Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty stood at the back of the hall at a senior center in Pleasanton looking a little more grumpy than usual. Haggerty, who is retiring from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, was growing impatient with the responses from the four candidates hoping to replace him. When the moderator of the candidate forum ALCOD1 logorandomly selected Haggerty to come on stage to ask a question, he asked a blunt question before exiting stage left. “Can any of you explain what a county supervisor actually does?”

The candidates appeared momentarily flummoxed. State Sen. Bob Wieckowski tackled the question by laying out general facts about how many people work for the county and the size of its budget before rebounding to rattle off a few county programs. Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon and Dublin Mayor David Haubert also noted a few social services endeavors performed by the county. And Dublin Vice Mayor Melissa Hernandez said the job of county supervisor is basically to serve as the safety net for the county’s poor, seniors, and disabled. It was possibly the most succinct description for one of the most prized seats in all of Alameda County government.

Each supervisor is one of five stewards for a $3 billion county budget. The job pays well, at least for a public servant, and there are no term limits. If history is a guide, election to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors is the local version of a life-long appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

For this reason, the race for the District 1 supervisorial seat in the Tri-Valley and Fremont is Alameda County’s marquee political contest this March…