Since Mark Medina’s resignation from the San Benito County Board of Supervisors in June, the board has been operating without a representative for District 1. After discussing the possibility of filling the vacancy at the next general election, supervisors opted to wait for Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint a replacement.
The appointment process, mostly held outside of the public’s view, seems simple enough— submit an application and wait for the governor to make a decision. Without a deadline in place to apply or to make an appointment, and without the names of applicants, it’s anyone’s guess as to who or when District 1 will have a representative at the dais.
The governor’s press office told BenitoLink it does not release information regarding applicants.
“An appointment to this position would be announced via an appointments press release.”
Even if Newsom makes an appointment, that seat will be up for election at the 2022 general election. The person elected will hold a two-year term starting Jan. 1, 2023.
Five residents have confirmed to BenitoLink they applied for the appointment: Betsy Dirks, Steve Garcia, Kim Hawk, Mark Starritt and Elizabeth Zepeda Gonzalez.
Dirks, 44, lost her supervisor bid to Medina in the March 2020 primary election with 42.4% of the votes.
An education consulting company and former teacher, Dirks has lived in the county for 18 years. She lives with her husband and two children ages 14 and 11.
She said she applied for the appointment because she wants the board to be reflective of the community so that all voices are represented.
“At the heart of why I wanted to run is to make sure the county is a place where families can make sure kids have somewhere to put down roots,” Dirks said.
Dirks has served on the San Benito County Grand Jury, was a board member of Emmaus House for four years, a board member of Baler Education Foundation for three years, a Girl Scouts of America troop leader for five years and is on BenitoLink’s strategic planning committee.
Garcia, 66, is a job developer for Hope Services and has lived in the county for about eight years. He lives with his wife and has two daughters and a son, all adults who also live in Hollister.
He said he applied for the appointment because he felt it was important to be involved in local politics to provide a better quality of life for residents.
“I want to utilize my experience in tackling some of the problems like traffic, bringing better jobs and economic growth,” Garcia said. “At the same time I want to make sure we are planning growth and take into account our agriculture roots.”
A Greenfield native, Garcia has been involved in Little League and other youth programs, has been part of programs in which he helps residents become citizens, and has helped residents apply for low-income housing. In addition, he spent 24 years in the Greenfield School Union, served in the Greenfield Memorial District Board and was a union representative for Teamsters Local Union 890.
Hawk, 65, is retired and has lived in San Benito County her entire life. She lives with her husband and they have an adult son.
She said she applied for the appointment because she wants to bring the county and cities together, be more transparent about the county’s finances and make sure infrastructure reflects growth.
“Several years ago my uncle, Frank Sabbatini, was on the Board of Supervisors for approximately 24 years and I saw how the Board of Supervisors and the City Council worked together as a team,” Hawk said. “The board looked out for their constituents and not just following their own agenda.”
Hawk was a county employee for 36 years in various departments including the Health and Human Service Agency’ welfare department; county clerk, auditor, recorder department; deputy clerk of the Board of Supervisors; elections department and public works department.
Starrit, 71, is a general building contractor and has lived in the county for about 33 years. He lives with his wife and has three adult children.
He said he applied for the appointment because he believes things need to be done differently and people need to be held accountable.
“I’ve been a longtime member of the community. I know the direction it’s heading,” Starritt said. “It’s been heading that way for a while. I would like to put on the brakes and handle things differently.”
Starrit is the District 3 Hollister Airport Commissionioner.
Elizabeth Zepeda Gonzalez, in her 20s, is a nonprofit administrator. She grew up in San Benito County.
She said she applied for the appointment not only to serve but to show youth and young adults about the rights and responsibilities the community has to make sure San Benito County flourishes and because she can work with different groups to find solutions.
“It’s a big responsibility, but I also know that I have the right tools to make sure I’m successful in representing our community,” Zepeda Gonzalez said. “I’m open to listening to our community’s and constituents’ concerns.
She is currently a San Benito County Office of Education board member. In addition, she has also served on nonprofit boards at the state and national levels.
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