By Haddon Libby
In a sad piece of news for all of us in the Coachella Valley, our representative on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, John Benoit, announced that he has advanced pancreatic cancer. As a result, he will be reducing his daily duties as Supervisor to rightly and bravely focus on his health and his family.
All of us at CV Weekly want to share our best wishes and prayers with Supervisor Benoit and his family. A staunch Catholic, John has one of the best spiritual counselors possible in Father Lincoln of Sacred Heart Church in Palm Desert. If anyone can beat this ghastly disease, it will be John.
Whatever your political party affiliation and whether you are religious or not, take a moment or two from your day to send John Benoit and his family positive and caring thoughts and, if so inclined, prayers that will buttress their strength in their time of struggle.
Supervisor Benoit’s health issues are sadly reminiscent of those of his predecessor, Roy Wilson. Roy was beloved by all who knew him. When this gifted person was diagnosed with bone cancer, he continued working from his Palm Desert home until his last days. One of his final wishes was for John Benoit to assume his seat. Our Governor at the time was a Republican, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who honored this request naming John Benoit, also a Republican, as Roy Wilson’s successor. In 2010, Benoit was elected to a full four-year term followed by his re-election in 2014.
Given the gravity of Supervisor Benoit’s health issues, it is reasonable to contemplate who might fill Supervisor Benoit’s seat if he needs to resign prior to the completion of his current term which ends in 2018.
The obvious choice is Brian Nestande. Nestande currently serves as the Deputy CEO for Riverside County. Brian’s deceased brother, Barry, was John’s chief of staff. When Brian lost in his bid to unseat Raul Ruiz as our Representative in the House of Representatives, John was Brian’s strongest backer for securing the long-unfilled position as Deputy CEO for the County. Additionally, Nestande is respected and well-liked by the majority of the Riverside Board of Supervisors.
A complicating factor this time is that Governor Jerry Brown is a Democrat. Would a Democrat name a Republican to fill out the term? If party affiliation has nothing to do with it, Brian Nestande is the obvious choice. Given what we all know about politics, it is more likely that Brown will name a Democrat.
Looking at possible Democratic options, Greg Pettis has a strong relationship with Supervisor Benoit and is one of the most active city councilpersons in the Coachella Valley. Additionally, Pettis was a super delegate at the Democratic National Convention meaning that he is a respected member of the Democratic Party here in California.
Brown could also look toward the Coachella City Council and V. Manny Perez. This Harvard and UC-Riverside grad was elected to the California State Assembly from 2008-2014 before being termed out of his seat.
Greg Rodriguez who recently lost in his bid to unseat Chad Mayes as State Assembly Member is well respected by Democrats and many Republicans in the Coachella Valley. Prior to campaign, Rodriguez served as Chief of Staff for Raul Ruiz.
In closing, take a lead from John Benoit and direct your everyday thoughts and efforts toward making the lives of your family members and community better. Chase anger, hatred and negative thoughts from your life while focusing on positive words and actions. By doing this, you will make your world a better place while paying tribute to people like Roy Wilson and John Benoit who have dedicated their lives toward making our world a better place.
Haddon Libby is a Financial Advisor and Managing Partner at Winslow Drake and can be reached at 760.449.6349 or HLibby@WinslowDrake.com.