The two candidates for Sonoma County auditor-controller-treasurer-tax collector clashed Sunday over the very nature of the job.
Incumbent David Sundstrom said the person charged with complex administrative duties including overseeing $1.5 billion in investments should steer clear of politics.
While challenger Gary Wysocky, a Santa Rosa City Councilman, expressed a willingness to use the office as a bully pulpit for community issues.
At a candidates’ forum attended by about 30 people, Wysocky said the job is “not rocket science” while offering opinions on varied topics such as the shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a sheriff’s deputy and farmworker pay.
“You may say this is not a political position but it is,” Wysocky said in the forum at Community Baptist Church. “An elected position is a political position. That’s what trust is all about.”
Sundstrom responded repeatedly that the issues were not within the scope of his office.
“This is not a policy position,” Sundstrom said. “And it is not now nor should it ever be a political position.”
The job includes collecting and apportioning property taxes, managing how the county, cities, school districts invest their money and auditing county departments and special districts to ensure they are complying with financial standards and safeguards.
Sundstrom, 61, a CPA and 35-year public servant, was hired from a similar post in Orange County in 2011. Sundstrom’s salary in 2013 was $215,935.
Wysocky, 57, is a private CPA and community watchdog who was first elected to the council in 2008.
Both agreed on some key issues, such as the need to put aside adequate funds for county pensions, to be accessible and for transparency in financial dealings.
Sundstrom said he’s made significant improvements since arriving from Orange County that have returned millions of dollars to county programs. He said his years of experience and track record of achievement made him best suited for the job.
Wysocky suggested he could do better. He said he’s proven he’s not afraid to stand up to powerful people with the truth.
“I do have a backbone,” Wysocky said. “I’ve shown that in my six years as a public servant.”
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or email@example.com