Steve Mencher

News Director


Creator and lead producer of the CPB/AIR Localore: Finding America project at KCPT in Kansas City.  The “Beyond Belief” multimedia effort led with digital and broadcast video about faith communities coming together despite differences, while examining issues of community and equity. Radio producer at NPR, the University of Pennsylvania and the Library of Congress. Created arts education website ArtsZone for OVATION TV, and worked at Carnegie Hall and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Mark Essick
Photo provided

(editor's note: It appeared that Capt. Essick was coasting to a victory Tuesday night and avoiding a runoff for the position of sheriff.)

Capt. Mark Essick is the closest thing to an incumbent running in the Sonoma County Sheriff race. He told KRCB news director Steve Mencher what his current responsibilities are in the sheriff's department and how he will use lessons learned from the Andy Lopez shooting to improve the force.

Diane Askew

A few weeks back, we covered a meeting on the Sonoma State campus about our October wildfires and lessons to be learned. In coming days, we’re going to make some of the sessions from "Living with Fire in California's Coast Ranges" available via YouTube.

John Mutz
Photo provided

As election day approaches, we're talking with candidates for Sheriff of Sonoma County. On the campaign trail, John Mutz frequently cites his experience as a station commander in Los Angeles.

Today we learn more about how he plans to use that experience to transform the sheriff's office into a responsive and culturally aware organization. He told KRCB news director Steve Mencher what the department might look like under his leadership.

John Mutz and family
Photo provided

Today, part two of our conversation with candidate for Sonoma County sheriff John Mutz. After Mutz left the Los Angeles Police Department, he became a consultant and coach – working both with law enforcement and with private business clients to improve their leadership skills, focus and efficiency.

He spoke with KRCB news director Steve Mencher about how he plans to turn around the culture of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office  by providing leadership to the force.

John Mutz
Courtesy of Sonoma Gazette

Today, we meet John Mutz, a candidate for sheriff of Sonoma County. Mutz served for 25 years on the Los Angeles Police Department, where he says he worked to change the culture of station houses where he was assigned as Captain after the Rodney King beating.

As he told news director Steve Mencher, he plans to transform many aspects of the Sonoma County sheriff’s office, starting with training…

A new documentary about elders who maintain meaningful and rich lives is playing around town. Lives Well Lived is directed by Cal Poly professor Sky Bergman.  In the film, photographer and first-time-filmmaker Bergman interviews 40 men and women ages 75 to 100.

She told KRCB news director Steve Mencher what inspired her to make the film.

Ernesto Olivares
Photo provided

Today is the final day of our conversation with Ernesto Olivares, candidate for Sonoma County sheriff. Olivares is a Santa Rosa City Councilmember who had a long career with the Santa Rosa Police Department.

KRCB news director Steve Mencher asked Olivares about lack of diversity within the county sheriff’s office, and how he plans to address it.  

Sonoma State student
Steve Mencher / KRCB - North Bay Public Media

Update: The Sonoma County Coroner's Office has named the victim in the Sunday stabbing as 26-year-old Steven John Garcia, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

In a Monday morning press conference, Lt. Tim Lyons of the Petaluma Police Department named Tyler J. Bratton of Santa Rosa as the sole suspect in the stabbing death of a 26-year-old male Sonoma County resident Sunday evening. He said Bratton was in custody and on his way to the county jail in Santa Rosa. 

The stabbing took place in university housing on campus.

Ernesto Olivares
Photo provided

Yesterday, we talked with Santa Rosa City Council Member Ernesto Olivares. He’s one of three candidates for Sonoma County sheriff. Today, news director Steve Mencher continues that conversation.

Ernesto Olivares
Photo provided

With a primary scheduled for June 5, we’re going to be talking over the next few weeks with all three candidates for sheriff of Sonoma County. If no candidate emerges from the primary with a majority of votes, the top two vote getters will face each other in November.

Ernesto Olivares is a Santa Rosa city council member whose long service on the Santa Rosa police department  prepares him, he says, for the role of sheriff. There’s another part of his background that makes him unique, as he told KRCB news director Steve Mencher.

combustible materials
UC Dept of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Wednesday is the final day of a three day meeting on the Sonoma State campus called Living with Fire in California’s Coast Ranges. Participants are taking part in field trips today to areas connected to the October fire storms. The first two days were packed with talks by experts from throughout California, and from other western states.

Chris Coursey
Rotary Club of Santa Rosa

This fall, the Santa Rosa City Council begins a process that will eventually result in every councilmember representing a specific geographic area. Currently, they are all “at large.”

Mayor Chris Coursey is one of those standing for election this year – and he spoke to KRCB news director Steve Mencher about how the new district system will work.

The final map is posted here. Districts 2,4 and 6 will vote this November. The remaining four districts vote in 2020.

Suzanne Gordon
Suzanne Gordon

After the failed nomination of Admiral Ronny Jackson to lead the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, we invited an expert on veterans’ healthcare to talk with us. Suzanne Gordon told KRCB News Director Steve Mencher what experience she believes is needed to lead the VA – and what is at stake in the choice.

Learn more about Suzanne Gordon's next book, Wounds of War: How the VA Delivers Health, Healing and Hope to the Nation's Veterans.

The Battle for Veterans' Healthcare
Cornell University Press

With the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in the news recently, there’s been increased attention to the possibility of privatizing veterans’ health care. Suzanne Gordon is a journalist and author who often writes about health. Her latest book is The Battle for Veterans’ Healthcare.

Gordon  spoke with KRCB News Director Steve Mencher, and suggested who might benefit if long-standing conservative plans for privatization take hold.

Paul Gullixson
Sonoma State University

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat earned a Pulitzer Prize this year for its gutsy and wide-ranging coverage of October’s fires. As he celebrated that achievement, the paper’s Editorial Director, Paul Gullixson, was leaving after two decades to become Associate Vice President of Strategic Communications at Sonoma State.

He talked with KRCB News Director Steve Mencher about the P-D’s proud moment.

Here's Paul Gullixson talking about what's ahead in his new job at Sonoma State:

controlled burn
U.S. Army

Living with Fire in California’s Coast Ranges – that’s the title of a symposium at Sonoma State beginning Monday May 7. For three days, experts from throughout the West will converge on Rohnert Park and talk about fire in the region – its history, its impact, and ways we can mitigate the damage it causes during catastrophes like October’s Wine Country fires.

Lucia Garay, Tara Sullivan, Dmitra Smith
KRCB/Steve Mencher

We recently brought you the story of how the Sonoma County Junior Commission on Human Rights had created a survey showing that bullying and racial harassment is on the rise in Sonoma County schools. We’ve continued to learn more about the junior commission’s work – and wanted to hear from its advisor, Dmitra Smith, who had come to the studio to accompany the students. She talked with KRCB news director Steve Mencher.

Sheriff candidate literature
KRCB/Steve Mencher

The Russian River Chamber of Commerce presented a debate among the three candidates for Sonoma County Sheriff Monday night at the Rio Theater in Monte Rio. John Mutz, Ernesto Olivares and Mark Essick all strove to convince the audience that their approach was right for the job. KRCB News Director Steve Mencher was there and has this report.

Rafael Vazquez
Santa Rosa Junior College

Monday, March 5 was the original deadline set by President Trump for winding down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – or DACA – program. But courts have stayed President Trump’s order and the program is now in limbo.

At noon Monday students and community members will gather at Santa Rosa Junior College to march downtown to the Federal Building in Santa Rosa. The march supports a continuation of DACA as well as encouraging examination of the entire immigration system.

Lucia Garay, Tara Sullivan, Dmitra Smith
KRCB/Steve Mencher

There’s turmoil in the nation’s high schools right now. This morning, Analy High School in Sebastopol was closed after threatening graffiti was found on its campus. The recent Florida shootings have inspired teen activists to make their voices heard about gun control and other issues.

Today – the third and final part of our conversation with Army nurse Kate O’Hare-Palmer. She went from denying the trauma of her Vietnam experience to becoming an activist, fighting for women veterans from her time and ours, as she told news director Steve Mencher.

Kate O'Hare-Palmer
Kate O'Hare-Palmer

Last week we heard from former Army nurse Kate O’Hare-Palmer as part of our series of interviews with local Vietnam-era veterans. We heard how she saw intense action 50 years ago in two army field hospitals.

Today, she continues her conversation with KRCB news director Steve Mencher. She says that a book by a nurse who’d served in Vietnam convinced her that women, as well as men, came home transformed by their wartime experiences.

Read about the book Home Before Morning, by Lynda Van Devanter.

Rosie Zuniga
KRCB/Steve Mencher

Sonoma State recently announced that 15 students have been awarded up to $10,000 each to continue their studies. The new Wine Industry Scholars Program joins the school’s Educational Opportunity Program and its Wine Business Institute to support students in the first generation of their families to attend college.

Last month, KRCB presented Lynn Novick and Ken Burns’ revealing history of the war in Vietnam. We also interviewed a number of veterans about their experiences. Today, we add one more veteran to that list.

Kate O’Hare-Palmer is a nurse who served in Vietnam 50 years ago. She’s chair of the Women Veterans Committee of the Vietnam Veterans of America and has become a leader in fighting for the rights of women who served in the military.

U.S. Army Corps cleanup Coffey Park, Santa Rosa
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

In the wake of the October fires in Santa Rosa, residents of the Coffey Park neighborhood, which suffered devastating losses, have organized. The group Coffey Strong now numbers nearly 1000 residents who act collectively to pool information and save money.

Jeff Okrepkie represented the group on a recent edition of the KQED program Forum – with Michael Krasny.

Prescribed burn
U.S. Army

Today, we’ve got two reports about the aftermath of October’s fires. They come to us through our partnership with KQED’s California Report.

First, an independent state watchdog called the Little Hoover Commission says California needs to re-examine how it manages the state’s forests to minimize the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

Jerry Nickelsburg
KRCB/Steve Mencher

Last week we visited the State of the County event and heard from some key voices representing our diverse community. Visit our website to hear from Ana Lugo, President of the North Bay Organizing Project, Reno Franklin, Chair of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, and Beth Brown, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sonoma County.

James Gore
KRCB/Steve Mencher

From the Doubletree Sonoma Wine Country – we present highlights from the State of the County breakfast, presented by Sonoma County Economic Development Bureau.

The Black Sheep Brass Band kicked off the morning event.

Coffey Strong
Diane Askew

Coffey Park was the subject of a recent edition of KQED’s Forum program with Michael Krasny.  KRCB News Director Steve Mencher has some excerpts from the discussion…

Paradise Ridge Winery
Courtesy of Paradise Ridge website

A new study from the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State describes the effects of the North Bay fires on local vineyards and wineries and related parts of the North Coast wine industry. In addition to surveying stakeholders, the authors also crunched the first available statistics.

Honore Comfort is Executive in Residence at the institute, part of the SSU School of Business and Economics. She talked with KRCB News Director Steve Mencher about the study.