May 27, 2024

South Lake Tahoe City Council candidates answer questions on teamwork and collaboration – South Tahoe Now

There are eleven people vying for a spot on the city council in South Lake Tahoe. With only three open spots, it is not easy to narrow down the choices.
South Tahoe Now reached out to all 11 candidates and received replies from just eight of them. Each day this week their answers will be posted. It will be different this election because of the crowded field and all answers to question number one will be posted on Monday, question two answers on Tuesday, and so on. The order will rotate each day. (View answers to question #1 here)
Question 2. Do you consider yourself a team player and one that can collaborate with the other council members to arrive at the best conclusion for the public? Or, do you find this an unnecessary skill? Please explain and give example(s).
Nicole Ramirez Thomas: I am 100 percent a team player and in fact, that is my campaign motto – “Together we can do more.” Being one of five decision makers absolutely requires a team mentality. Further, the City Council works on behalf of the community and must set ego aside to make the best decision. Telling the truth, being well informed, and refraining from devise behaviors is essential to a well-functioning City and community.
I would say that one of the things I enjoy most is collaborating and getting different stakeholders to work together to come to a solution or determine how to manage or address a community issue. I think that the current South Lake Tahoe City Council has done an excellent job on working productively and respectfully with each other and with City Staff to accomplish many of the items outlined in the Strategic Plan. We should work to preserve this attitude with the incoming council and continue a trajectory that is beneficial to the community.
Joby Cefalu: I absolutely consider myself a team player. The dynamics of federal, state, county, and city lines, as well as the many agencies, require collaboration in almost every aspect of governance. My long tenure as a resident, business owner, and builder bring forth relationships and collaboration of which I believe are unmatched in this very talented field of candidates.
Chantelle Schenning: Absolutely, I am a team player and collaborator. My personal and professional experiences have contributed to high collaboration skills which include navigating and considering diverse thoughts amongst many stakeholders to arrive at the best decision. This does not mean being submissive or overly agreeable. I have significant collaboration experience from my work at large organizations like Kaiser Permanente and on Federal policy efforts. For example, I led an effort to introduce a Federal bill that included many stakeholders like non-profits, industry leaders, legislators, constituents, and more. Despite many conflicting opinions, all of the stakeholders had a voice at the table and we collaborated to arrive at the best proposal that considered the diverse input and would achieve our goal (e.g. improve healthcare for kids). Congress considered our proposal and introduced it as a Federal bill.
Over the last year alone, I’ve accomplished efforts like this for two federal bills and a California State bill. If I can do this type of collaboration on federal and state efforts, I am prepared to do the same for our city. Collaboration is critical on city council and beyond. Council members need to collaborate amongst themselves, but also with the community and outside of the community to be most effective. For example, I’d like to see more engagement and collaboration with local residents, businesses, non-profits, the county, and neighboring counties, state governments (NV + CA), and the federal government. This is foundational for issues such as environmental protections, wildfires, affordable housing, and more.
Scott Robbins: No council member can work alone. To function, all legislatures, big or small, must find consensus. I believe in the art of the possible, in the importance of openness to competing information and ideas, and that the ideal should never be the enemy of the good. The modern era of winner-take-all politics, in which compromise and collaboration are akin to concession, has been a disservice to our nation.
To that end, I will work with anyone, on any issue, at any time, to make life in Tahoe better for our locals.
David Jinkens: In the complicated local and regional government system in the Tahoe Basin, working together is an important skill. What a policymaker must do is ensure that he/she has all the information about a matter, listens carefully to the public, and then get the best advice and options from staff. Generally, I have found, Council members agree on most issues when they have adequate staff information and options for acting. Policy is set when at least three members of the City Council (always hoping for five) agree on a policy choice. In most instances, Council members working in good faith, putting their egos aside, and discussing civilly a matter can and do arrive at an agreement. It is important as well that at times a council member might take a stand on an issue because of an ethical or moral value he/she has, and other members have to understand this.
Finally, getting along is important, and being civil to one another and the public we serve is what we expect of our elected leaders. Yet, it is also the duty of the City Council to do more than get along. Council members have a fiduciary duty to City voters to take all actions it can to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community. Getting along is important as a City Council with regional agencies as long as the safety, health, and the welfare of the community and all its citizens are looked after. Regional proposals must be evaluated based on how they affect local residents and our business community. Council members can never allow their residents to be subjected to danger from any source. The City Council must be the advocates for the people who live here and try to help them when they bring problems and concerns to the City Council for help. Members of the public should never be ignored.
Kevin Brunner: I believe in teamwork to find common ground and achieve actual GOALS for the benefit of our locals.
 In working with local law enforcement to create a dialog about racial equality, I got to know the people behind the badges. Results of these dialogs resulted in the use of bodycams and a greater understanding and rapport with law enforcement and citizens.
I think it is absolutely necessary for the City Council as a body to work together, get all of the facts about a matter, hear what options are available, the risks and benefits associated with each option, and then act. The Council must give management staff the freedom to give their professional opinion on policy matters and not worry that their opinions are not shared by individual council members.
Tamara Wallace: The short answer is yes, I am a team player, as evidenced by the last four years on council. We have had a diverse group of members that have made the choice to like each other, respect one another’s beliefs and work towards the common goal of making our community a better place for everyone. Rather than inflating our own egos and personas.
The good news is that right from the start all involved were dedicated to working together. Our Council recognized that we needed to find a set of shared values that we could all agree upon. As a result, we agreed to concentrate on the core reasons that our City was founded. We each had varied priorities, but at the core were police, fire, roads, and housing. We also agreed to support the will of the voters as expressed through the many initiatives that had been passed. We don’t always get it perfect, but I truly believe we always have the will of the community at heart.
Brad Jacobson: First, and foremost, the most important focus here is “the best conclusion for the public.” This starts with listening, active engagement, transparency, and completing the cycle of communication regardless of the information at hand, good or bad.
Definitely, I consider myself a team player, and one that can collaborate with other council members to arrive at the best conclusion for the public. In fact, I consider it to be one of my greater strengths regularly exhibited in my professional and personal life. As is the case with any trait, it takes constant practice and consideration to fine-tune – I believe there needs to be confidence in one’s abilities, while also maintaining humbleness and open regard for others. No one person has all the answers, though there is information and education to be learned from EVERY person.
As President of BoDeans Baking Company (ice cream cone manufacturing company), I considered myself to be part of a team of 500 employees. We conducted self-directed work teams which embody the very essence of collaborative participation; that openness across all levels of employment welcomed transparency and involvement, allowing us to listen and learn from the people that lived and breathed the day-to-day experiences. The feedback that we received was instrumental to our decision-making towards continued improvement and overall success.
I’ve played competitive sports most of my life, including football, wrestling, lacrosse, soccer, and basketball. I’ve been captain of numerous teams. You don’t succeed in team sports without first understanding what it means to be a team player. It is truly a joy and challenge to get your teammates working together – the lessons learned are transformative and almost as sweet as the winning!
I would bring this same compassion, cooperation, and collaboration to not only my interaction with the other council members but to all of the SLT agencies and residents alike. I believe it’s imperative to be open-minded to all forms of input. Then, make a clear and concise plan, and execute it. At the end of the day, results matter.
Here are the websites and contact information for each of the eight candidates who answered the questions above (in alphabetical order):
Kevin Brunner –, ke**************@gm***.com
Joby Cefalu –, jo*****@gm***.com
Brad Jacobson – bd**********@gm***.com
David Jinkens –, dj******************@gm***.com
Nicole Ramirez Thomas –, ni****@ni**************.com
Scott Robbins –, sc***@sc*********.com
Chantelle Schenning –, ch*******************@gm***.com
Tamara Wallace –, wa********************@gm***.com
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