Defending Sterback of Fernbridge Market

Dear Editor,

In recent months Steve Sterback, proprietor of Fernbridge Market has been targeted in an orchestrated attack by the District Attorney's office. They have declared Sterback a menace to the public good. Following their reasoning, Sterback is a dangerous threat that needs to be stopped in the name of 'public safety.'

Twice in recent months conspicuously disturbing depictions or Sterback appeared in the Times-Standard in what can only be called a direct assault on his character and good name. What is very apparent to all who know Sterback is that the current attack and the maligning vilifications that appeared in the Times Standard are at best very misleading, simply out of touch with reality, and nobody, nobody who knows Sterback is taken in by such tactics.

At issue is a matter of the water supply at Fernbridge Market where Sterback is proprietor (not the owner). Fernbridge is a tiny non-incorporated hamlet nestled in the Eel River Valley. It has a tiny tax base, a historically under-developed infrastructure, and recurring problems that have always subsequently plagued the area.

Sterback inherited those problems when he began to manage the Fernbridge Market. Disruptions to the water supply there have been occasional and ongoing for years - long before Sterback managed the store. Always, whenever there was a problem that came to Sterback's attention, he dealt with it directly and without delay, as could be expected of a responsible man.

Recently the Health Department closed the business because of an issue over water quality until the problem was resolved. The issue was quickly addressed and resolved, and the water system again produced healthy water that perfectly passed acceptable health code standards. What should have been the end of the issue was instead it was the beginning of a dreadful life-disruptive and costly nightmare for Sterback and his family.

Now and for the past several months he finds himself at the brunt of an ongoing attack from the District Attorney's office - embroiled in a case where charges have been brought against him. By a series of strategic delay tactics he has been effectively prevented from being able to defend himself in court. While his business remains in limbo he loses his ability to support his family and is being driven slowly broke - driven to the brink by the misguided ego-driven politics of those who are convinced they have a public menace "Dead to rights."

I have known Steve for about 7 years. Unlike the District Attorney's office, the local Health Department, and the staff writers at the Times Standard - all of whom have conspired in support of the attack on Mr. Sterback. I actually do know who he is.

He is a dedicated man, to his family, his community, and his business -- familiar with diligence, sacrifice, and long hours of hard work. Steve is a volunteer at the Ferndale Rep Theater. He is a close, caring, and involved supporter of his son, Louis. He regularly attends church with his family.

He volunteered to help Maryann Bansen of Bancrest Dairies develop the Senior Lunch Program in Ferndale. He is an involved community-builder who was the driving force behind the establishment of the bocce tournaments in Ferndale to help provide a positive outlet for the local youth. He is a supporter of the scouting program, loved in his community, and is a good friend to many.

Now he is the unwitting victim of a heartless and unremitting attack by those who would try and convince others who don't know Sterback that he deserves every foul accusation they level against him. He does not. Nor does he deserve to suffer the life-disruptive months-long tactics that threaten his livelihood and his ability to responsibly provide for his family.

I hope to set the record straight and to make clear the true character of Mr. Sterback. In their self-righteous zeal, his attackers misjudged Mr. Sterback from the beginning. Now apparently they are too invested in the matter to relent and need to try and save face for their irresponsible damage done. With complete disregard for the consequences of their actions or who they were dealing with, his attackers would have done well to try and first find out who Steve was before they overreacted. This they did not do. Apparently they lack the courage and the moral fiber to face their error honestly and make things right. In what strikes me as a clear act of abuse of power, the pressure brought to bear against Steve and his family is being relentlessly kept up.

People deserve to know more of the facts and not just the slanted one-sided view that has been presented by his attackers in justification of their attack. I am proud of Steve. I am glad to call him my friend. He is a man of fine character worthy of emulation. Anyone who knows him, and there are many who do, would be glad to have him as a neighbor.

Steve Coach,