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Healdsburg City Councilman Tom Chambers this week became the fifth candidate to enter the increasingly crowded race for north Sonoma County supervisor.

Chambers, who has served twice as mayor of Healdsburg, stressed his background in government coupled with his management experience in the manufacturing and high-tech sectors, with preparing him for the supervisorial role.

"It takes a blend of both," he said. "I think I have the track record and experience to do the job."

Chambers, who has mechanical engineering degrees from UCLA and Stanford, portrays himself as analytical and data-driven, able to make tough decisions.

But he said he is also "very collaborative. I listen to my constituency."

Chambers said he hopes to get backing from the business community, but he said he will seek diverse support.

"I don't have some specific agenda. I have an open mind," he said, describing himself as "a moderate, fiscally conservative democrat."

Petaluma political consultant Brian Sobel said Tuesday that Chambers has some name recognition, but with five people in the running, raising money becomes even more important.

"Like other people in the race, it will be a question of fundraising and getting out in the district — getting well known fairly quickly," he said.

"These guys all understand the key to winning is fundraising," Sobel said. "You have to raise enough to get the message out, or the message doesn't matter."

Estimates range from a minimum of $150,000 to $250,000 or more that the successful candidate will need to collect.

Chambers, 63, joins longtime Windsor Councilwoman Deb Fudge, 57, making her third bid for the North County seat; James Gore, 35, a former assistant chief in the U.S Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, making his first bid for public office; former Healdsburg Mayor Pete Foppiano, 59, making his second bid for supervisor; and Keith Rhinehart, 60, a former UPS supervisor and part-time teacher, making a second attempt at being elected supervisor.

The field began to form in late October, soon after incumbent McGuire's surprise decision not to seek re-election, but instead run for Second District Senate seat that opened up when Santa Rosa Democrat Noreen Evans decided not to seek re-election.

There is still time for other candidates to emerge for the $134,000 job. The deadline to file to run in the June primary isn't until March 12.

With the number of candidates running, analysts say it's a near certainty than no one will capture a majority of the primary vote, guaranteeing a run-off in November between the two top vote getters.

Candidates will be vying for the endorsements of business, agricultural, labor and environmental groups.

But fundraising is considered paramount, primarily to spend on voter mailers in the sprawling district that takes in northwest Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Windsor, Cloverdale and unincorporated areas to the Mendocino County line.

Chambers said beginning in January he will drop most of the work in his consulting business and devote his time to running for office.

"I'm very focused, very result-oriented. I'm going to put all my effort into this," he said.

Chambers is an "operational consultant" who helps businesses be more effective in manufacturing, procurement or launching a product.

He worked as director of operations for Optical Coating Laboratories, then JDS Uniphase, overseeing a $60 million annual division. For a time he oversaw a 500-person optical fabrication plant in Fuzhou, China.

He's worked as a manager for several other companies including an ergonomic furniture company, a building steel frame company and capital equipment company.

Chambers and his wife moved to Healdsburg in 1985, where they raised their three children.

Before then, he was a general contractor for 10 years, primarily remodeling homes.

He said it gave him an appreciation that the building permit process needs to be streamlined and be "as effective and efficient as possible."

Chambers got his first taste of city politics as a member of the design review board in the 1980s, before serving a term on the City Council from 1992 to 1996.

He took a break to concentrate on family and coached youth athletics, including a stint as president of the Youth Soccer League.

He returned to the City Council in 2008 when he was appointed to a vacant seat. Last year he was re-elected to a second, four-year term.

He is Healdsburg's representative on the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.

Chambers said he is proud of the "very civil discourse" in city government forums despite contentious issues, and that Healdsburg was able to make budget cuts, yet provide the level of service that citizens expect.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.

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