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Mayoral hopeful Eric Hall wants to unlock St. Helena's potential

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City Councilmember Eric Hall says he has a problem: He likes to take on complex challenges, and the job of St. Helena mayor fits the bill.

Two years into his first term on the council, Hall wants to bring his background in commercial property management to bear on municipal government by helping the city’s employees and physical assets perform to their full potential.

“Our city’s performing at about 60 percent on everything that it does,” Hall said. “I would like to see it perform 100 percent on 60 percent of what it does — that 60 percent being infrastructure and finance.”

He wants to “turn our planning process inside out” by focusing first on “big things” — including infrastructure and finance — and then addressing the things that are “nice to have.”

He said the council will need to improve its long-term strategic planning, perform extensive research in order to set good policy, and then give staff the resources they need to execute.

Improving employee recruitment and retention and revamping the understaffed Public Works Department are centerpieces of Hall’s campaign.

“Much of my background has been in retooling complex organizations and helping them perform better using existing resources,” he said.

Hall said his endorsements by officials like State Senator Bill Dodd, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Treasurer Fiona Ma, Supervisor Diane Dillon and Sheriff Oscar Ortiz demonstrate his ability to engage powerful partners at the county, regional and state levels.

“We cannot solve these problems by ourselves,” Hall said. “We must pursue every avenue to bring money here from the outside, as quickly as we can.”

For example, Hall said he worked personally with Dodd to secure a $1.5 million earmark in the state budget to help the city upgrade the pump station and pipes that transport water from Napa to St. Helena.

Meanwhile, the city needs to find new revenue sources, Hall said. Staffing and maintenance costs are increasing every year, and St. Helena’s biggest revenue source — property taxes — can’t keep pace.

Hall said hotels are the best way to increase revenue. The Farmstead hotel has already been approved, and Hall said he’s talked to a developer about another project at the former City Hall site next to Lyman Park. He’s also worked with a downtown landlord on a plan to fill a key retail space.

Before Hall ran for office, he toured the city’s public facilities with Mayor Geoff Ellsworth, offering tips on how to turn around underperforming assets.

Hall’s relationship with Ellsworth turned frosty as soon as Hall joined the council, and Ellsworth has leveled several conflict of interest allegations against Hall, whose wife, Christy Pestoni, is chief operating officer of Upper Valley Disposal & Recycling and the company that runs Clover Flat Landfill.

The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) hasn't upheld the conflict of interest allegations, but it did levy a $100 fine against Hall in 2021, ruling that Hall “failed to timely report one source of income” on his Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests.

Hall said he filed an updated Form 700 after being elected, disclosing income he receives as an adjunct faculty member at Pacific Union College and income his wife receives from Upper Valley Disposal & Recycling. He hadn’t included that income on the original form he’d filed as a candidate, and the FPPC ruled that when he filed his updated form, he also should have filed an amendment to his original form.

Hall said Ellsworth’s frequent allegations “forced me to think differently about how I was going to work with the council.” He said he was heartened to hear the rest of the councilmembers — including Vice Mayor Paul Dohring, Hall’s opponent in the Nov. 8 mayoral election — occasionally “call out” Ellsworth.

If elected, Hall said he wants to avoid political distractions and focus the council on a set of realistic shared goals.

“With a long-term strategic plan, there’s room for everybody’s ideas and everybody’s wants and needs,” Hall said. “I’m optimistic because I think we can achieve anything.”

This article has been amended to include more details about why Hall was fined by the FPPC.

Courtesy of St. Helena Hospital Foundation After many months our Adventist Health St. Helena Cardiovascular Suite & Ghiringhelli Hybrid Operating Room is now open! Yesterday Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Ehrin Armstrong had the opportunity to operate on the first patient.

You can reach Jesse Duarte at (707) 967-6803 or jduarte@sthelenastar.com.

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