
  • Larry Bragman, former mayor, Fairfax
  • John Burton, former state Senate president pro tempore
  • John Carroll, superintendent of schools, Marin County
    Bob Doyle, former sheriff, Marin County

For Paulson:

  • Scot Candell, mayor, Larkspur
  • Kevin Carroll, City Council member, Larkspur
  • Bruce Goines, board member, Marin Wildfire Prevention Agency
  • Larry Lanctot, former mayor, Larkspur
  • Karen Loebbaka, president, Tamalpais Union High School District Board of Trustees

Positions on Key Issues

How can Marin County improve its wildfire prevention efforts?

Colbert says wildfire prevention is his main priority, because it reflects the priorities of the community. He says the county is best positioned to handle coordinating prevention efforts between Marin’s cities, towns, and unincorporated areas, “so that evacuation routes in San Anselmo work with evacuation routes in our neighboring communities, and communities beyond that.” He says he would focus on helping homeowners harden their properties and work to prevent insurers from leaving California.

McPhail Sridharan thinks the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority has been very effective and says she would continue to invest into it. She says maintaining adequate firefighter staffing is another big issue and that she would prioritize maintaining funding for firefighters. “One of the biggest priorities at a county level is wildfire prevention and preparedness,” says Sridharan.

O’Neil says that the county needs to continue its communication and outreach efforts to make sure people are aware of how to harden their homes, reduce fuel loads around their properties and use their evacuation routes to evacuate safely and quickly if needed. “I’m an Eagle Scout, and I have lived an entire life with the motto ‘Be Prepared,’” he says.

Paulson says prevention efforts should be improved by leveraging resources at both the county and state level to improve vegetation management, home hardening and evacuation planning. As a founding member of the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority, he says he has experience advocating for these kinds of resources at the county level. “What I want to do as a supervisor is to start minimizing risk so that people don’t lose their fire insurance,” he says.

What kind of housing does Marin County need most and where should it be built?

Colbert says as a member of the San Anselmo Town Council, he has focused on creating a sense of community and economic vitality. “People want their downtown to be vibrant and lively, right? The way to do that is to have people living there,” he says. He thinks multifamily unit housing needs to be structured around transit hubs, in downtown areas and where it is economically feasible.

McPhail Sridharan says two important kinds of housing are workforce housing and housing for seniors. “It has to be a spectrum of housing choices. It’s not just a one-size-fits-all solution,” she says. McPhail Sridharan is excited by projects like the Oak Hill Apartment Complex near San Quentin, which she says is a private-public partnership, building below-market-rate workforce housing for educators and county employees that is situated close to transit and shopping.

O’Neil says the most important thing is to build housing for seniors. He says Marin also needs to prioritize housing for teachers, first responders and other people who work in Marin but can’t afford to live here. “I don’t think we have a traffic problem, I think we have a housing problem,” says O’Neil. He thinks denser housing needs to be built along transportation corridors, and in places where people can access services without driving.

Paulson says Marin needs more high-density affordable housing, and that units should be located near transit hubs and Highway 101. He says as mayor of Larkspur in 2023 he pushed for more accessory dwelling units to be built. He says, “Those are places where someone can get their foot in the community, and we can get a little more diversity.”

This election cycle, voters in San Anselmo will consider a measure that would remove them from Flood Control Zone 9 (which oversees the Ross Valley Watershed). Many residents are frustrated at how money has been spent on flood control efforts in Zone 9. What would you do to regain public trust in Flood Zone 9?

Colbert says, “There is no community support, nor will I support the renewal of the existing flood fee. I think we have to go back at a grassroots level and ask the community what kind of flood mediation efforts they will support.” Colbert says while Flood Control Zone 9 works on a new framework, it needs to work on short tangible steps that can show people that their tax dollars are being put to good use.

McPhail Sridharan says she would work to address the frustration felt by many Ross Valley residents over the lack of transparency on how funds are spent in Flood Control Zone 9. “First is to do a full financial audit of what has been spent. Then it’s about gathering input from the community to ask them how they want to move forward,” she says.

O’Neil says any future flood prevention plans need to be backed by community support. He says taxes collected to fund flood prevention efforts in Flood Control Zone 9 (the Ross Valley Watershed) have lacked transparency and been spent carelessly. “The problem is collecting the tax without an approved plan for your community on how to spend it properly,” says O’Neil.

Paulson is a member of the Flood Control Zone 9 Advisory Board. He says it is the most dysfunctional board he has ever been on, and he’d like to improve it by creating a data-driven, community-endorsed plan. “We really have to work downstream backwards, because it doesn’t make sense to undo a bridge in Fairfax, and it just floods everyone in San Anselmo,” says Paulson.

The Board of Supervisors also serves as the governing board for several special districts, including the Open Space District, Flood Control District, Housing Authority, and Transit District. In which of these districts do you think you can make the most impact for everyday Marinites?

Colbert says they are all equally important. He says, as the chair of the Transportation Authority of Marin, he has experience working with towns, cities and supervisors to represent all of Marin, not just a particular district. “I think that our cities and towns are looking for the county to engage more, and we’re ready in Marin for more of that,” says Colbert. He says he would also focus on the needs of unincorporated areas.

McPhail Sridharan thinks housing is “the crux of what people really care about right now,” but says all of these districts are linked together. “These issues can’t be thought of in silos anymore. I think the county can take a much more active role in all of these areas, and it has to be done in a collaborative way. It’s not one over the other,” she says.

O’Neil says housing is one of the most important issues because of the high numbers of people who work in Marin County but cannot afford to live there. “We have to understand that housing is tied to traffic,” he says. “I think teachers, police officers, firefighters and city workers should be able to live here without driving through the county to get here.”

Paulson says he has served on boards that represent each of the aforementioned areas. “I don’t think you can be a good supervisor unless you have interdepartmental vision,” says Paulson. He thinks the county’s IT department also needs a lot more attention. “I don’t think anyone on the board, or any candidate, really understands how technology can be deployed to make the average Marinite’s life better,” he says.