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Voice: Leimgruber an honorable man whohas served the county well

February 26, 2002

I don't know where Philip Ricker and John Garcia have been living for the past four years, but it must not have been in the Imperial Valley. If they had been here with the rest of us they would know the county that Wally Leimgruber inherited four years ago was a mess.

The county was embroiled in a bitter sexual harassment lawsuit, the VIDA mess was threatening to stop all county-assisted development, the Gateway project was a disaster with threatened lawsuits from all directions, and the deputy sheriffs were in open rebellion from a lack of adequate pay, benefits or even respect. County staff were demoralized and felt they had no one to turn to.

Into this mess stepped a small farmer from Holtville. Wally's not a complicated person and he calls each situation like he sees it. He got hold of the facts of the lawsuit and said enough is enough and pushed the county to do the right thing and stop protecting a personnel director who was out of control. Ask me, Pat Yarnall, the plaintiff, about Wally, who listened to me when no one else would.

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When Wally took office, the state was threatening to stop all economic development money to the county because of VIDA's problems. The bureaucrats at the county were claiming it was just a series of misunderstandings, of poor communication. Wally rolled up his sleeves, went to the VIDA office and started going through the files.

What he found was shocking. Wally then pushed to have the managers fired and the FBI brought in to investigate for criminal wrongdoing. Today, the county has pretty much cleaned up the mess, thanks to Wally.

Four years ago the Gateway project was floundering with threatened lawsuits at every turn. Wally has worked closely with all parties to get this development back on track. If you don't believe it, ask the parties involved.

Four years ago, the deputy sheriffs were demoralized and in a death struggle with county management. They were grossly underpaid and treated terribly by management. Four years later they have endorsed Wally. Why? Because Wally doesn't go for the boondoggles that siphoned so much county money away from staff raises. There are no more lawsuits protecting incompetent managers that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

By all accounts, the county is moving in the right direction due in no small part to the hard work of a small farmer from Holtville.

Mr. Ricker, you should know better. You know Wally never owned a $35,000 truck in his life. The pickup he was driving when he became a supervisor had over 200,000 miles on it. Wally was a small farmer who plowed, irrigated and harvested every acre he ever owned. He worked long hours driving a tractor, irrigating, etc. ever since he was a kid. Wally's not Harvard-educated and he's probably never going to be honored as a great orator, but he is sharp as a tack, can spot a boondoggle a mile away and is as decent a person as you will ever find.

He has served his entire district and the county with dignity and hard work. And you know what, people know it. And on the first Tuesday in March, we're going to re-elect Wally.

PAT YARNALL

El Centro

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