Why Rural Towns Don't Trust Government Agencies

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

This may be a funny title for a business development and experience design gal, but trust me, I'll get there.

I recently discovered a California State agency operating out of an old lumber mill site. They'd been around for about two years, yet no one in our town had ever heard of them. The only reason I knew was because I'm leading the revitalization charge in my small rural home town.

Now, making yourself unknown in the foothills and mountains of the Sierra Nevada is a dangerous business. We grew up with rattle snakes in our backyards and were hunted by things we couldn't see. To most of us who live in such places, if you're hiding behind rocks (or in closed down lumber mill sites), at the very least, we're going to be suspicious.

After months of asking community members if they knew anything about this agency's operations or intentions, and coming up with bagels, my partners and I decided to go in. Upon first glance, it appeared they were trying to produce renewable energies through a biomass gasification process. It's Director claimed their agency was there to help landowners and offered me a job.

Prior to this agency landing itself in the middle of our town, one of our sister mountain towns had started a revitalization effort. Their mill site had also begun operations for a renewable energies outfit. After four years and double digit millions of mismanaged dollars, the parts still lie on the ground, completely unused. Turns out, this Director was part of that team. Whether or not he was directly involved in daily decisions, remains a mystery, even when I asked directly.

After careful discussion with my partners, and after a month of checking in on this organization with little to no clarity from its 'leader' on either progress or long term intentions, we decided someone needed to be on the inside. I accepted the position, if for no other reason than to drain their funds. At least we knew that I would spend their money locally. Best case scenario, they were who they said they were, and we weren't going to have a problem.

Your actions have to match your words, in both life and business. Which is why I will continue to preach the good word of "Be the brand you wish to see in the world." If you want respect, you have to be respectable. If you want to be helpful to landowners, you must first understand the landscape. And if you're lurking around in a dark corner in a my backyard, you'd better be ready for anything.

In my humble opinion, it is IMPOSSIBLE for one to claim to 'assist people' when one has no clue as to how to treat people. If you work for such agencies, you must carry its intent. So, if this California State agency is here to "help people," then what the hell is it doing hiding in a defunct lumber mill, with a leader who demeans employees and has no respect for private landowners by walking onto their properties unannounced?

The Director yelled at employees, called us all drunk after regular business hours, and picked fights with locals. He was divisive, secretive, and intentionally vague with everyone he spoke with. After attempting to suggest to anyone who would listen that he was the "third Steve" of the Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak trio in Silicon Valley, with absolutely no evidence to back it up, I decided that he was delusional and narcissistic at best.

At worst? He's trying to take down rural towns from the inside out. Which, honestly makes me laugh, because that would suggest he'd be "on the inside." If you're truly on the inside, you'd have the entire town's protection and assistance in all matters.

I have yet to meet someone who doesn't think he's a psychopath. Many business owners have told me that he's never welcome in their shops again. Landowners don't want him anywhere near their properties. His accountant has no idea where the money comes in or out and wrings her hands every time they get audited. Employees are planning their escapes and board members roll their eyes every time he speaks.

He's certainly not who he says he is and he doesn't do anything that's not of direct benefit to himself. So, good job State of California and/or feds. Your record of pissing off rural communities with your fake laws and wasted revenues remains in tact. Keep up the good work in mutual self-destruction.

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