Business / Economy

Newly-elected supervisor wants to attack issues on Day 1

Mark T. Medina believes his business background is what is needed to make county government work better

Mark T. Medina, newly elected San Benito County Supervisor who will officially step into retiring Margie Barrios’ shoes Jan. 1, 2017, took a victory lap, of sorts, July 14 at San Juan Oaks Golf Club, as friends, professional colleagues, political supporters, and even a possible opponent on certain issues, dropped by to help him celebrate his win over Mark Starritt—and drop a few bucks into a basket to help him defray the cost of his campaign.

Medina told BenitoLink that, first of all, he wanted to thank his supporters. He said the last six months was difficult and took away from his family time, but said in seeing what was accomplished he feels good at being successful at what he set out to do.

“The best part of the election was that on Election Day my son told me, ‘Dad, you’re going to win.’ And I said, ‘Why do you say that, Jake?’ He said, ‘You put a lot of time, a lot of effort, and you worked so hard, and you won, dad, and I’m proud of you,’” Medina recollected. “Not only did I win the election, I taught my son that when you have a goal and you give everything you have, you can achieve it.”

He reaffirmed his reason for running by stating that he believes there is a need to have someone in the government sector who will look at things from a business perspective, and bring the city and county together because they have common goals: bringing jobs to the area, repairing roads, and providing recreational opportunities.

Medina said his business background is significantly different from that of the other supervisors and city council members and that he will bring a unique perspective to the county.

“I’ve worked in companies where everything was, ‘we need to do it now.’ We couldn’t work at a snail’s pace. We had to make decisions immediately,” he said. “I think the makeup of our current city and county members is that a lot of them haven’t left (the county) and seen different ways other people react or things can get done.”

The current way of doing business in the county, Medina said, could be compared to working at a company for 20 or 30 years and then a new person comes in who immediately notices things that could be done a different way and are told, ‘we’ve always done it this way.’

“It’s time to look at things differently and not say it’s too difficult or we tried that and it didn’t work,” Medina said. “That’s why I started to run and was so passionate about it because at the level of the city and county, you can make a difference. When you get into the higher offices, especially the Congress and Senate, it’s hard to make a difference because there are so many things going on at that level, whereas at the county and city level you can touch the people that you’re actually representing.”

After he is officially sworn in as a supervisor, Medina aid there are three issues he wants to immediately tackle — the first being the tax-sharing agreement between the county and city. He attended the June 30 meeting between the Hollister City Council and county supervisors as they attempted to come up with a strategy to rewrite the agreement.

“That needs to be remedied immediately,” he said. “We need to step back and realize that we’re after the same goal and we need to figure out how we’re going to resolve this.”

Medina said he also wants to focus on new businesses that come to the area, as well as current businesses that may be looking to expand their operations.

“We need to look at impact fees,” he said. “We can’t be so greedy that we’re going to let another business leave or another that does not come here because the impact fees are too high. We need to evaluate these companies on whether they want to expand here or they’re coming into the county on a case-by-case basis and possibly incentivize them to come to Hollister.”

About the June 30 meeting, he hedged at first to say he was appalled, but tempered his comment by saying he was not happy that the meeting came down to hiring a consultant in order to iron out the differences between the city council and board of supervisors.

After City Councilman Raymond Friend approached, Medina amended his comment: “Since Ray is onboard with me I will use the word, ‘appalled.’ I’m appalled that we would have to hire a consultant to come here in order to take care of something that five people from one side and five people from the other side should be able to do it.”

Friend stepped in and added his opinions about a consultant, as well as the often testy relationship between city and county.

“It just solidified the fact that there’s a big difference (between city and county),” he said, adding, “We bailed them (county) out on the fire deal (providing fire services to the county) and one of the first things they said was, ‘we still have reservations about stuff.’ Hey, then take it back. Then what are you going to do? Take it back. We’re tired of it, anyway. We just lost 12 officers because you wouldn’t help us finance the grant.”

Medina and Friend were obviously on the same page on this, as they their comments overlapped, often playing off the other’s remarks.

“We need to work on our own issues and not have a third party come in and try to resolve it for us because once that third party leaves we’re back to us,” Medina said. “I don’t want to say consultants are not always good, but at this point you have 10 capable individuals that claim they’re leaders, so we have to be able to get along.”

“The reason we were here was because a judge threw out the tax-sharing agreement,” Friend interjected. “Now it’s time for us (city) to step up and get our fair shot. That’s the only thing we should have been talking about. All the other stuff goes away. We would be more than happy to do a lot of things if we felt like we weren’t getting skizzled by a new development all of a sudden becomes ours, like Santana Ranch. All of a sudden 1,100 homes? The county didn’t give us anything and say, ‘hire another couple of police officers or firemen, or build a firehouse out there.’ No, they got their money and said, ‘thank you.’”

Medina and Friend talked about what the impact fees and tax-sharing agreement could do for the city and county. Friend said, in particular, that the county needed a sports complex.

“We need something like that to bring people into town,” Friend said. “We need to sit down together, but we can’t even get the Parks and Recreation committees together. If we could talk Robert Rivas (chairman of the Board of Supervisors) into putting him (Medina) on the Intergovernmental Committee next year, we might be able to get some movement.”

Friend said Medina had the business sense needed on the board, and then added, almost apologetically:  “It sounds like I’m bashing the board of supervisors, but while we’re talking about them, they decided not to do that one percent tax deal. Why? Because ‘we’ve got $5 million from Del Webb.’ Oops.”

He looked back over at Medina and repeated, “We need somebody with business sense. I got in trouble with the Republican Party in saying that I backed him, but I couldn’t get behind Mark Starritt. I didn’t feel he was going to do what we wanted him to do. I think Mark (Medina) will make a change.”

Taking his cue from Friend, Medina added, “We need somebody to really stand up for the businesses. We need jobs.”

Scott Fuller, manager of San Juan Oaks Golf Club, commented that he supported Medina because he was impressed with Medina’s business approach to politics.

“While, in my mind, government is different than doing business in many ways,” Fuller said, “in other ways it helps to bring a business perspective to county government.”

“I’ve known him for a long time and he’s an honest guy,” said Jim West, a San Juan Bautista City Councilman.  “I know he’ll try to do the right thing. You can’t always do the right thing, but if a guy is sincere and committed, that’s 90 percent of the project, and he is. He will do the best job he can and that’s the best all of us can ask of him.”

In taking Barrios' seat, Medina will be next to fellow supervisor Jaime De La Cruz, who said of Medina that it was good to get new blood with fresh, new ideas.

“With his experience and background he’ll be off and running at the start of the new year,” De La Cruz said. “It’s something we need in our community to address issues like Del Webb, which I’m very disappointed about, at the moment.”

Local businesswoman Kristina Chavez Wyatt, who made it clear that she does not endorse political candidates, said about a businessman taking on politics: “It was a tough race because both Marks (Starritt and Medina) were businessmen, but I think from the county perspective it’s nice to have someone who’s an executive manager for a large corporation and is in better touch with jobs, the workforce, training, and the ebbs and flows of the economy. And it’s nice to have someone who is currently in that position, and has young children.”

She said that being a parent of young children gives a person experience in long-term planning, as well as a connection to the education system, recreation, the economy, and county services.

Tim Foley, retired superintendent of schools, said he is supportive of Medina because of his openness to communicating his ideas.

“He’s going to hit the deck running and he’s very attentive to our concerns in District 1, and we’ve got a lot of them,” he said, “in particular, the traffic along Fairview that’s going to turn into a raceway real soon with all those new homes. You mix that many commuters and farm vehicles and you’ve got problems.”

On July 15, Medina added his third priority to his list of must-dos when he takes office in an email to BenitoLink: "The county needs to look at who will grow medical marijuana and how it relates to the health and welfare of those in the county.

“We need to ensure our residents have access to a website, county postings and maps that will show where all the grow operations are located and who operates the grow facility,” he wrote. “The grow facilities will need a permit to operate and follow all state and soon-to-be-written local ordinances.”

Medina was very specific about how marijuana growing operations should look, as well as operate.

“These grow operations MUST have 24-hour security, have a security fence with razor barbed wire and preferably the grow operation should be indoors, which will eliminate any possible odor issues with local residents,” he wrote. “We also should look at zoning for these operations. The operations must have proper accounting of plant yield and sales transactions to deter an operation from attempting to sell their product in the underground economy.”

He said medical marijuana is an “opportunity for San Benito County to capitalize on tax revenue,” and that the county should examine imposing a special tax on growers to fund a county marijuana audit/enforcement administrator.

“We only have one shot to do this right the first time, therefore, like any business would do, we as the county need to have a rigorous business plan at the county level to ensure we have done our due diligence thus eliminating any gray area and allowing all interested parties involved to have a fair and equitable playing field,” Medina wrote. “We also need to look at other states and counties and see what has been successful and what has failed. We don't have to recreate the wheel being the wheel already exists. Let's just make the wheel safer, more efficient and more robust.” 

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]