Dan Totheroh, a 1962 Santa Paula High School graduate, was elected an Inyo County Supervisor in June.

Santa Paula High graduate Dan Totheroh
elected Inyo County Supervisor

July 16, 2014
Santa Paula News

With the official filing period opening this week for a variety of elected offices a former Santa Paulan won’t have to worry about a November runoff: Dan Totheroh won the June Primary with more than 50 percent to become an Inyo County Supervisor.

Dan is a son of longtime Santa Paula residents and educators Marian and the late Jack Totheroh.

The June 3 Primary race was the only contested one in the county and less than 100 votes separated the top two contenders for the District 1 seat, Dave Tanksley and Dan. A margin of only six votes gave Dan the 50 percent plus one needed - a total of 502 votes - to win the election outright. The second runner-up, Bill Stoll, logged 94 votes, taking him out of the race that drew a total turnout of 47 percent.

“Well, Dan said he failed miserably at being retired,” Marion said of her son, who lives in Starlight and owns a company that operates community water districts. 

He served on the Starlight Community Services District for 17 years and has volunteered thousands of hours to the Bishop High School’s theater arts program.

For decades with the U.S. Forest Service, “He went out there as an engineer... Dan didn’t like to be behind a desk,” noted Marion.

Although Marion and the late Jack were known for their involvement in causes and politics, she said Dan was not a political animal.

But, “He was always fixing things... he could  look  at something and see what was wrong and fix it,” skills she expects he will apply on another level as county supervisor.

A 1962 Santa Paula High School graduate, Dan attended Ventura College and graduated from Cal Poly with a mechanical engineering degree.

“Actually, I spent most of my time in college going around in circles,” joked Dan, who started as a race walker in the 1963 Santa Paula Chronicle sponsored Kennedy Space Program 50-mile race.

Dan’s athletic career included six national track and field event championships and in 1968 setting the second fastest walking pace on record, 1-mile at 6:23 minutes; he also made it to the Olympic trials.

The forest service took him to the Bishop are 27 years ago, an area with strong ties to Santa Paula.

After his 2000 retirement, Dan got involved in water systems that serve about 11,000 people.

In addition, “Out of the blue a few years ago,” he was asked to work with the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Radio Observatory located near Big Pine in Owens Valley fine-tuning satellite dishes.

When asked what prompted his interest in politics, Dan said, “I have no interest in politics... my neighbors asked me,” to enter the supervisor’s race. 

“The incumbent decided not to run and my neighbors pleaded with me to run,” citing his accomplishments with the water district. 

One of his opponents was a personal friend, Tanksley, who had already “thrown his hat into the ring” but the two left it up to the voters.

Dan visited about 800 of the 1,100 households of registered voters in District 1.

Inyo County has about 18,000 residents, the “second smallest population in the state but the largest county area,” and Dan, “got to hear what was on people’s minds and they asked me what they wanted... for an introverted engineer, it was kind of fun.”

Dan was surprised at his outright victory, although the race was so close a hand count was conducted to reconfirm the results, not a major undertaking considering the number of ballots.

His June victory is “A big advantage... I can spend five months learning,” rather than campaigning and “hit the ground running.”

Inyo County is a “different place... it has the highest point with Mount Whitney, the lowest point - Death Valley - in the nation and the oldest living organism.”

Although a top student at SPHS in science and math Dan said he had only a third grade grasp of reading and spelling.

Three years ago doctors removed a non-malignant tumor, “Right in the middle of my brain,” pressing against the portion of the brain that controls short-term memory.

The doctor said the tumor possibly could have been there all his life and Dan realized later - when suddenly he remembered things he formerly never could retain - that it probably influenced his reading and spelling.

Dan, who has two grown daughters, visits his mother in Santa Paula on a regular basis.

“My parents were always very service orientated and I view being a supervisor like that. I would guess,” said Dan, “a lot of that is because of them... “

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