photo of Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez

I spoke with Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velasquez recently and wanted to share some of the issues his administration is working on during his first term in office.

Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velasquez is working on a five-year goal with the City Council and staff to improve finances and services in the city. Every Tuesday, staff and City leaders meet to address current issues and “understand where we’re at”, said Mayor Velasquez.

The Mayor took charge of the city and assumed responsibility for operations, services and fiscal solvency after voters decided it was time for new accountability by electing a “Strong” form of government as opposed to the “Weak” Mayor-Council system. 

In a “weak” Mayor-Council system, the Mayor has no formal authority outside of the Council; he/she cannot appoint and/or remove officials, and lacks veto power over Council votes. As such, the Mayor’s influence is solely based on his/her personality in order to accomplish desired goals.

In the strong-Mayor form the elected Mayor is given almost total administrative authority and a clear, wide range of political independence, with the power to appoint and dismiss department heads without Council approval and little, or no public input. In this system, the strong-Mayor prepares and administers the City budget, although the Council often must approve that budget. 

Under the new strong Mayor system, Mayor Velasquez is challenged with maintaining and improving services and working with all city department heads to develop budgets respectively. “There were some eye-opening experiences”, Velasquez said, after former city staff members left. “The council recognizes now that we are the leaders”, he said, “We either make decisions, or someone else will.” 

Mayor Velasquez said that the city was working on refinancing some of its municipal bonds in order to take advantage of lower interest bearing rates to reduce finance costs, though he said the process was taking a year longer than he wanted. 

He said the city is interested in capitalizing on improving tourism by attracting people to stop in Hollister on their way to The Pinnacles National Park in south San Benito County. The city needs to focus on a five-year plan with measurable goals and collaborate toward a common vision, according to Mayor Velasquez. When asked about his own political campaign agenda, the Mayor was pragmatic. “I’m focusing on running the city now” he said. He said that he plans to begin re-election campaigns after the local primaries in June. 

Mayor Velasquez supports the July 4th weekend Hollister Motorcycle Rally and reiterated that the city made a 10-year commitment to work with the Hollister Downtown Association to promote the event. The Hollister Rally is managed by Worldwide Dynamics Inc. Event Management and Marketing in partnership with the Hollister Downtown Association, both located in downtown Hollister. 

This year, the Hollister Motorcycle Rally will feature at least 50 bands, motorcycle aftermarket vendors, booths featuring international gourmet foods, non-profit groups and service organizations. The event attracts over 100,000 visitors to Hollister and San Benito County to celebrate the 4th of July weekend, buy food and drinks, listen to music and participate in motorcycle tours.

Mayor Velasquez said he has other goals for the city and wants to focus on law enforcement and the Fire Department. He recognizes that past administrations allowed the City staff to make decisions that present tough fiscal challenges today. “Hard decisions will have to be made”, he said. “But the council is taking control of the city”.