By RYAN ORR Staff Writer
Victorville Daily Press
There are 109,000 residents spread over the 17,000 square miles that make up the unincorporated 1st District. When they have a problem there is one man they turn to, their supervisor.
The size of the district puts any 1st District supervisor at a disadvantage having to cover almost six times the amount of land than of the other four districts combined.
The 1st District, which encompasses the entire Victor Valley, could fit the state of Rhode Island in it 11 times. It is the largest district in the nation and makes up 84 percent of San Bernardino County, the largest county in the contiguous United States.
Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt has put more than 12,000 miles on his county car since his appointment to the position in January.
He said he has been to almost all of the 48 communities in the district.
"It's an enormous challenge because of the geographical issue," said Michael Stevens, who worked as the Victor Valley field representative for former 1st District Supervisor Marsha Turoci, who served from 1988 to 1996. "Obviously, everyone can't have an audience with the supervisor,"
Stevens said he spent 70 percent of his time just educating people on what county government does. "We heard a lot of angry constituents saying, 'I'm a voter, fix this, fix that,' " said Stevens. He said many of those problems should have been dealt with by one of the cities, or sometimes the state. He also emphasized the importance of having a good staff that communicates with residents. Robert Eland, district director for Mitzelfelt, said his office fields about 150 calls a month from 1st District citizens and that they usually resolve problems within two days.
"It's a challenge for any supervisor because of the diversity of the population," said Bob Hunter, Victorville city councilman who worked for former 1st District Supervisor Bill Postmus.
"We've had such an influx of people looking for urban living and then we have the residents who want to keep it rural," said Hunter, who is considering running for supervisor in 2008.
Robert T. Older served as 1st District supervisor from 1980 to 1982 but was recalled because his "high-density" policies conflicted with the "balanced-growth" policies of the desert communities.
Residents in rural areas now are fighting the same battles.
Kathy Arch of Oak Hills wrote an e-mail to Mitzelfelt and said she just wanted to discuss a mobile home park that is proposed across the street from her rural home.
"Mr. Mitzelfelt, while handing me your business card, you assured me you would return my call if I left a message at your office. I have left two messages with no responses," the letter states.
Skip Bond of Oak Hills said that when Kathy Davis was supervisor from 1996 to 2000, she didn't pay any attention to their community.
"We just never heard from her up here," he said.
Since the first county supervisors meeting was held, the 1st District has not had one supervisor that has served more than two terms.
"I'd say the district just needs a good supervisor who can handle the job," said Mitzelfelt, who gave a speech at the Red Cross Economic Summit in Victorville on Thursday.
"It doesn't matter who's in that seat, the question is can they do it for long," said Stevens. "They are just so tired from going from one end of the district to the other. Anyone who wants to run, you better put your personal life on hold."
Stevens proposed to break up the 1st District into three separate districts but said that it fell on deaf ears.
The districts are based on population. The 1st District has an estimated 433,000 residents that make up 22 percent of the county's population. The 4th District has 19 percent of population but is less than one percent of the size of the 1st District.
Another solution is taking the Victor Valley, and most of the 1st District, and creating a separate county.
The drive for what would be called Mojave County started in 1988 and made it on to the ballot. High Desert residents approved the secession by more than 60 percent, but because it only received 30 percent of the voters from "down below," the measure was defeated.
"I think it will come up again in the next couple of years," said Hunter. "I think it would be a good thing."
He said they would have to work something out with the Legislature that would only allow prospective residents of the new county to vote for it.
"They don't understand the purpose of us wanting our own county," Hunter said of the population outside of the 1st District.
Stevens and Hunter agree that the district should not be formed based on population.
"The 5th District is the smallest one, yet they have the same clout as us," said Stevens. "Obviously, we have more county issues, more county miles and more county- maintained roads."