San Juan Bautista honored late mayor Jim West’s contributions to the city on Jan. 19 with the dedication of a park in his name.
Recently elected Mayor Cesar Flores led the dedication by standing on the running board of West’s black 1929 Ford Phaeton. He addressed a group of more than 40 people at the Mayor Jim West Memorial Park in the city’s new Rancho Vista development. The park, located on Trailside Drive, features two playgrounds and four outside fitness equipment stations, two of which are handicapped-accessible.
Among those who spoke during the dedication were former councilman Tony Boch, San Benito County Supervisor Anthony Botelho, Graniterock employee Shon Abercrombie and Jennifer Coile, vice president of the 33rd District Agricultural Association.
All thanked West for his years of public service and dedication to the community. West was called a “genuine human being,” “great guy” and a “friend as soon as you meet him.”
Botelho said it was fitting to dedicate a park to West because of his love for parks, adding that West served on the San Benito County Parks and Recreation Commission.
West also received a dedication at the Carl Martin Luck Memorial Library.
Librarian Rochelle Egen said that West’s book collection fills 18 feet of shelf space dedicated in his name. Library staff looked for patterns and the conditions of the donated books to determine which were West’s favorites to keep in his dedicated section. The books, for now, are for in-library use only.
Flores read the Congressional Record honoring West’s public service at the book collection dedication. The record was sent by Congressman Jimmy Panetta.
Flores presented West’s daughter Tina Iftiger with the record and the city’s plaque for West’s service on the San Juan Bautista City Council.
“Jim did everything for our village,” Flores said, adding that he called San Juan Bautista a village because it was small enough to be one.
West’s racing helmet was also displayed alongside West’s book collection. City Manager Michaele LaForge said Iftiger had given her the helmet, but thought it was appropriate to display it during the event. LaForge said she plans to leave the helmet in the library with the book collection.
Former councilman Boch told attendees he had unknowingly crossed paths with West when West was a motorcycle racer, before he settled in San Benito County.
West’s interest didn’t stop at motorcycles. As part of the dedication, a 1950 Ford concrete mixer and a 1928 Model AA dump truck were parked outside the library; West had restored them for his employer, Graniterock. Marketing Communications Manager Keith Severson told BenitoLink that West displayed the vehicles approximately 60 days a year at events in the area, including the San Benito County Fair.
Said Supervisor Botelho: “He was a shining example for all of us and we’re going to miss him.”
West took his own life on Dec. 6.