When Efren Carrillo was elected Sonoma County's first Latino member of the Board of Supervisors in 2008, he was part of a wave of voter optimism, one that carried Barack Obama to the White House.

Change did come, but not in the way many had hoped. What ensued were four difficult years that will be remembered for foreclosures, job layoffs and going-out-of-business sales. Sonoma County supervisors have been vexed with shrinking budgets, increased demand on safety-net services and growing concern over long-term unfunded pension liabilities.

Despite these challenges, the 30-year-old Carrillo has served with distinction, repeatedly demonstrating his ability to wade through complex, fluid issues, infuse energy and creative thinking to the position and <NO1><NO>make hard choices that are in the best interests of the overall region. We believe voters should re-elect him in the June 5 election.

Carrillo was a leader in stopping the sale of the county landfill to Arizona-based Republic Services, instead pushing for a plan that has given the site new life and kept it in county hands. He has been a strong advocate of the county's upstream investment strategy, which ensures the county partners with the most effective community groups and allocates its limited dollars in the best way possible.

He was a supporter of the airport expansion as a means of improving the region's economic vitality, has supported exploration of a green energy initiative and has been a strong voice for reforming the county's pension system. Most of all, he has been part of a board that has been aggressive in recent years in confronting its budgetary realities by slashing spending, cutting jobs and redefining its priorities as a government agency.

Carrillo's primary challenger is Ernie Carpenter, 69, who represented the 5th District on the Board of Supervisors for 16 years. Carpenter said he wants to step back into politics after a 16-year absence because he's not satisfied with some of the decisions the current board has made. He says he fears the current board will abandon the general plan and move the county back to the dark ages when the primary fear was sprawl.

Hogwash. We expect more of someone who has spent as much time in elected office as he has than to employ such scare tactics in order to get his old job back. We're not persuaded by Carpenter's other claims, either. He says he knows where to find millions in the budget to fill potholes but is fuzzy on the details. He criticizes Carrillo for not taking a stand against the Preservation Ranch development, while conveniently understating his own role as a paid consultant in the late 1990s in advocating for a plan to convert 10,000 acres of coastal forest to vineyards. It's also hard to forget Carpenter's vocal opposition in 2008 to SMART, which he claimed would trigger a surge of growth in West County. Sonoma County doesn't need to return to that kind of hyperbole.

Also in the race is former Santa Rosa councilwoman Veronica Jacobi, who sets a good example for a low-carbon-footprint lifestyle but is no match to the other candidates in terms of demonstrated leadership abilities.

With this vote, Sonoma County has a clear choice — to go forward with new ideas or go back to tired rhetoric and old battles. We encourage voters to keep moving forward and re-elect Efren Carrillo.