Barbara Beard is one of the last remaining local lawyers in Needles and a candidate for city council in this year’s election. She has tossed her hat in the ring, she said, because “Several residents asked me to. They believe I have the ability to communicate with the city council, the mayor, the city manager and the city attorney, although I still find it a bit awkward at times because I am not a politician-type. I would like to make it easier for people to understand what the city is trying to accomplish, and to encourage them to communicate their desires for our city. We are all uniquely created and many have valuable contributions to make. And many are shy.”
Beard said “I have attended and participated in city council meetings for many years and am familiar with many of the current issues.”
Beard said at the forefront of the issues current in the Needles community she saw “development of the city north of the I-40, which includes engineering the utilities,” as pressing. Furthermore, she said, “New housing is needed. We are working on [establishing] development impact fees. We are also revising our general plan. It is extremely important we accomplish this task in view of the arrival of the new industry and the consequential need for rezoning or zoning reclassifications. Rezoning must by law follow the general plan and we’re continually caught rezoning first because the general plan needs updating. It is my hope that we can create an attractive downtown as we map out other zoning needs.”
Beard continued, “We need a major grocery store, which will come as our population grows. We continue to work on infrastructure improvements in the rest of the city. The city manager has also hired new employees. All of the city employees I know care about the city and work hard. We had an extensive list of projects covered at the last council meeting. The newly restored El Garces [historic hotel/train depot], originally one of the famous Harvey Houses for the railroad which sits on Route 66, is seeking tenants. We have also nearly completed plans for our visitor center in the El Garces. The list is endless.”
She said she believed the city had adequate funding options for the infrastructure and utility improvements she envisions.
“We recently approved payment to conduct a facilities study for the Western Area Power Administration, which will encompass an extensive area in and around Needles,” she said.
The Western Area Power Administration is an agency within the Department of Energy which markets and delivers electrical power to 15 states in the western United States through a network of high-tension transmission lines and substations. The Western Area Power Administration Desert Southwest region operates approximately 140 transmission lines over 3,322 miles in length and 125 substations and/or pumping plants in Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico.
“If the results pass muster, the Western Area Power Administration will contribute up to $30 million for new facilities development,” Beard said.
Moreover, Beard said, the city is already seeing revenue which is a consequence of its move more than three years ago to get in on the ground floor of California voters’ decision to liberalize the use of marijuana. “Taxes generated by cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of medical marijuana have already produced income for infrastructure and operations,” she said. “These businesses, which have begun and will continue to provide several hundred new jobs, in turn will attract more businesses.”
Beard said her functioning within the legal profession has acclimated her to the culture of government.
“My law practice experience includes Orange County and Los Angeles County and, beginning in 1992, San Bernardino County, specifically Big Bear Lake and then Needles,” she said. “In my profession, there has been some form of city government involvement nearly everywhere. I used to chuckle when I dropped by one of the cities as I watched people who had been posted in the planning, and building & safety departments leave the front counter when I arrived. I thought that was a good thing – for my clients’ interests! One city manager described me as both passionate and tenacious in my client negotiations and representations with city issues. We can only try our best.”
Beard has lived in Needles for ten years. As a child, she lived in both New Brighton, Minnesota, which is near St. Paul, and in Orange County. She came back to California as a young adult.
She obtained her law degree from the University of West Los Angeles School of Law, where she contributed to the school’s law review and made the dean’s list, receiving American Jurisprudence Awards in Constitutional and Criminal Law.
She is a vociferous advocate of reopening the Superior Court branch which the county used to maintain in Needles.
“I opened a law office on Broadway when I moved to Needles,” she said. “Due to county budget constraints, we lost our courthouse about five years ago. We now have to commute to San Bernardino, an eight-hour round trip, or to Victorville, Joshua Tree or Barstow, which are five-hour round trips. We desperately need our courthouse restored. It is a violation of due process to force us to commute that distance across the desert, particularly in the summer months in 100 to 130 degrees from the end of May to October. The court budget permitted us to reopen a year ago by remote screening to Barstow, for one morning a month for infractions only. We need much more access.”
Beard said, “I was not blessed with biological children but my brother had a daughter before he died at age 23. Several church families and children have ‘adopted’ me over the years as ‘Auntie Barbara’ or ‘Gramma.’
She proudly pointed out that “My father and brother were both Purple Heart Army Veterans in WWII and Vietnam, respectively.”
She outlined her affinity for Needles. “I love Needles,” she said, qualifying that only with “not the extreme heat so much, like Minnesota blizzards and 70-below window chill. I just stay inside as much as possible. It is affordable. I was able to buy a fixer-upper on well over an acre of land, with a magnificent view, and grow many native trees and plants, most of which require very little or no water. We have very little crime. Someone told me the people here may disagree with each other on many levels, but if someone needs help, they all come together. And they do.”
Beard said, “It is my hope that, if I am elected, I can serve as an encouragement to people to come forward with their opinions and desires for the city. Due in part to my profession, I am educated and trained to get to the issues and get things done. As a member of a team of council members, I want to contribute as much as possible to improving the city for the people.”