Candidate Profile: Nassif wants to keep stability, experience in Apple Valley (October 16, 2018)

APPLE VALLEY — Scott Nassif has become a household name in the decades since his family moved here in 1959 when he was 4 years old.

A graduate of Apple Valley High School and Victor Valley College, Nassif owned his first auto parts store by 1976, later served as president of the Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce and sat on the Apple Valley Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

With nearly 16 years on the municipal dais, he is also the longest-serving Town Council member in Apple Valley history. Now the three-time mayor is eyeing a fifth Council term, but a potential two decades of public service was not part of his original plan.

I was on the fire district, and I really had no intention of running for Council, Nassif told the Daily Press. I reluctantly ran in 2002 with the intention of maybe one or two terms at the most.

Nassif, who turned 63 on Wednesday, said he was first asked to run after the November 1999 ouster of three Council members who had pushed for reductions to residential lot sizes in the town. In addition to recalling that trio by wide margins, voters also passed Measure N, which has ensured half-acre lots in Apple Valley for nearly 20 years.

Rather than run, Nassif chose to see how the dust settled following the political upheaval. His decision to seek a Council seat two years later, then, was spurred by what he described as a slate of candidates who wanted to change the direction of Apple Valley and eliminate economic development, which threatened the town’s plans for commercial growth.

Every election cycle since has produced candidates or issues that might have navigated the town down a different road, according to Nassif, who said his constituents urged him each time to keep the stability. This year, however, his reasons for running are somewhat different.

It’s about finishing a job that we started, or finishing a fight that we started, he said in reference to Apple Valley’s desire to transfer water ownership from private to public hands. I just can’t walk away from something I helped start. To see that through, I think is important.

Apple Valley’s eminent domain case against Liberty Utilities is expected to go to trial in mid-to-late 2019, more than three years after the town filed suit against the water company.

Nassif’s confidence that Apple Valley will find success in court is high, but he admitted there were some battles town officials probably didn’t anticipate. Chief among them were a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) suit Liberty filed that delayed progress and, before that, the company-funded Measure V, which limited Apple Valley’s ability to issue bond debt.

Still, Nassif added that he and his colleagues knew it would be a tough fight because they don’t want to sell.

Obviously, we couldn’t anticipate them putting measures up on the ballot, he said, (but) people want to have input on their government. They want to have input on how things happen, and that’s why you have elected officials. So I understood where that went. But, of course, that put a delay in that because we had to go back out and ask — through Measure F — whether we could borrow the money for (a potential water-system purchase).

While acquisition remain highest on Nassif’s list for wanting another term, he said Barb Stanton’s decision to retire was a motivating factor because consistency on the Council was important to him.

More than that, though, the staffing and financial issues that have beset Town Hall of late made running a matter of necessity for Nassif. At least eight town employees — many of them high-ranking — have resigned or retired in 2018. Two more were eliminated for financial reasons.

Beyond departures, the town has instituted a plan to establish a line of credit that Town Manager Doug Robertson said will help pay for general fund expenditures amid diminished reserves. With those changes in mind, Nassif believes new leadership would hinder Apple Valley’s ability to move forward.

As such, his rallying cry in the run-up to the election consists of two words: stability and experience.

We’re just climbing out of a recession, Nassif said. I think that stability on the financial issues needs to be there, too, with somebody at least understanding how we got there and what solutions are moving forward … It takes a long time to make those things happen, and if you consistently change leadership and direction, nothing ever seems to get done.

His opponents — candidates like Janate Valenzuela and Richard Bunck — would likely argue otherwise considering their advocacy for term limits. Others still — namely Roger La Plante and Angela Valles — have criticized Nassif and Mayor Pro Tem Larry Cusack for their inability to vote on all town issues due to conflicts of interests they have as business owners.

Those conflicts led to a complaint filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission in February that alleged failures to disclose conflicts against both men. In response, Nassif and Cusack changed the way in which they recuse themselves during Council votes on commercial warrants.

Lists are now kept in the town clerk’s office that detail the businesses they deal with that also deal with the town. Additionally, Nassif and Cusack agree during each meeting to recuse themselves on specific warrants before voting.

The decision was made at the advice of Town Attorney John Brown, according to Nassif, who said the updated process is more detailed and transparent.

Over the years, the way you report those (conflicts) and how you do things have changed, he said. “Larry and I have always recused ourselves from any business dealing with Napa Auto Parts or Apple Valley Communications on that. So what we’ve done lately is dial that more in. The complaints were that we weren’t listing those businesses, so we started listing them.

As far as we know there’s been no violation. Nothing’s come out of the complaint. It’s just something we recognized that we addressed. As part of the complaint we sent that in to the FPPC and said, ‘OK, this is how we did it before and this is how we’re going to do it in the future.’ To my knowledge they’re fine with that.

FPPC spokesperson Jay Wierenga told the Daily Press he could not comment on the matter because the agency’s investigation remains ongoing.

Nassif’s focus going forward, meanwhile, is on the election. He cited public safety and extending Measure N, which expires in 2020, as key issues of his campaign. What he hopes to convey to voters is that his experience and solutions-based approach will serve the town well.

Everybody can talk about problems and things that need to be done … (but) I’ve always been characterized and market myself as being solution oriented, Nassif said. Take problems, listen to people, work on a solution and implement that solution. Implementing that solution isn’t just yourself either. It takes a quality and stable Council — and staff — to get things done … I work hard on that. I work hard on bringing solutions to the table.

The general election is Nov. 6. Visit to see videos of each candidate explaining why they’re running for office and what key issues they’re focused on.

Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press