Eureka Times-Standard


Woolley resigns from rail board on technicality
By John Driscoll The Times-Standard

Tuesday, March 04, 2003 -

Little more than six months after he took a post on the North Coast Railroad Authority, John Woolley has stepped down -- but it's likely only temporary.

Woolley, also Humboldt County's 3rd District supervisor, removed himself after legal counsel found the authority's bylaws don't allow for elected officials to serve on the authority board. That revelation came after a Mendocino County supervisor sought counsel on making a bid for an authority seat, only to stumble on the legal glitch.

Authority Director Butch Burton, who represents Mendocino County, will also step down because of the snafu.

Woolley said a resolution is being submitted to state Sen. Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, to correct the problem through legislation. If a bill can be handled promptly, Gov. Gray Davis could sign it in April or May, Woolley said.

"This is at a time when we can see opportunities coming to the railroad," Woolley said. "Before it was a struggle to attract the attention."

The board will hold a one-item meeting on Friday at 1 p.m. in the Willits City Council Chambers to authorize a resolution to send to Chesbro. The property committee will meet immediately afterward.

While legislation is being crafted, Authority Director Leo Sears said, David Hull will serve as a director in Woolley's stead. Hull is the executive officer of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District.

"It just shows how joined at the hip the rail and the harbor are," Sears said.

Woolley, who is expected to join the board again if the bill passes, has been considered a key asset to the railroad with his ties to the county and to the California Coastal Commission.

The railroad from Napa County to Humboldt County has been closed since 1998 after El Niño storms washed out tracks in the Eel River Canyon. In this year of slim budgets, the railroad continues to struggle, with the expected date of a full reopening of the line at least four years off.