Incumbent ticket broken in heated Stinson fire district race

11/07/2018

The race for two seats on the Stinson Beach Fire Protection District board reached a fever pitch unusual for the town. Will Mitchell, a relative newcomer, and Marcus White, an incumbent who ran as a ticket with his longtime colleague on the board Peter Sandman, won the seats, with Mr. Sandman capturing 22 percent of the vote according to preliminary results. Mr. White won 42 percent of votes, and Mr. Mitchell 35 percent. Residents leaving the polls on Tuesday night had mixed reactions to the candidates. Wendy Clark said she voted for both incumbents because she knew them and their work and believed they had done a “great job.” Jean Smith, who biked to the polls with her German shepherd at her side, said she voted for Mr. White—her former postman—and Mr. Mitchell because she thought, “Whatever, we’ll get the young ones in.” Ben Lowrance, on the other hand, wasn’t impressed by Mr. Mitchell. “I know the other two candidates and heard [Mr. Mitchell] was affiliated with a realtor’s office—and I don’t believe in private property,” he said. Some said they were surprised by the animosity stirred up by the campaign, much of which surfaced on the social media site NextDoor. Last month, both Mr. Mitchell and longtime resident Richard Reasoner found themselves banned from the site. “I’ve been here a long time, and this is the first time I’ve seen such negative campaigning going on,” Mr. Reasoner said. “Until this election came along, people didn’t know that there was a fire protection board and who was on that board. It’s unusual for Stinson Beach to experience anything like that: the animosity, the attack on anybody who brings up an issue.” The drama may have ultimately helped sway the election. “Had it not gotten so hairy, I would have been more supportive of listening to all the options,” said one young Stinson resident who wanted to remain anonymous. “But I think the department needs to modernize, and [Mr. Mitchell] is a good way forward.” On Wednesday morning, Mr. Mitchell said he was looking forward to getting started on issues of district communication and affordable housing for command staff—and to working with the board’s leadership team. “The core mission remains the same,” he said, “and that is picking up the baton and moving the department forward.”