Two Key Races

In pivotal times, we need good leaders. While the eyes of the masses are cast upon Capitol Hill, your community elections are arguably just as vital. The local Tahoe/Truckee boards and council dictate how and where your utilities come from, what priorities a town should have, and how your taxes are spent. The impact when checking those boxes on your ballot is significantly greater at a local level, where your voice is louder.

A few of the local races on the ballot this year are contested (while several are not, see p.17 for a list), and though all deserve coverage, our bandwidth at Moonshine Ink mandated we choose. For this print edition, we focus on two agencies that are in critical stages — Truckee Town Council and the Truckee Tahoe Airport Board.

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To each candidate we sent three questions about governing (responses limited to 150 words) and asked for three fun facts about themselves in a few words. Their answers indicate a desire to serve a community they all hold dear.

The selections were based on even distribution among the topics, highlighting answers that did a great job of addressing the question directly and/or with the most specific example.

Please review and do your homework so you are an informed voter. Always, always, always vote: Democracy is not a spectator sport. 


The town of Truckee, now 27 years old, is revisiting its general plan and developing measures for mitigating effects of climate change, as well as contending with the massive shifts in population, fire danger, housing affordability, and transportation. Yes, the whole region faces these issues, yet being the only municipality in our coverage area, the town is in a unique position of local governance.

In the candidates’ answers this year, affordable housing proved to be a dominant issue and relatedly, the need for a consistent vision to hold the community fabric together. It was universally pointed out that selecting only one “local business you couldn’t do without” was unfair — we think that’s a good point.

Town leadership is in flux and if elected you will select a planning commission member. What do you see as the most needed in leadership of the town in these challenging times?

Marcy Dolan:

We are a community of many different interests and it is important for our leaders to unite the many sectors and help our community overcome the we-versus-them mentality. I think it is important to hear the voices of people that are underrepresented or are not old enough to vote. I also believe that if we set policy and codes that our town then needs to educate and enforce these regulations — parking, noise, trash, fire safety, to name a few.

Nicholas Sielchan:

Responsibility, accountability, and transparency. We need to provide work and housing for Truckee, especially those who wish to raise a family here. With single and multi-family housing projected to increase in the next 10-plus years, the actual affordability of these projects is incredibly important. We have to ensure true affordability and vet projects before a shovel breaks the ground and it is too late.

Jack Forbes:

I continue to feel that the most underrepresented demographic in our town is the low-wage and medium-wage workforce, who earn less than the Area Median Income (AMI) for Nevada County as defined by the California Department of Housing and Development. The 2020 AMI is $64,700, or $31 per hour. The town’s affordable housing projects use a percentage of the AMI (typically 60% to 80% AMI) as the limit for those seeking affordable housing. They are working the service, hospitality, retail, and restaurant jobs that keep Truckee running. They are also the most susceptible population to be forced out by rising rents, limited housing stock, and stagnant wages. Until they are afforded the necessary voice and opportunities to provide input on realistic and achievable housing, they will continue to be underserved and underrepresented by the council and the general plan.

Frank Bernhard:

Town leadership is at a crossroads and divisive across many issues. The next leaders must be not only collaborative in their ethos of serving our needs, but also excellent problem solvers. The art of effective problem solving requires planning members and town leaders to explore a balance of possibilities against a range of productive outcomes. The endpoint is resolving conflict into inclusive, fiscally prudent decisions that make Truckee a better place than its current state.

Dow Costa:

The planning commission’s job is to follow the policies and regulations that are in place for the town at a given time. If the policies and regulations no longer meet the needs and desires of the town as a whole, then it is the job of the town council to correct those policies and regulations. The biggest challenge is to determine the needs and desires of the people of Truckee as a whole, especially when there are divergent opinions and vocal agendas that may or may not represent the quieter majority. Leadership must be open to all views and must put effort toward discovering the views of those who are not represented by any special interest. Discovery and consensus-building will be essential skills.

Courtney Henderson:

We need people with strong leadership skills. I believe some of the most important qualities in a strong leader are integrity, superior communication skills, the willingness to learn and listen, the ability to innovate, and approach every person, interaction, and situation with empathy.

We also need people who are willing to dig in, to do the research, dive into the details of land use and planning, and ensure that decisions are upholding our community’s vision for our town’s future, as articulated in the general plan and the update we are currently undergoing.

Lindsay Romack:

Truckee needs leaders that are accountable and transparent to residents about processes and final policy decisions. While not every Truckee citizen will agree with all policies, understanding the process could help ease frustration from community members. Town leadership must also be attentive listeners as we will need to seek input from community members and business owners who may have ideas not yet explored. A good leader should investigate new ideas from constituents and not just dismiss them. Passion and commitment round out the list as it is imperative that leaders roll up their sleeves and work hard to develop the best and most innovative solutions to the challenges Truckee faces. As a 16-year member of this community, I look forward to serving you by listening to your ideas, being honest about tough decisions, and dedicating the time and effort that is required to be a town council member.

Carla Embertson:

Appointment to the planning commission is a decision that needs to be made very carefully. I will appoint a commissioner who knows the Truckee community, has lived here long enough to know what effect proposed building will have on current infrastructure, seasonal traffic patterns, and whether new infrastructure is needed to make proposed projects viable. My candidate would consider the long-term effect on the town that a project would have and ensure it is in keeping with the town goals. Prior to approval by the planning commission, the effect of the project on existing residents and businesses must be carefully considered, as well as how the proposed project meets the needs of those for whom it is being constructed. My candidate will have a background in cost/benefit ratio analysis and, in the case of any taxpayer funded projects, would ensure that taxpayers are getting the best equity for their money.

Jan Zabriskie:

In these challenging times our governmental leaders need to be experienced in local government. Our town will have a new town manager, new police chief, and three new council members. Our incumbents have a combined four years of experience on the council. Given this collective inexperience in our town government, we are in special need of leaders with local governmental experience.

But that is not all. Wisdom, empathy, and the time needed to listen, learn, and prepare are also essential. Public service as a planning commissioner, as well as council member, requires an understanding of not just the substance of an issue, but also the procedures, ethics, policies, and community interests at play. I know because I served as a commissioner and chairman of our planning commission, and I now serve on the general plan advisory committee, along with the climate and community character subcommittees.


If you could go back in time, and change one policy at the town, what would it be?

Frank Bernhard:

One policy that should have started earlier is the resolution for shaping our affordable housing future — beginning well before the last decade. Although progress is being made with our latest housing projects, there’s an obvious deficit that is plaguing Truckee as we haven’t considered the economic escalator for a balanced cost of living. Going forward, we need to act decisively on providing a multi-tiered housing plan that considers low, median, and above-median subsidies to make our town livable for those who serve and work within the community.

Dow Costa:

As with any policy, it won’t help us to look backward and wish anything had been done differently. Instead, we should learn from the past, correct any policy as necessary at this time, and move forward in the best way we know possible. With that said, I suspect most local residents did not realize four stories were permissible until the Artist Lofts project in the new Railyard was recently erected. Today, four stories as a stand-alone building in an undeveloped premier location sure stand out like a sore thumb. Hopefully, as the project completes and the area develops, it will all blend in much better and become more a part of the Truckee character, and less of a stark contrast to the Historic Truckee Downtown area.

Jan Zabriskie:

Let’s recognize that Truckee’s civic pioneers bequeathed us a fiscally sound government. And in a recent survey, local voters affirmed their “high opinion of the town’s performance in providing municipal services.” We are also blessed with our historical district, open spaces, and trails that are the envy of other mountain towns. So, we should be proud of our town government.

With the benefit of hindsight, however, we see that our town overly succumbed to the exclusionary land use policies of urban areas by allowing residential subdivisions that have left housing unaffordable for most of our work force. According to the town’s 2019 Existing Conditions Report, 95% of our residentially zoned land was designated for single-family homes, and 84% of our dwellings are single-family homes. The integration of affordable housing programs into our town’s goals represents a policy change that I wish had been made earlier.

Marcy Dolan:

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but I think the In-Lieu Affordable Housing Fee (Town Policy 18.210.100) has ultimately made it more expensive to create all housing that is achievable and affordable. If the projects that were granted this exemption had actually built the housing it would have been less expensive, as the cost to build has risen substantially and there would be more units today. People who would have been offered that option years ago might not have moved outside of the area or maybe would have been able to save enough money to purchase a home in Truckee.

Jack Forbes:

While a huge accomplishment for the town and its citizens, I think boring the mini-mousehole was a mistake. The existing mousehole was a pedestrian nightmare and a solution was sorely needed, especially given the foot traffic trying to access Deerfield Drive from West River Street. However, the traffic pattern surrounding the mousehole continues to be problematic as we could not have projected the consistent influx of tourism and traffic that snarls that section of town. The road on either side is two-lanes, yet the existing mousehole creates an unnecessary bottleneck for traffic, which ultimately adds to traffic delays, especially during the summer, weekend ski traffic, and the Sunday exodus. While I understand the cost associated with the project, I think Truckee missed a golden opportunity to solve this problem with a single price tag by widening to four lanes with sidewalks, similar to an amalgamation of the freeway and McIver underpasses.

Courtney Henderson:

Hindsight is always 20/20. I’d say we weren’t sufficiently proactive in planning for rising housing costs and the impact on working families. We could have taken more lessons from other mountain towns that did strategic planning around this issue. That’s also why the planning process that we’re undertaking at this moment is important. We need our town’s blueprint to ensure we are developing a general plan update that will create a sustainable, healthy, and vibrant future for our community.

We also need to focus on transparency and putting our constituents first. There is some mistrust among our community with town processes and motives. As public officials, our obligation is to our whole community. We must also work to move our community’s interests forward, incorporate the value of openness and transparency throughout all communications, identify specific ways to signal transparency, and make information more easily accessible and digestible to our community.

Lindsay Romack:

In 2016, town council hired Host Compliance to track down short-term rental (STRs) operators who were not paying transient occupancy tax. While that was a good step in the right direction and helped ensure all STRs were paying the appropriate tax, I would have pushed for additional rules regarding STR nuisance issues and established a revocable permit process for operators who failed to obey the rules. Permit fees would have paid for additional code enforcement officers to cite rentals breaking those rules. I am glad Truckee is moving forward this fall with an ordinance to address this, but if the town would have been more proactive four years ago, we would have been better able to monitor and control the issue for more harmonious neighborhoods now.

Nicholas Sielchan:

Unfortunately, we don’t have a time machine to fix or change any specific policy. What I will work to change, if elected, are ensuring truly affordable housing (as our current inoccupancy rate has sustained since 2018 upwards of 50%), sustainable job opportunities for full-time residents, and focus on infrastructural policy that works toward our gradually increasing population.

Carla Embertson:

The mandate of town government is to provide for the safety and wellbeing of its citizenry and to enact policies and regulations to achieve that end. Generally, the less interference by governmental regulations and ordinances, the more successful a community can be, provided the essential framework is upheld for the common good. My examination of town policy found that because of the careful consideration by previous councils to enact policies that were not overly restrictive or intrusive into the personal or business life of our citizens, but rather were enacted in the overall best interest for the majority of our community, there was not a particular policy that I would go back and change. There are some individual projects that I would have liked to have seen done differently but I believe that our policies have solid bases that continue to be effective.


We are now known as a “Zoom town.” With more people moving from urban areas to Truckee full time, what should the town do to prepare for the impacts?

Courtney Henderson:

It’s true that COVID-19 is resulting in more remote work opportunities and increased population growth in Truckee. For some, the immediate reaction is that this is inherently bad. Yet many of us relocated to Truckee from other places. This is an opportunity to showcase the welcoming community that we are and to engage people to become more active members of our community.  We’re also at an incredible moment in time because we’re in the midst of a general plan update. We need to use this opportunity to define the long-term vision for our town. This will only be possible with robust community engagement.  To accommodate the needs of our community, I believe that we have to focus on enhanced infrastructure across multiple sectors, including safe evacuation routes, alternative transportation, accessible housing, broadband connectivity, community resources.

Lindsay Romack:

The town needs to ensure there is housing stock available to our local workforce so we don’t have all of our teachers, dishwashers, and firefighters commuting from Reno. This is why I support an optional locals’ deed restriction program and will continue to advocate for accessory dwelling units and other innovative programs to help preserve housing stock for the local workforce. The town must also invest in increased public transit service and trail connectivity. Getting people out of their cars will not only help to alleviate traffic, but also aid in curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Truckee must be continually addressing fire resiliency in our community and help educate all members of the public about preparedness and evacuation plans. Finally, the town must be actively dealing with litter and trash through larger receptacles, more pick-ups, and additional education to prevent overflowing trash issues due to more users.

Carla Embertson:

We must expand our broadband capabilities to both residential and commercial customers. This has been discussed for the last 20 years but never been completed. The increased demand by Zoomers and distance learners has shown that fiber-to-home is essential to our economic viability. We need to make a concerted effort to involve these new residents in the community. Because of the stay-at-home nature of their work they are not making the connections they normally would through workplace and neighborhood relationships. The chamber of commerce is making a concerted effort to that end. Service organizations and neighbors must also increase outreach to get Zoomers involved in order to continue the rich tradition of community connectivity that makes Truckee such a unique and special place. We must also conduct community outreach to educate Zoomers on environmental impact, bear awareness, snow removal, and wildfire mitigation.

Frank Bernhard:

Truckee is a special place of unique culture, and the town council needs to erect policy in place that welcomes those who wish to assimilate into our way of life. That means preparing infrastructure to adapt or flex with changing capacity, plan for expansive local services to introduce new members of the community, and outreach to fundamentally educate the influx of Zoomers, why they came here to escape the dissimilar urban issues that vex cities outside the Sierra. Living here comes with a responsibility to embrace the values of our way — specifically the Truckee Way.

Dow Costa:

I admit, I was not happy to see Truckee named as a “Zoom town,” as it denotes a lack of our own identity and character. As more people migrate from urban areas to Truckee, we risk losing sight of what we are: a community of active people who love the environment, outdoors, activities, and rugged history of our location. Some will come and go, as they realize the winter is not for the faint of heart, but that has always been the case. Of course, as demands on connectivity increase, the spotlight is on our infrastructure, which may be less than adequate to accommodate this surge, and others may filter out as well. Yet, as more people move to Truckee, it is important that we welcome and integrate them, that they join our community and offer their own intellectual capital, otherwise we become a bedroom community for the Bay Area.

Marcy Dolan:

COVID-19 has certainly changed the landscape of our community. With more people making Truckee their home, I believe it is important that we create infrastructure to accommodate the needs and safety of our community. We certainly need more affordable options to deal with green and municipal waste which will help protect the environment. We need better types of communication to deal with emergencies such as fire and weather. We need more options for internet to support the increased need [of] those working remotely as well as students.

Jack Forbes:

Truckee is sorely in need of reliable and sustainable updates to its infrastructure. We need to have access to renewable energy sources that aren’t delivered across long distances or subject to outside impacts including weather and infrastructure degradation. I realize this is likely part of a much larger conversation with multiple private, nonprofit, county, state, and federal stakeholders, but a conversation we need to have, nonetheless. Additionally, I believe that we should be encouraging economic competition with our private utility companies to provide better service at lower rates for the end consumer and break up any existing monopolies in our town. Unfortunately, those from urban areas are conditioned to an expectation of service, so while Truckee may not be aligned to deliver it now, we will need to adapt to these demands to keep our existing and future populations satisfied. The excuses of the past are not solutions for our future.

Nicholas Sielchan:

Truckee’s infrastructure is integral for ensuring that our town doesn’t become an unsustainable place to live, work, and play. The potential surprise the next census might show shouldn’t be taken lightly, and having families feel comfortable that their communities care for growth and prosperity will be paramount for the future of our town.

Jan Zabriskie:

We need to control growth and tame tourism. The negative impacts of growth can be reduced by focusing new construction within existing commercial and residential developments. According to the 2019 Existing Conditions Report, we have capacity for more than 3,000 dwelling units within our planned developments. This means there is no need to destroy more open space, build new roads, have our taxes finance new infrastructure, or further increase greenhouse gas emissions. Beware those who claim we need new subdivisions to satisfy population growth.

The influx of people will also generate revenue. We need to use that revenue to protect what we cherish most, our love of community and our natural environment. Let us keep basic services adequately funded, strengthen our community bonds, and join in with other local agencies and nonprofits to preserve our clean air, clean water, flowing rivers, and grand Sierra wilderness.


Full 2-Year Term (vote for one)

Jan Zabriskie

Local business you couldn’t do without? Our hardware store, of course.

What would your superpower be? Infinite wisdom would be nice.

Favorite song to sing in the car: “Old Hwy 40” by Richard Blair


Carla Embertson

Local business you couldn’t do without? Glenshire General Store

What would your superpower be? Time travel

Favorite song to sing in the car: “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd


Full 4-Year Term (vote for two)

Frank Bernhard

Local business you couldn’t do without? Squeeze In

What would your superpower be? A Super Decoder Ring that would translate political gibberish into common sense reasoning

Favorite song to sing in the car: “The Time of My Life” by David Cook


Dow Costa

Local business you couldn’t do without? Bar of America

What would your superpower be? I am a father of three daughters … bring on any superpower you want, I accept the challenge!

Favorite song to sing in the car: My made-up songs


Marcy Dolan

Local business you couldn’t do without? Tahoe Sports Hub

What would your superpower be? Know when and how much it will snow so I could answer the million-dollar question

Favorite song to sing in the car: Anything by Queen


Jack Forbes

Local business you couldn’t do without? Donner Lake Kitchen

What would your superpower be? The ability to communicate with all creatures using a universal language

Favorite song to sing in the car: “Holy Wars” by Megadeth


Courtney Henderson

Local business you couldn’t do without? Coffeebar

What would your superpower be? Resilience

Favorite song to sing in the car: “I Wanna Rock” by Twisted Sister


Lindsay Romack

Local business you couldn’t do without? Word After Word

What would your superpower be? Being able to live without sleep!

Favorite song to sing in the car: “Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs


Nicholas Sielchan

Local business you couldn’t do without? Donner Lake Gift Shop

What would your superpower be? Flight

Favorite song to sing in the car: “The Times They Are a-Changin’” by Bob Dylan

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