Government / Politics

County leaders bid farewell to Farr

Congressman Sam Farr enjoys an evening of appreciation hosted by the San Benito County Democratic Central Committee
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The San Benito County Democratic Central Committee hosted a retirement party for Rep. Sam Farr on Thursday, May 5. Congressman Farr leaves the office after serving 12 terms representing California’s 20th District. About 50 people came by to say goodbye and  thank him for his service. 

The evening started off with a few words from Gregory Rivera, president of the Democratic Central Committee. All five San Benito County supervisors came to recognize Farr's dedication to the community. The mood was mellow and sentimental as Supervisor Anthony Botelho thanked Farr for “always being engaged in our local issues.”  He recognized Farr for taking the lead in trying to resolve the ongoing conflict over the use of Clear Creek Recreation Area. “We are so grateful in little San Benito County,” Botelho said.

Supervisor Robert Rivas, the youngest board member, reflected on the influence Farr had on him as a young man and thanked him for his important role in establishing Pinnacles as a national park.

Supervisor Jerry Muenzer then said, “I remember being at Sam’s town hall meetings. I sat in the back and I sat there in amazement. In a very calm voice, he would respond. And I decided to try to follow in his footsteps and always answer with respect, even when people are yelling at you.” Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz left prior to the speeches.

Farr was credited with helping the county’s economy with the change in 2013 for the change in designation for Pinnacles from a national monument to a national park. The increase in stature within the national park system has been a significant boost in the number of tourists visiting the county.  

Farr shared with the group his story of how the idea developed. “I had been thinking about the Pinnacles for quite a while. And finally I decided to call Ken Burns,” he said, referring to the producer of a well-known video series on the national parks. Farr told listeners that Burns told him, “'Absolutely! I grew up in Oakland and used to go there all the time. I love that place.'" 

Farr continued, “Then he told me, ‘If the parks were like a library, the missing book is on the tectonic plates- that’s the Pinnacles.'" Farr said Burns’ comments convinced him to continue pursuing the National Park designation.  

Clearly satisfied with the accomplishment, Farr said, “So now we have the Pinnacles and a place for the condor program.”

The congressman also expressed his long-running interest but unattained goal of putting the town of New Idria on the National Historic Register, saying it operated more than 150 years providing mercury, largely for the United States government.  For many years, the New Idria mines were America's second most productive mines, with the New Almaden mine being first. The New Almaden mine was reclaimed and made into the New Almaden Quicksilver County Park and Mining Museum. The town of New Idria is nearly abandoned with only a few homes still in use. Farr expressed concern that much of what remains is being vandalized.

Farr went on to talk about other specific opportunities for the county. “I’ve always thought that you have something valuable with the airport. You have a chance for economic development with some vision. The way road service is going, its getting so congested that you may have to go up, in the air to get around for things like fires and emergencies,” he said.

“San Benito County has so much opportunity. I fell in love with this county when I was young. The apricots and the orchards and these beautiful mountains, the mountains always remind me of my time in Columbia," where Farr served in the Peace Corps.

Farr continued, “And yet it’s a struggle for this county. San Benito is surrounded by all these coastal counties that get all the attention and they have all the money,” he said.  “I love the community spirit this county has and the initiative you showed against fracking. You showed you're appreciation for this landscape and just said, ‘No you’re not going to do it.'"

“There is so much potential here. When California wants to see its past. It’s right here. They can just come to this county, drive down Highway 25 and see it the way it was,” he said.

“We need to keep working on literacy, accessible, affordable education and health care. It’s hard to leave this job. I really love to take care of constituents, to answer people’s concerns," he said.

Farr closed his comments by saying, “I’ve been elected by you many times, but right now I am looking forward to being a citizen and enjoying my hometown.”

Democratic Assembly District 30 candidate Anna Caballero joined Farr at the podium reminding the audience “There is a lot of work to be done and work is hard.”

Farr’s evening in San Benito County ended with hugs from old friends as guests requested quick photos with Farr.







Leslie David

Leslie David is a Bay Area independent reporter/producer and is a BenitoLink founding board member. She has produced for radio, television, newspaper and magazines in both California and Wyoming. She was with KRON-TV News in San Francisco as camera-woman, editor and field producer, where she won the Commonwealth Club's Thomas Storke Award with Linda Yee for their series on the Aids Epidemic. She started as a small market news reporter shooting her own 16mm film at KEYT-TV Santa Barbara. Leslie lives on a ranch with her family in San Benito County.