Unofficial results show voters might want change for the Palm Drive Healthcare District. Incumbent Dennis Colthurst, who serves as the board’s president, gained nearly 36 percent of the votes on Tuesday night in a close race. Richard Power followed with 32.8 percent, narrowly defeating Dan Smith who gained 31 percent of the vote. The difference in votes for Power and Smith was fewer than 300.
More than half of registered voters in Sonoma County cast their votes by mail, making the Tuesday night results unofficial, but reflective of popular vote.
Colthurst said he already felt like a winner by having the opportunity to serve on the board for the last four years.
“I believe the district wants the hospital to survive,” he said. “We now have the opportunity to make it sustainable.”
Colthurst, 67, was raised in Corte Madera and moved to Sebastopol in 1978. He is a retired law enforcement officer who worked for the Sebastopol Police Department from 1979 until 2013 and was elected to the board in 2014.
Richard Power said he was pleased with the results on election night. He said the vote is interesting and suggests people are paying attention. The healthcare district has faced many challenges since its inception.
Recently the board of directors has been split with one director, Jim Horn, unsatisfied with the board’s decisions. Power pledged to find solutions for the district.
“My position will be very closely to what Jim Horn’s has been,” he said. “There’s a lack of skepticism and a lack of willingness to ask questions.”
On Tuesday night with 57 of 62 precincts complete, Power said if he is lucky enough to be officially elected he will work to get the hospital sold and pay more attention to details.
Power, not to be confused with Dr. Richard Powers (who is retiring from the board), is 73 and was born in New York. He grew up in Redlands, California, and has lived in Sebastopol since 1992. Power is a retired tax attorney whose practice focused on using the low-income housing tax credit to finance affordable housing.
The two directors will have a full plate as the district recently took on new management for the hospital and is planning an exit out of bankruptcy. The current board seeks to gain approval from voters in a special election in March to sell the hospital.
Dan Smith was out of the country on business on election night according to his wife, Joan Marler.
Palm Drive is a publicly-owned healthcare district that was formed in 2000. It is managed by five publicly-elected members who serve as directors on the board in four-year terms. Directors Eira Klich-Heartt, Gail Thomas and Jim Horn all have term expirations in December of 2020.