Candidates for the San Juan Bautista City Council participated in an Oct. 3 forum at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in town.
Five candidates will compete for three seats on the dias this November: Leslie Jordan, Harold Gomes, Cesar Flores, Mary Edge and Jackie Morris-Lopez. Morris was introduced as a late write-in candidate that missed the deadline to be included on the ballot by a couple of hours.
Deputy City Clerk Trish Paetz said Morris needs to turn in all the required paperwork by the Oct. 23 deadline to be a qualified write-in candidate for the election. Maggie Bilich is the other potential write-in candidate.
Write-in candidates do not appear on the ballot, Paetz said.
San Benito County Supervisor Anthony Botelho opened the forum by speaking and asking the candidates and the public to endorse Measure G, the transportation sales tax up for a vote in November.
The five candidates were given three minutes each to introduce themselves to the audience of about 20 people before answering questions from the public and moderator Wayne Norton, who is press coordinator for the Robert Rivas for Assembly 2018 campaign.
Leslie Jordan was present to introduce herself to the public before leaving to teach a math class at Gavilan College.
Jordan, the head of the water resource management program at Gavilan College, said she moved from Prunedale to San Juan Bautista five years ago with her adult children. Prior to moving, she frequented San Juan when her children played t-ball or brought her girl scout troop.
The Gavilan instructor said she is running for City Council because she believes “a little bit” of development is important for San Juan Bautista to flourish. Business development, infrastructure, sewer and watermain, code enforcement, water and wastewater are issues Jordan said she wanted to address if elected.
“We have issues that need to be dealt with and I want to be a part of working with this community on getting those things done,” Jordan said.
Norton asked the candidates four questions regarding building trust with residents, the process of meeting present issues while preserving San Juan Bautista, how the candidates envision fixing infrastructure and implementing repairs/improvements, and how they prepared for the City Council.
The candidates gave similar answers to most of the questions.
In regards to earning the trust of the residents, Cesar Flores suggested holding town meetings to deal with specific issues, while Harold Gomes said there needed to be action and talked about analyzing the aging water pipes and sewer system.
Mary Edge agreed with Flores that town meetings were important. She pointed out it was important for people to get involved and give feedback and ideas to solve problems.
Morris said it was necessary to get the basic necessity issues done such as water, police and parking.
In another question, Morris said her source was the Internet and attending meetings when it came to preparing for a potential seat on the City Council. Edge said her mentors are Council Tony Boch (leaving the council in November), Mayor Jim West (also leaving in November) and her husband Rick Edge, who served as mayor from Dec. 2015 to Dec. 2016.
Flores said his preparation had been his years working for the National Park Service. He said he also reached out to City Manager Michaele LaForge, who was hired earlier this year, to find out the city’s issues and priorities.
Council meetings and social media were Gomes’ outlets to finding out what the concerns of the residents were, he said. He added his education background is in political science and that he obtained his bachelor's degree in international relations from University of California Davis and then studied human rights at the University of Coimbra.
Questions from the public ranged from the code of ethics, integrity and transparency to celebrating San Juan Bautista’s 150-year existence, of which the candidates answers echoed each other.
One question in particular asked the candidates how they would deal with the pipes to the water hydrants being too small to fight fires. Three candidates said they were unaware of the issue, but would need to figure out a solution. Flores said it was a matter of prioritizing the list of projects LaForge has at hand.
City Clerk candidate Laura Cent was also present at the forum. She said she has lived in San Juan Bautista since 2012.
Cent obtained a bachelor’s from Chapman University and a master’s from San Jose State University, she said, and was a recording secretary for a women’s political club, corporate secretary for a recreational club, an election worker for Humboldt and San Benito counties, and worked in accounts payable in the health and human services department in Humboldt County.