Government / Politics

Martorana focuses on bolstering business in first term on SJB council

Relative newcomer to Mission City will begin his council stint on Dec. 16

Christopher Martorana and his wife have lived in San Juan Bautista for less than three years, but Martorana has been committed to getting involved in the community since he and his wife bought a house in the Mission City. He has attended planning commission meetings, city council meetings and served on the strategic plan committee.

On Dec. 16, he will start in his official capacity aha on the SJB council.

Martorana said his biggest goal for his first term is to have the city council bolster the business community in San Juan Bautista while still holding onto the small-town experience that first attracted himself and his wife to the city.

“It is largely a tourist economy and I’ve been working with some of the local business – I joined the Chamber of Commerce and have been attending meetings with other local business,” he said. “I feel very strongly that where we are going to see the biggest benefit to the city is to bolster the business community and feed off those revenues.”

He said part of the process will need to include making the environment in San Juan more open, receptive and friendly.

“One thing that gets lost is understanding who is coming to town and taking a customer-centric view,” he said. “How do we work together and improve the visitor experience because that helps all of us?”

During his campaign, Martorana said he spent a lot of time talking to constituents, sometimes up to two hours with one person who had a lot to say.

The number one concern he heard from residents was about water quality and the quantity of water in San Juan.

“There is a lot of long-standing frustration over the infrastructure project that was not quite completed a few years ago,” he said, noting that residents were also concerned about how the city can grow and develop without “losing sight of our heritage.”

On election night, Martorana said he kept an eye on the results, but didn’t stay up too late to watch the polls.

“My wife and I are not late night folks so by 10 o’clock, I’m sure we were asleep,” he said.

Though he said some people congratulated him early on, he said he didn’t feel the seat was securely his until weeks after the election when the San Benito County elections office had finished counting all the ballots.

“People who are more versed (in elections) said the percentages don’t particularly change that much, and of course they didn’t,” he said. “But it was my first foray into something like this.”

While serving at the SJB city council is his first time in elected office, he said he has done volunteer work in the past on issue that were peripherally-related to politics, such as issues of reproductive rights and LGBT rights.

“I was very active on those issues in the past,” he said.

His work also has helped him achieve skills that will benefit him in office. He is a professional manufacturing representative who sells items for a specialized market.

“I am sitting between a factory representative who pays me and I have to balance that with the needs of my customers,” he said. “I negotiate back and forth, balancing those needs and finding a place that works so I conclude a deal where everyone is happy.”

He said that in San Juan Bautista, he has encountered many passionate people who have different outlooks about what should happen in the city.

“Finding a reasonable solution for everybody is part of what I do every day,” he said. “We have to get past those difference and collaborate to work toward all of our goals in a productive way.”

He said in the past, there have been issues of rumors or people using social media in divisive ways.

Martorana said he would like to see the city officials and employees find ways to better communicate with community residents.

“One of the challenges is that we meet monthly and it’s a group of volunteers,” he said, of the city council. “The community doesn’t have that many opportunities to bring things to the council.”

He has already started reviewing background documents and is prepared to review all the background information for agenda items in advance of the meetings.

“It’s that preparation on the front end,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure people understand what the process is so we are then prepared with all the information we need so we can address their issues.”

Melissa Anderson

Melissa (Flores) Anderson is the former city editor of the Weekend Pinnacle and Hollister Free Lance, where she covered education, county government and more. She currently works for the College of Applied Sciences and Arts at San Jose State University, where she manages the College blog, newsletter and website updates. She has a master's in print journalism from the University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism.