On Tuesday, voters in San Bernardino County’s First District will make what will be 2016’s final electoral choice pertaining to governance at the county level when they decide between incumbent supervisor Robert Lovingood and his challenger, Angela Valles.
Fifth District Supervisor Josie Gonzales was unopposed in this year’s election and Third District Supervisor James Ramos vanquished his only challenger, Donna Muñoz in the June Primary.
Valles earned a runoff against Lovingood in June, when she captured 14,809 votes or 26.06 percent to Lovingood’s 20,772 votes, or 36.55 percent. There were three others in the June race, including Valles’ husband, former Apple Valley mayor Rick Roelle, Hesperia Councilman Bill Holland and Hesperia Councilman Paul Russ. Lovingood and Valles are in a footrace for the 37.39 percent of the votes that went to the three also-rans in the June. contest.
Lovingood is the current office holder in the First District, thus running from a position of strength. Valles has held more political offices and is more travelled electorally than the incumbent. She was a Victor Valley Community College District board member first elected in 2007, from which position she successfully ran for Victorville City Council in 2010. Though Valles thus boasts twice as many electoral victories as Lovingood, she was unsuccessful in her run for Congress in 2012. Lovingood has yet to taste electoral defeat.
At present Valles is the director of finance for the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority, a joint powers agency in which the cities of Hesperia and Victorville, the Town of Apple Valley and the County of San Bernardino participate, and for which, in years past, Valles was once the director of administration. Prior to that Valles was employed as a correctional officer and then the warden of the Victor Valley Medium Community Correctional Facility, a private institution that held contracts with the California Department of Corrections to house prisoners.
The challenger, Valles, is essentially a creature of the public sector, having held employment for most of her adult life with public agencies or governmental entities, or in the case of the Victor Valley Medium Community Correctional Facility, a company with a governmental contract. Lovingood’s nearly four-year status as the primary county office-holder in San Bernardino County’s High Desert notwithstanding, he qualifies as primarily private-sector oriented.
This difference between the two does not offer a complete outline of their differences. Paradoxically, despite her work history as a public employee and her successful track record in being elected to office, Valles has garnered a reputation as a political outsider perennially cast, it seems, as a dissident challenging the status quo. Lovingood, though he is rooted in the business world, has in the last four years established himself as a pillar of the government and member of the political establishment, at least as it is currently composed. Lovingood has laid claim to the endorsements of all of his colleagues on the board of supervisors. Valles, in turn, has been endorsed by the union representing the county’s nearly 18,000 employees, Teamsters Local 1932.
Though both Lovingood and Valles are Republicans, neither abides by the 11th Commandment, which beseeches Republicans to not speak ill of another Republican.
Indeed the hostility and personal enmity between Lovingood and Valles comes across as particularly pronounced, even by the standard of San Bernardino County’s traditional vituperative politics. It is unclear, actually, who cast the first stone. In 2013, Valles, pursued a theory she had developed that Lovingood, as supervisor and as the owner of ICR Staffing Services, was entangled in a conflict of interest because ICR had a contract with the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority, in which the county is a participant. Valles documented that ICR has received at least $560,000 in fees from the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority and turned that information over to the FBI, the California Attorney General’s Office, the San Bernardino County district attorney and the California Fair Political Practices Commission, seeking to have Lovingood investigated, prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned.
Lovingood has refuted Valles’ claim, pointing out that ICR’s contract with the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority predated his election as supervisor and that he prudently avoided being seated as one of the authority’s board members. The First District supervisor has historically been a member of that panel. Instead, Lovingood pointed out, James Ramos, one of his colleagues on the board of supervisors, has served in his stead on the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Board.
Lovingood appears to have returned fire in Valles’ direction. In 2015, Valles was placed on paid leave by the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority, while an extended investigation into allegations that she was responsible for creating a hostile working environment at the agency and was involved in other manifestations of “unethical behavior” was carried out. In tandem with that investigation, a number of individuals surfaced publicly with less than flattering information about Valles. In at least some of those instances, a connection between Valles’ accusers and Lovingood could be drawn. Ultimately, Valles returned to work at the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority.
The bad blood between Lovingood and Valles may have predated this contretemps, extending back to 2012, when Lovingood defeated Valles’ husband, Rick Roelle.
This week, Lovingood told the Sentinel he believed he was the voters’ best choice for First District supervisor.
“As a first term supervisor, I’m very proud of my record,” he said. “I’ve worked hard to streamline government and improve transparency, enhance neighborhood safety and create jobs. The San Bernardino Sun says I helped ‘put an end to corruption’ in county government. Sheriff John McMahon calls me ‘a leader of exceptional integrity’ who is ‘making a difference.’ I am very proud of these successes and look forward to building upon them.”
Lovingood said he believed he had achieved milestones of good governance over the last four years, for which he merits reelection.
“When I ran for election I set out to change the way county government operated –– I wanted to better use tax dollars, help create jobs, improve public safety and restore a positive image of the county government,” he said. “The High Desert’s unemployment has fallen the past four years. Crime has fallen every year for the past four years. For the first time in years, the county budget is balanced and has a prudent ‘rainy day fund’ for fiscal emergencies. Government is more efficient. County spending has been reduced, while services have been increased and improved. We have added 25 new deputies to the High Desert without increasing the existing budget, and recently launched a successful inmate-to-work initiative —saving taxpayer dollars.
Valles told the Sentinel she believes she is the superior choice for First District supervisor.
“I truly believe in service above self and have worked as both a political leader and community activist to make it a practice to always conduct the business of the people openly, fairly, and receiving as much citizen input as possible,” she said. “My focus as county supervisor will be improving public safety in the High Desert, improving roads, protecting our abused and neglected children, bringing the economy and jobs back to the High Desert, protecting our quality of life with quality development and assuring that there is transparency in county government.”
Valles said she has a track record in the public sector and as an elected official that demonstrates she should be elected supervisor.
“I began my professional career as a correctional officer in 1997 at Victor Valley Medium Community Correctional Facility after earning my GED and AA at Victor Valley College. I was determined to provide for my family, worked hard and advanced, eventually becoming the warden at the facility. I am currently the director of finance for the Victor Valley Waste Water Reclamation Authority since 2005. I also hold a bachelor’s and master’s degree.”
Valles continued, “In 2007, I was elected to the Victor Valley College Board of Trustees, where I eventually served as board president. In 2010, I was then elected to the Victorville City Council where I worked hard to help them fix their financial woes and balance their $204.5-million-dollar budget.”
Lovingood explained why he felt Valles was inadequate for the job as First District supervisor.
“My opponent has a history of failure –– wrecking everything she has been involved in. As finance director at the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority she’s mismanaged tax money. As a city councilmember, she pushed the city of Victorville towards bankruptcy. She has fought with colleagues and staff everywhere she has been, and has been demoted for bullying and unethical behavior. In addition, she is willing to say and do anything in a desperate attempt to gain office. I believe San Bernardino County residents deserve better.”
Valles offered her rationale for her assertion Lovingood should not be reelected.
“Supervisor Lovingood made over half a million dollars with his private temporary employee business while serving in his position as county supervisor,” Valles said. “I believe he influenced the decision by being the supervisor, and his position helped his company to secure these contracts. I stand out because I don’t think it’s right, and I was the first and only one asking for the Fair Political Practices Commission to investigation these violations.”
Furthermore, Valles said, “The constituents of First District want to elect a supervisor who cares about them and their needs, not about the needs of businesses and developers. I believe that Supervisor Lovingood hasn’t given the attention to the constituents that they deserve.”