OROVILLE — Since taking office in January, new Oroville Mayor Charles “Chuck” Reynolds has already achieved one of his major campaign promises: The ban on cannabis sales in the city. Now he’s setting his sights on alleviating fiscal and staffing concerns in Oroville next. But his ties to Oroville run much deeper than just occupying the city’s highest office.
Born and raised in Oroville, Reynolds is one of nine children, and is raising three of his own with his wife of more than 20 years. He’s also a longtime local businessman who is looking forward to making Oroville much more “business-friendly,” he said.
Reynolds said he believes he was elected because he represents a “super majority” in Oroville.
“That’s why I was so connected with what everyone wants, how they want to live,” he said. “It’s because I’m one of them.”
Reynolds balances mayoral duties with his long-time masonry business, C. Reynolds For Masonry. It’s a trade he learned from his father, Ernie Reynolds, who started Oroville’s A1 Masonry in 1959.
“My dad’s motto was ‘Big or small, we’ll brick ‘em all’,” Reynolds said. “He’s still around and still going strong. He’s not involved with the business but he’s certainly involved in my life, every day.”
Reynolds recently sat down for an interview to discuss how the job is going so far, and what his plans for the future are.
OMR: How has the job been? What’s it like being mayor?
Reynolds: Well, actually it’s been a good experience. The council has come together; everyone has extended a friendly hand to everyone so we can work together. The common goal is for the betterment of our town and its citizens. Although the campaign had appeared to be very contentious, most of it was overzealous supporters. There was no ill will towards any of the individual candidates or council people.
OMR: Is there anything you’ve done so far that you’re particularly proud of?
Reynolds: Absolutely. Shutting down the avenues for the marijuana dispensaries, I believe, was key. I just don’t believe that we should have that mindset that when things get tight, that it’s OK to sell drugs.
All the proponents, all the arguments are there are about medicinal and all that, and I’m not denying that it has value. But the abuse far outweighs the value, and the people that actually need it for medicinal have avenues to acquire it. So there’s no reason to have dispensaries in town. I think that sets an atmosphere and a mindset, and I think it really limits a community when that happens.
OMR: That was one of the platforms that you ran on, to ban cannabis sales in the city. Now that that’s been accomplished, is there something that you feel like is next on your list?
Reynolds: Development; to build. Our young people should have a choice whether they want to stay here for a career or go somewhere else. Right now, pretty much the only choice is to go somewhere else to pursue a career in whatever field they’ve been educated in. There hasn’t been a lot of opportunity here, but that is changing rapidly.
OMR: Are there any specific plans to help businesses right now?
Reynolds: We are a builder-friendly council and staff now, whereas things didn’t go quite as fluidly as some would like (in the past). I think that we have sharpened our process to where it’s a builder-friendly environment.
OMR: Like relaxed zoning or friendlier laws for businesses?
Reynolds: We’re looking at all of those things as they come up. We couldn’t just go across the board, what we’re doing is looking at situations as they arise.
OMR: And are you seeing an influx of businesses coming to the city?
Reynolds: Absolutely yes. There are several permits being pulled, lots of building. I know that the (Camp) fire has something to do with it, but there are many surrounding or outlying areas to Paradise, and if Oroville was not friendly, then they would just pick one of the other ones.
OMR: Do you feel like that will help in the long run with balancing the city’s budget?
Reynolds: Absolutely, and we were thankful for the passing of the one percent sales tax, that’s a big thing to us. And the reality is, getting back to the cannabis, there were big employers here that were going to leave if that passed, if those dispensaries were allowed. People on management level, or on a professional level, most of them didn’t want to live in that environment. The executive level or the management level, that’s what we’re trying to target with our housing. We’ve got enough low-income, affordable housing here, now we need to go to middle, to upper-middle, income. Because there is nowhere for anyone to buy a house or to live that is at that income level. A lot of positions are turned down around here by individuals because there’s nowhere for them to live.
OMR: You have previously mentioned that the annexation of certain areas could be revenue-building. Can you share a bit about your plans for that?
Reynolds: I believe that annexation should look like a drop of food coloring in a jar of water, it should spread evenly. You cannot annex all blight and burden and no contribution. There has to be balance. Who is going to pay for the extra police and fire to patrol a certain area, where a lot of the attention for our public safety is needed? We need to annex contribution as well. We’ve got our share of blight and burden, now it’s time to even it out with contribution.
OMR: What are your thoughts on renegotiating the Oroville Dam Settlement Agreement?
Reynolds: I know there were a lot of things that were promised that we haven’t seen anything close to that. They were supposed to take care of this town. (There was supposed to be) a lot of development to allow for taking our river from us. Before the dam was put in, that river was very warm and everyone could access it all along the river. Well, now that the dam is there, the water that comes out of the bottom of that lake is at about 58 degrees and it’s not really accessible for most people. It really affected our recreation and we need to be compensated for that.
OMR: Is that something the council will address in the near future?
Reynolds: Oh absolutely. Yes.
OMR: What’s your opinion of the potential Cal Water rate increase? The council recently passed a rebuke of the proposed raise.
Reynolds: Well, I can only speak for myself and my position; we have seven individuals on that council who will all speak for themselves. I obviously don’t agree with the rates. But there isn’t much we can do about it besides say we don’t agree with it, because they are a privately-owned company. I don’t believe that anyone should have a monopoly on customers and then be able to increase their rates at will. I would like to see people have a choice.
OMR: At the first council meeting of the year, the heads of each city department made a presentation to the council and you specifically asked each one about their staffing needs — it seemed like nearly everyone was understaffed. Considering Oroville’s current fiscal situation, is that something you’re hoping to solve in the near future?
Reynolds: That’s exactly the big target. We’re going to have to focus on police, fire and public staff in the city hall. There has to be staff readily available to handle any situation that comes through that door. The city had to go to four days a week being open, rather than five. Which has changed back, now we’re getting ready to be open five days a week.
OMR: Is there anything in particular you want people to know about you and what you hope to accomplish in office?
Reynolds: Well, I think that I’m pretty vocal and pretty obvious with what my position and what my intentions are. I think that based on the election, it’s obvious that I represent a super majority in this area. That’s why I was so connected with what everyone wants, how they want to live, is because I’m one of them. I understand it. And I’m easily accessible; I’m not hiding from anyone. If they want to speak to me, they can speak to me.
OMR: What do you hope people say about you after your term is over?
Reynolds: I hope that they say there was definite improvement in the community for quality of life. That he had done what he said he was going to do, and that you always knew where you stood with him.
Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Full story is available here.