Los Angeles Politics

Shasta County offers top job to secessionist leader

The Shasta County Board of Supervisors has offered the job of running the day-to-day-operations of its government to a top figure in the New California movement pushing to split California into two states.

In an unusual news release, county officials announced that “a majority of the board” had made a “preliminary job offer” to Chriss Street, vice president of New California and a former treasurer of Orange County, to be the county’s chief executive officer.

Proponents of New California, formed in 2018, maintain that old California has become ungovernable and seek to gather much of the rural parts of California, along with San Diego and Orange counties, and form a 51st state.

Street cannot be formally offered the job until the board votes March 28 following a completed background check. He did not respond to calls requesting comment.

But some board critics questioned how the county could hire a leader who doesn’t believe in California.

“What does it mean that the vice president of an organization that claims to be its own state [would be] running a county?” asked Redding resident Susanne Baremore, who is trying to organize fellow county residents to demand a more “stable” government.

County officials declined to comment on Street on Wednesday beyond issuing the news release confirming the preliminary job offer, which had become a topic of fevered discussion in the county after it was leaked to the media. The news release also said the divided board had taken a rare 5-0 vote to order an investigation into who had made “unauthorized disclosures” from its closed session deliberations.

The development is the latest sign of a rightward shift in Shasta County following the election of an ultraconservative majority on the board. Last month, the board, responding to unfounded claims of voter fraud, canceled its contract with Dominion Voting Systems and set about pursuing other options for counting votes, including hand-counting.

At that time, Supervisor Kevin Crye also announced that he had been in talks with MyPillow Chief Executive Mike Lindell, a prominent pro-Donald Trump election conspiracy theorist, about supporting a pilot voting system in the rural Northern California county.

The county’s leadership began its rightward turn about a year ago, after far-right activists, including members of a local militia, led a successful recall of a Republican supervisor and former police chief, in part because he enforced state-mandated coronavirus restrictions. In the months since, the county has been losing top appointed leaders at a rapid clip, through both resignations and terminations.

In May, the new conservative majority on the Board of Supervisors fired the county’s health officer, Dr. Karen Ramstrom. Shortly after, the county’s chief administrator, Matt Pontes, announced he was leaving — but not before he told the local paper that one of the pro-recall supervisors, gun store manager Patrick Jones, had been “blackmailing” him. Jones said at the time that the allegation was a “total lie.”

Street has roots in Shasta County, and local media has reported that he returned to the area to care for his parents. His tenure in Orange County was marked by controversy. A former investment banker, he correctly predicted Orange County’s bankruptcy in the 1990s and eventually became county treasurer. In 2010, he announced that he would not run for reelection after a federal judge rebuked him for breaching his fiduciary duties in an earlier stint as a bankruptcy trustee. Street later sued his lawyer in that case for malpractice and won a $10-million judgment.

In an interview with KRCR News Channel 7 this week, Street spoke about his vision for the 51st state, New California, and his belief that Shasta County could become an important economic engine for such a new state.

Referencing the county’s ability to generate power at low rates, he said, “Shasta is probably the next place for a real economic” center.

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Joseph Hernandez

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