Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, Feb. 2 @ 2:57 p.m.
Valerie Starkey Says She's Proud of Accomplishments During Her First Term As District 2 Supervisor
Valerie Starkey says she wears her heart on her sleeve, which often puts her at odds with her colleagues on the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors.
This has been the case with her position on the Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority. At a Del Norte Association of Realtors candidate forum, Starkey said that while she was skeptical about the joint powers authority with a fraught past, she’s done fighting it.
On Thursday, Starkey, who is seeking a second term representing District 2, acknowledged that most of her colleagues voted to reinstate the agency and she wants it to succeed.
“I wanted to make sure it was set up for success and set up to protect citizens,” Starkey told the Wild Rivers Outpost. “A lot of people were opposed to it. But now that we’re here, how can we set this up to be successful without creating a problem with the taxpayers?”
Starkey said she’s always questioned the status quo. This was the case when she and appointed 5th District Supervisor Susan Masten in September 2022 called for budget workshops despite vociferous opposition from others on the Board.
Starkey and her District 1 colleague Darrin Short also pushed back against Chief Probation Officer Lonnie Reyman’s recommendation in October 2022 to close Del Norte County’s juvenile detention facility.
“I just believe we should be able to provide a valid and justifiable reason as to why we conduct business the way we do,” Starkey said. “And if you can’t provide me that, I’m going to find ways in order for that information to get out there.”
Starkey moved back to Del Norte County after living and working in Sonoma County for about 30 years. As a probation officer, Starkey said, while stepping into local government presented a learning curve, she went into it with a willingness to help where ever she was needed.
Starkey faces challenger Rivers Drown, a retired Pelican Bay State Prison corrections officer for the District 2 seat.
Starkey found herself on the Del Norte Solid Waste Management and Redwood Coast Transit Authority boards after assuming her seat. In February 2021, following a slide at Last Chance Grade, she began stepping in for former District 5 Supervisor Bob Berkowitz, who was battling cancer.
Starkey said she began answering the public’s questions, focusing on Klamath in particular, and was working with Caltrans who was trying to stabilize the hillside.
“I think all of us are able to represent all of the county, there’s only 27,000 people,” she said. “People can call me if they want to run an idea by me and I’m grateful they feel comfortable doing that. In that period of time, I didn’t want Klamath especially to feel left out. This was a situation that really impacted them and I made it clear I was available for them and I continue to be available for any district.”
Another example of this, Starkey said, was in early 2022 when Fort Dick residents complained that three dogs were killing their cats. People had attempted to reach out to their supervisor and weren’t getting a response, Starkey said. She said they reached out to her and she was happy to help.
In June 2022, after residents had been complaining about the situation since December 2021, the owner relinquished one of the three nuisance dogs and paid a $3,000 fine.
In August 2022, Del Norte County Animal Control seized the remaining two dogs, stating the owner failed to keep them restrained.
At last week’s candidate forum, Starkey said one of the things she was proud of was partnering with Masten to form the county’s homelessness ad-hoc committee, which spearheaded the win of $10.8 million in Encampment Resolution Funding grant dollars.
Though she’s no longer on that committee, Starkey said she’s proud of what it had accomplished. Starkey used the homelessness ad-hoc committee as an example of coming up with ways to address constituents’ concerns that are a bit out of the box.
After adopting District 5, Starkey said local fisherman Chuck Williams called her furious at the crime happening in the marshy area just south of Crescent City. Code Enforcement Officer Dominic Mello took her back there.
The owners of much of that land had defaulted on their taxes, Starkey said, and Mello proposed purchasing it so the county could develop it or at least shut off access to it.
Starkey said she pulled together the tax collector, district attorney, county assessor, code enforcement — every person she could think of — and began spitballing ideas.
“I still have the map with the sticky notes,” Starkey said. “It got legs with Supervisor Masten. She had the background to know how to mobilize and she was really able to pull them together, that formal ad-hoc.”
Another accomplishment Starkey said she had a hand in recently was replacing the railing on the split stairs on Pebble Beach Drive. Starkey said people have wanted to replace the railing for the last three decades. This includes her predecessors Lori Cowan and Martha McClure.
Starkey said she had reached out to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation and the Del Norte County Community Development Department. She said she also sent pictures of the railing to State Sen. Mike McGuire, who called CDFW Director Charlton Bonham.
Starkey said CDFW is also partnering with Ducks Unlimited for a grant to actually resurface the stairs, put in a permanent railing and some interpretive signs indicating that the land is sacred to the Tolowa.
Starkey has also been instrumental in combatting opioid addiction as one of the delegates with the Reaching Rural Initiative sent to Washington D.C. to tackle the crisis in rural communities. That local team is now the Opioid Settlement Working Group and it will be making an appearance before the rest of the Board of Supervisors.
Starkey said the goal is to create a “journey map” to do outreach to those struggling with addiction.
Last week, after stating that Del Norte saw 33 overdose deaths in 2022 and is on track to see the same amount in 2023, Starkey told voters at the DNAOR forum about the mobile medicated assisted treatment program she and her colleagues on the Reaching Rural Initiative are working on.
“I’m proud that I’m the only supervisor who is just actively engaged in those kinds of projects and we’re moving things forward,” Starkey said.
Ballots will be sent to Del Norte County voters starting on Monday. California’s primary election will be held on March 5.