Center fielder – In a county of political extremes, Linda Stevens aims for balance
Even perched on the small stool she uses to reach the top of a customer’s head, barber Linda Stevens maintains her balance.
She steps down from the stool after several snips, shifting it so she doesn’t have to stretch, protecting her shoulder, which is sore after 33 years of haircutting.
Maybe she’s balanced because she stands a mere 4 feet, 11 3/4 inches tall.
Or maybe it’s because of her profession, which demands precision and symmetry.
But she thinks it’s natural, the result of her birth under the sign Libra, the sign of scales and balance, and the reason she should be elected to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.
“There are a lot of ‘Democrats’ and ‘Republicans’ who are tired of this divisiveness,” said Stevens, a candidate for the board’s District 3 seat. “They have the left and they have the right and never the twain shall meet, and nothing gets done in the county.”
Stevens is all about getting things done. She entered civic life in 1991 when she became frustrated with conditions in downtown Grass Valley, where she’s had a barbershop for 16 years.
At that time, west-side downtowners were scorning their east-side neighbors, Stevens said. So she walked door-to-door in a quest to bridge the rift, but was laughed at by merchants wary of the factional downtown association.
With Stevens’ help, however, they received flower pots and new sidewalks.
She built from those successes.
During her two-plus terms on the Grass Valley City Council, Stevens strove to rejuvenate downtown, create parks and house the area’s many older residents.
She said she has built a political career based around grassroots goals instead of personal agendas.
“People know I vote every issue as it stands,” Stevens said. “I don’t have any obligations to anybody, and I don’t have an agenda other than helping the people that we serve.”
Her efforts aren’t always earthshaking.
On a recent afternoon, Stevens stood on her stool, cutting the hair of regular customer Dennis Lance. Lance, who lives in Nevada City, mentioned offhandedly he was having trouble finding a sign supporting Nate Beason, a candidate in a separate race for the Board of Supervisors.
Putting down the scissors, Stevens jumped to the phone.
Within minutes, it was settled – Lance would have a sign stuck in his yard shortly.
Stevens makes calls like this from her desk, which looks at home in her eclectic shop.
Like its owner, the barbershop immediately puts visitors at ease. Most who walk in are greeted with glee – “Hey Joe, Joe, what’s up good looking?” And no one leaves without a hug.
The shop is long and narrow, with an exposed brick wall that stretches from the sinks and seats at the front, to a homey living room with squishy armchairs in back.
A vintage barber pole, reclaimed from San Francisco’s Market Street, and a comfy old-school barber chair recall the shop’s 150-year history.
She has a small shrine to Barry Bonds – “He’s incredible; there’s nobody like him,” she exclaims – gifts from customers, tons of American flags, and a photo of the ship U.S.S. Washington, which carried her grandfather from Sicily in 1903.
There are also several photos of her sons Christopher, 39, and Craig, 37 – whom she describes as single and gorgeous – and her six grandchildren. The whole family lives in southern California but remains quite close, Stevens said.
“The best part of being elected mayor was seeing the look on their faces, how proud they were of me,” Stevens said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Stevens started – her life, her career, and her quest for balance – in Southern California.
Born in Brooklyn, her family moved to Reseda when it was a quiet outpost of Los Angeles. As a young tomboy, Stevens grew up across from a field of onions and wheat. She also married young.
Bored at 27, with two young children, she went to barber school, adopting the career of her grandfather. Within a few years, she was running a Beverly Hills salon, cutting the hair of such stars as Eric Estrada, Orson Bean, Max Baer Jr. and Eve Arden.
But after her car was broken into twice in one month, and the headaches from the smog had gotten too bad, she left.
“It was time to get out of L.A., it just wasn’t home anymore,” Stevens said.
She moved north, commuted for a few years, then opened up Stevens Haircutting.
And now, Stevens thinks her practical, balanced and easy-going approach is sorely needed on the Board of Supervisors. The seat she is seeking was left open with the resignation of Drew Bedwell, diagnosed earlier this year with Hodgkin’s disease.
“I think people are ready for a change, ready for some work to get done,” Stevens said. To prepare, she’s been watching meetings for months, studying up for the race.
Not everyone thinks that Stevens is as evenhanded as she seems.
She managed to anger many members of the Alta Hill Neighborhood Association while working on Dee Mautino Park, and her opponents see her as pro-growth, because of her advocacy for four proposed major developments while drafting the city’s governing document, and her pro-development voting record.
Stevens helped “develop the General Plan to accommodate the (four major developments),” said Bruce Conklin, another candidate for the District 3 seat. The third candidate on the ballot is John Spencer, whom Stevens described as a friend.
This pro-growth label is not justified, Stevens said, pointing out the county has swelled 20,000 people in the past 10 years, while the city has grown only by several hundred, mostly through annexation.
“Growth is happening anyway,” Stevens said.
A strict anti-growth stance, she said, can hinder the chance for affordable housing in Nevada County. Such a position would also lean too far from the center that Stevens prefers.
“I’m happy to say I’m balanced,” she said.
BIO IN BRIEF: Linda Stevens
Born: Oct. 3, 1945 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Family: Divorced with two grown sons and six grandchildren.
Political experience: Currently on Grass Valley City Council
Activities: Biking, watching baseball, softball, and reading mysteries and science fiction.
Bumper Stickers: None on her sand-colored Jetta. Within barbershop: “Keep your laws off my body,” “NOW,” “Flush Rush” and “Tolerance – worth reaching for.”
Web site: http://www.lindastevensforsupervisor.com
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