“I am not a politician. I am a community member who has forged great relationships with people in this town. I want to make life better for everyone, and I’ve never backed down from an honest fight,” said Cleland Hoff as we walked and talked along Mammoth Creek about her upcoming candidacy for Mammoth Town Council.
Hoff has lived in Mammoth for about three decades. She has become an integral member of Mammoth’s local community, known for her quirkiness, compassion and zeal.
She was born in Virginia. Her mother’s name was Virginia. And she was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “Virginia is on my birth certificate seventeen times,” she said.
Her father was a Captain, Frogman and then Seal in the U.S. Navy. “What did I learn about leadership from my dad? Well, he works hard, he cares about family, he cares about his community, and he’s still one of those 85 year old people who goes to local government meetings to put in his two cents,” said Hoff.
When Hoff moved to Mammoth, there were 4,000 people living in town. “I thought to myself, ‘I can meet 4,000 people.’ So that kind of became my goal when I moved to Mammoth, to meet everybody in town,” she said.
When Hoff first got to Mammoth, she was in her twenties. She worked three jobs, including various serving jobs as well as working at the airport and Reds Meadow in the summers. She then fell in love with a Mammoth local, “Flying” Brian Jones, and together they raised their now 22-year-old son in Mammoth.
At one point in time, Hoff also worked for the Sierra Wave, Mammoth’s local television station. “I found it fascinating. I loved getting to highlight all of the people who inhabited Mammoth – a lot who aren’t with us anymore – and showcase just how creative, talented, diverse and smart this local community was.”
She has been involved in community government for as long as she’s been able to, dating back to high school student council. “I want to know my neighbors. I want to know what people are thinking around me, even if it’s not the same thing that I’m thinking. Being tuned in to the pulse of my community and being able to weigh in on decision making has always been extremely important to me,” she said.
This is her third run for Town Council. She ran in 2014 and lost, and then again in 2016, where she won and served as Mayor one year until her term ended in 2020. After nearly two years off, she is ready to get back to being a voice in her community.
“Town Council is like drinking from the most hideous fire hose in the world, and then everything just makes you question everything. But taking a bit of a break I think gave me some distance and clarity, and I’m ready to take it on again,” she said.
One skill Hoff says she brings to the table is being really tight on the dollar. “For example, the CRC [new ice rink]? I voted against it. I thought that it would – and it has – cost the town way more than they anticipated. And if you look at my voting record during my time on Council, I voted pretty conservatively on the majority of items involving spending. I understand finances and know how to make good financial decisions,” she said.
One of Mammoth’s prominent issues that Hoff hopes to address in a more realistic manner is the town’s current housing crisis. “I remember at a Town Council meeting back when I was Mayor, I looked around and asked everyone in the meeting to raise their hand if they themselves had stable housing. Everyone in the room raised their hand. So I was like, why should people like that be making all the decisions for those who actually don’t have a place to live?” she said.
She continued on the topic of housing: “The businesses and business owners here complain about the quality of employees, saying that you can’t get good help etc., but you can’t just put people in a cabinet at the end of the day and then open it up in the morning and expect to have this great employee ready to take on the day [like Spongebob]. People are human.”
Another major reason that Hoff says she is running for Town Council is to help decide who will become Mammoth’s next Town Manager.
“Being Town Manager is not that lucrative of a position and it’s a lot of work. So if people think that there will be people lining up to become Mammoth’s Town Manager, they have another thing coming. I have enjoyed working with Dan Holler over the past few years and I think he communicates well, but I don’t have anybody at all specifically in mind for who should replace him. I’ve heard rumors that Rob Patterson could be next in line. I know he doesn’t have a government background, but I do know that he’s worked really hard and has been a person who has propelled the town to be more financially stable. So at the end of the day, would I trust him? I would.”