Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Monday, Feb. 12 @ 4:11 p.m. / Elections, Local Government
'Political Animal' Linda Sutter Promises Transparency and Due Diligence If She Wins Del Norte's District 5 Seat
Though she’s often at odds with the people on the dais, Linda Sutter is confident she’ll be able to get at least two current supervisors to agree with her.
If she wins the race for Del Norte County District 5, Sutter aims to cut the fat. A fixture at public meetings for more than 16 years, Sutter currently has a lawsuit going against the Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority, saying its members are violating the Ralph M. Brown Act and its “transparency is zero.”
She questions the public dollars Del Norte County, Crescent City and the Crescent City Harbor District have paid to keep the joint powers authority afloat. Meanwhile, the county is hoarding Measure R dollars somewhere, she says, while “we’ve got all these crumbling roads.” Sutter also accuses county supervisors of rubber stamping many issues that come up on their consent agenda.
At a Del Norte Association of Realtors candidate forum last month, Sutter said the roads were riddled with “potholes the size of Texas,” while services were lacking due to “underpaid county workers and law enforcement officers.”
“They expect people to come up here and live,” she told the Wild Rivers Outpost last week. “Our county workers — I’m not talking about department heads — they should be paid viable wages. [If they’re in] prestigious jobs, they should be making $5 to $7 more per hour than minimum wage. But the county, they are selfish with their money.”
Sutter is competing for the District 5 supervisor seat against incumbent Dean Wilson and Heather Polen, a community navigator with the Promise Neighborhood Project.
District 5 spans much of Del Norte’s southern half, from the Humboldt County border to just before U.S. 101’s junction with U.S. 199 excluding Crescent City. The district houses the Bertsch Tract, where Sutter lives, as well as Last Chance Grade and Klamath.
Sutter moved to Del Norte County in 1990 when she became a correctional officer at Pelican Bay State Prison. She worked there until she retired in 2007. In 2004, Sutter said she was living in Crescent City when someone asked her if she wanted to run for City Council. She said she would go to Glen’s Bakery where she was introduced to Bob Berkowitz, who owned and operated Lifestyles Research and was the District 5 supervisor from 2016 until his death in 2022.
“To make a long story short, Bob Berkowitz had me register as a Republican and he took me around to meet everybody and I think I lost by 106 votes,” Sutter said. “That was the beginning of turning me into a political animal. After that I started attending all the meetings, and that was before Facebook ever came on.”
When Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform launched, Sutter found a platform. She began writing “stories about what’s going on here” and started doing research. After retiring from the prison, she said she ran for “something in 2008 or 2012.”
In 2016, Sutter ran against Berkowitz and then-incumbent David Finigan for the District 5 seat. In 2022, she vied for Crescent City Harbor Commission, winning the endorsement from the Crescent City Times where she posts as an “investigative reporter.”
In October 2023, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association named Sutter and her colleague Donna Westfall as their 2022 Taxfighter of the Year.
Sutter regularly rails against the Board of Supervisors. She said she’s disgusted that after the city, county and the harbor — members of the Tri-Agency Development Authority — voted to resurrect the JPA after 30 people at a meeting in July said they didn’t want it.
Sutter takes issue with the city, county and harbor contributing a total of $110,000 to the Tri-Agency in addition the $290,000 the JPA paid to satisfy an outstanding debt with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In her lawsuit against the Tri-Agency, Sutter said she has asked the judge to issue an order for the JPA to show cause why it should not dissolve.
Sutter has submitted California Public Records Act requests she says aren’t honored — she said she requested records of audits conducted only to be told that there was only one conducted in the last 11 years.
“I’ve been asking for documents; they don’t have documents,” Sutter said. “They don’t have a website. They couldn’t afford the website, so I bought that website. And they have $10,000 sitting in a bank account. It’s just mismanaged. I don’t see that any good is going to come out of this Tri-Agency other than squandering public money.”
The latest hearing in Sutter’s lawsuit occurred on Jan. 16 at the Del Norte County Courthouse. She said she had included the county, city and harbor in her lawsuit, but due to a demurrer, the only defendant in the lawsuit is the Tri-Agency.
“Right now the judge has given me 45 days for an amended complaint,” she said. “I’m working on it every day, and as soon as I get it done I’m taking it to Sacramento where I know some attorneys and I’ll have them review it for free and then I’ll submit it to the court.”
Sutter said she has until Feb. 29 to finish that complaint.
In addition to dissolving the Tri-Agency, Sutter said she wanted Del Norte’s roads to look nicer. She compared the community to Grants Pass, which is “always beautiful in the spring and fall because of the trees they have.” There’s no reason why Del Norte can’t do the same, she said.
As for the consent agenda at Board of Supervisors meetings, Sutter said she’d determine when supervisors first discussed the issue and at what meeting. She said she would then let the public know where to find that information
“I think that has to be explained to the public, and nobody wants to take the extra mile, but I will,” she said. “I’m all about transparency and I’m all about due diligence and without those two things, quite frankly [they’re] not doing anybody any good.”