Government / Politics

Election 2018: San Juan Bautista City Council

Six candidates, two of which are qualified write-ins, compete for three seats.

Four candidates will be on the ballot for the three seats on the  San Juan Bautista City Council that will be left vacant by Mayor Jim West and councilmembers Tony Boch and Chris Martorana.

Jackie Morris-Lopez and Maggie Bilich are two additional candidates that have qualified to be write-in candidates.


Mary Edge said she was born in Hollister and has not moved out of the county. She is a mother of two said she had several careers that will help her make a difference in the community, but now is retired.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for this office?

EDGE: My husband and I have lived in San Juan for over 30 years, and our sons grew up here. I love San Juan Bautista, and its people, and I feel I can make a difference in our community.

What issues are most important to San Juan Bautista?

We have several issues in San Juan Bautista. I feel our water and sewer are high priorities. Our infrastructure and our long-term plans for San Juan Bautista are also very important.

What obstacles and challenges does the city face?

One of the biggest obstacles and challenges is our water and sewer services, funds, and resources.

What is the role of local government?

The role of our local government is to provide good solid planned infrastructure and services for the future. This includes water, streets and sidewalks, police protection, and laws. Building codes need to be followed in order to maintain and preserve the beauty of our historical buildings, our town of history. The role of our government is to provide the citizens of San Juan Bautista a firm foundation for current times and the future.


Harold Gomes said he has lived in San Benito County for about seven years. He owns a construction company and does architectural photography.

His career as a business owner and his education in economics and political science from UC Davis are important factors that will help him contribute to the prosperity of San Juan Bautista, Gomes said.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for this office?

GOMES: My wife and I made San Juan Bautista our home because we were attracted to the small town community. Living here for seven years has only made me love the community even more and appreciate the charm that is characteristic of our historic downtown. However, in recent times it has become apparent that the reasons that originally motivated my wife and me to move, live, and raise our family in this beautiful town have become vulnerable to the mismanagement of urban growth.

What issues are most important to San Juan Bautista?

A few important issues that require attention are as follows: Improving the quality of our city water; being mindful of the distinctive rural character of our city by preserving areas of open space and not allowing for urban sprawl; making a plan for sustainable development; and building a healthy business community.

What obstacles and challenges does the city face?

One major challenge of our city is generating income without losing our identity as “A City of History.” I feel that financial constraints in the past have put pressure on the city to go search for revenue in desperate directions that endanger our small town America atmosphere.

At this moment we have a wonderful foundation for economic and social prosperity. It is characterized collectively by our historic downtown, State Park, the Old Mission, and a small community spirit.

The city council should not be limited in its responsibility to recognize our unique qualities, as detailed above, in comparison to surrounding larger cities, but also have the know-how to build on these distinctive community features so as to attract more outside visitors which in turn will invite more businesses while staying true to our values.

What is the role of local government?

Local government should govern in the best interest of its residents. This can be defined not only by the fluid day-to-day administration of the city, but also in the implementation of sound policy that reflects an understanding of the community and its culture.


Cesar Flores said he has lived in Orange County before moving to San Juan Bautista in 1971. Flores began to work for Pinnacles National Park in the late 70s. He later worked for the Navy and then took a position as an equal employment opportunity manager for the western region of the National Park Service.

Flores said he retired in the 1990s, but has continued to work in the community as a special education teacher at Chamberlain’s Children Center, a substitute teacher for the Hollister School District, and then worked with Hartnell College’s The Western Stage.

Lastly, he served on the San Juan Bautista Planning Commission in the 1980s, Flores said.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for this office?

FLORES: First of all there is a need. There is three positions opened [and] II have a lot of experience. I’m retired and I don’t mind volunteering my time and it’s needed.

My whole focus is to bring the people together bring the different elements together.

What issues are most important to San Juan Bautista?

There are several issues. You can’t really point to one. They are all kind of interrelated. Primarily our water is one of them. Our streets, we need parks. We definitely need a recreational center for our youth. They have no place to go.

I think that the most important thing is to make sure our community needs are met. Recreation is not just a word. Your body recreates, your mind recreates. You have to have that time in your life to release all that stress that you pick up on everyday items.

What obstacles and challenges does San Juan Bautista face?

That’ hard to say. Actually, I don’t see any obstacles per say. We are in the right track. We have a good city manager. She is doing a great job. It’s just a matter of time until we get all our ducks in a row. I don’t see any heavy duty, you know, there ain’t no mountain high.

I’m very positive. I look for the good. I don’t look for the bad. We have to look at the better side.

What is the role of local government?

Local government is to provide services for the local community. There’s is all different levels and whatever is the need for community.

What does the community need? Where are those needs? Let’s identify those, make a plan, and let’s get them done.  


Leslie Jordan did not respond to email and call request from BenitoLink to be interviewed.

Jordan was present during San Juan Bautista’s candidate forum on Oct. 3 where she introduced herself to the public and highlighted her experience and voiced her reasons to run for City Council.

Jordan statement during the forum:

“My name is Leslie Jordan. I am a resident of San Juan Bautista. I do have a night job. I teach on Wednesdays and Thursdays at Gavilan College. I am the head of the Water Resources Management program out there. So I teach math tonight…. Welcome community members, council members, the press. Thanks Wayne for doing this.

“Who am I? I moved here about five years ago with my children. I have grown, adult children. My daughter is home from Japan for the first time in seven years. She went to school there. My son hangs out here and works here in town. I came to San Juan from Prunedale. I moved here to a community that I have absolutely adored since my kids were knee high to grasshoppers. We played T-ball here for years. My sister-in-law and I both had a Girl scout troop that we took to San Juan Bautista every weekend….

“There are couple of reasons why I’m running. Some of them are growth managing. We’re seeing development in this community all over the place. To grow, for our town to flourish, we do need a little bit of development.

“Business development is also important to me. We have storefronts that are empty. I want to see them full. It’s great for the community. It brings in the tourists that we need. It fills our stores, it fills our streets, which thanks to Anthony [Botelho] we’re going to get repaired one of these years.

“Infrastructure maintenance; we have issues. We have road issues. We have sewer and water main issues. 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.

“Code enforcement; we’re working on that now as a community. I want to be involved more in that. And last but definitely not least a passion of mine which is water and wastewater. It’s what I do. I’ve been in the water and wastewater business for about 30 years now.

“Right now I work for a small mom-and-pop community. I have to go and I do have to teach tonight. I can have students that are waiting for me. Welcome to all of you. I’m sorry I’m missing your speeches. Thank you all for coming. Leslie Jordan vote. Our city, your voices.”


Maggie Bilich has lived in San Juan since 1965 after leaving Santa Cruz. Bilich said she spent 12 years working for General Electric as an auditor for a nuclear power plant. She later held positions with Morgan Hill Unified School District, the Housing Authority County of Monterey, jewelry stores and Valley Medical Center.

Bilich is a former city clerk and vice mayor of San Juan Bautista and director of the Monterey Bay Area Unified Air Pollution Control District Board. She said she is tenacious in whatever she does and added she won’t let things go until they are done.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for office?

BILICH: I’m running for City Council because I’ve been there before and none of the other people have. They don’t have kind of experience I’ve had in the past. I’m really certain that if I’m tenacious about it I will win. I just have to let everybody know that I’m the one they should vote for. And you have to write me in. Everybody has to write me in.

People that have experience need to be there because the city manager hasn’t been there that long. And she knows that I know what I’m doing. I think we will work well together.

What issues are most important to San Juan Bautista?

Number one we need to get the streets squared away in San Juan, number two the sidewalks as well, and number three we have to make sure that the stores that say are going to be open at a certain time are and same with closing.

What obstacles and challenges does San Juan Bautista face?

I believe that because we are smaller than Hollister, our big challenge is to make sure we are heard in this county. And we can do that because we are smaller than they are. Trust me.

What is the role of local government?

The role of local government is to make sure that we’ve listened to all the problems in the town and see if we can resolve a lot of it. I know there were a lot of questions about the houses that were being built outside of San Juan on the Nylan Ranch. And there was a lot of controversy about the noise that they make because they were under construction. Anyway I believe the city manager went to talk to them about that.


Jackie Morris-Lopez did not respond to BenitoLink’s request for an interview.

During the candidate forum on Oct. 3, Morris said she is a third generation San Juan Bautista Resident and wants to be the voice of the residents.

There is a big disconnect between the residents and the local government, Morris said, because many people commute to work, which doesn’t allow them to participate in council meetings.

Morris said she is open to meet residents in town if they want to share their concerns.



Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.