Government / Politics

Supervisor Candidate Mark Medina Holds Public Forum at Mars Hill

Mark Medina grew up in Hollister, moved away, returned and is now running for supervisor of District 1
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Mark Medina, 46, said he had to leave Hollister for 14 years in order to discover how great it really is. Now he’s back after four years in the Air Force as a military policeman and a successful career in a broad range of businesses on both sides of the country, and he’s running for county supervisor for District 1 as Margie Barrios prepares to step down. But before leaving, she is endorsing Medina, as have Hollister City Councilmen Karson Klauer and Raymond Friend, according to Medina.

Medina met April 21 with residents at Mars Hill Coffee Shop to share his thoughts so voters will know him better and perhaps mark his name on the June ballot. With a broad background in business, he is approaching his foray into politics from a fiscal perspective. He said he can offer the community a sense of leadership based on his experience in the business arena.

New to politics, he said he is a “decline-to-state-party” candidate who considers himself a business leader first and foremost.

“I’ve been a finance manager, a county manager, and an operations manager, so I understand how business works,” he said. “In order to get things done, you have to rely on everyone, not just one person. So it’s important we learn to negotiate and to get along not only with fellow board members, but also all the constituents because I would represent everyone, and not just the people who voted for me.”

Medina said one of the big issues for him is to bring more business into the community. He said he has been involved with startups and feels he has the ability to talk to people and sell them on San Benito County. He said he wants to use the new vegetable production plant, GC Farms, on Fairview Road, as a template for attracting business to the county. He said he met with the owner to get an idea why he built the new facility in San Benito County.

“One of the things I see when someone comes to this community is a need for an ambassador; somebody to show them around so they know what we have to offer,” he said. “I would like to have a call when someone wants to come here and set them up with the right people. The second thing, if we’re going to bring in industry that has employees, we should fast-track them into the county. We still need to follow all rules, but we need to put someone at the planning commission to get in touch with these people so there’s one person they can talk to and they don’t have to cut through a bunch of red tape to get something done.”

In discussing growth for the city and county, Medina said each project should be considered individually regarding annexation.

“If we want to attract businesses here we also need homes, but it needs to be balanced,” he said. “We don’t just build 15,000 houses and not have any type of industry.”

When asked his views on the homeless shelter—supervisors recently approved the purchase of a building at 1161 San Felipe Rd.—he said more research should be done before moving forward.

“With me being so new and looking at this, we need to look at the money that will be spent to renovate that building,” he said. “What is the price to bring it up to standard? What is it going to cost our general fund every year? Now we have a fixed cost and a variable cost that will be spent on a yearly basis on upkeep of this shelter. We need to look at the numbers, because they do not lie and I’d have to make a decision based on those numbers.”

Concerning the objections from neighbors to the new location, he said if he had been on the board he would have wanted to look through all available data before coming to a decision that is best for the entire community.

Medina said this is not the first time he has been up to bat to run for supervisor. In 2002, he was 30 and dipped his toe into the political waters unsuccessfully. He seemed to indicate that 16 years ago he might not have had as much invested in going into politics, but now that he’s a little older and has a family, he’s looking at it as an opportunity to help the community grow.

“I left in 2002 and came back in 2014, and most communities I’ve seen have grown and added a lot of conveniences to the communities and it seemed to me like San Benito County has moved backwards,” he said. “If you were here 12 years ago, downtown was more vibrant. There seemed to be more things going on. Whereas now there’s nothing downtown. Some of it is because of the economy, but we have to have businesses to support the local economy.”

In addressing the city council’s efforts to rejuvenate downtown, beginning with re-striping San Benito Street and changing it from four lanes to two, Medina said, “kudos to them.”

“The only way you can change something is to do what they’ve been doing,” he said. “Whether people agree or disagree with it, they’re doing something. It shows that they’re passionate about something rather than thinking ‘sooner or later people are going to come here and they’re going to be happy.’ Sometimes you have to take that quantum leap.”

On tourism, he said the community needs to continue to work on its connection with Pinnacles National Park and possibly develop a wine trail similar to those in Paso Robles.

“We also need to look at building a sports complex for baseball, soccer and swimming,” Medina said. “If you look at the Morgan Hill sports facility next to the water park, the whole town is packed. You look at our temperature, it’s not too hot or too cold, and it’s perfect to host events like that. I look at what we have now with Little League baseball and it’s phenomenal. Most of the time we have major competitors in our Little League and we need to have the same thing with our soccer.  We need to look for different ways to attract people here. They come here. They eat here. They can look at some of the wineries and Pinnacles, of course.”

Regarding the upcoming Fourth of July motorcycle rally, he said he has maintained for years that it has to be closely analyzed to see if the city is actually making money.

“If this rally is bringing money into this community we need to look at the entire rally, the income and the expenses, whether it’s staff or what we spend the month before the rally to get a better idea of what the actual bottom line is,” he said.

In working with the city government, Medina said the county and the city, like any business organization, have to work together to accomplish the same goals, which is to make the county a better place to live.

“I have been endorsed by Ray Friend and Karson Klauer,” he said. “I want to bring back that relationship of county and city working together.”

Medina said that if he were to win the upcoming election on June 7, the first thing he would do would be to shadow Supervisor Barrios on June 8.

“I want to start the process before Jan. 1, 2017,” he said. “I would go to the meetings, so come Jan. 1, I would be up and running.”

He said he and Barrios don’t see everything through the same lens.

“I’m my own person and make up my own mind,” Medina said, “but she will be able to educate me on what’s happening and I will be able to make decisions.”

When it comes to education and libraries, he said: “Everyone talks about college and hitting the books. I believe in studying, but I also believe in the technical part of education. People often just look at the education part of a four-year college. For some people, I think we need to look at the technical schools, like welding or electrical. Sometimes, they’d be better off there.”

Medina said that perhaps it’s time to cut the ties with Gavilan Junior College and look at different colleges to locate in downtown Hollister. Regarding the county library, if it stays in the city, Medina said he would look at the total population of the county, as well as the cost of construction and maintaining the building, and then have the city and county fund it equally based on populations.

“Hopefully, the schools would be able to pitch in,” he added. “I think in 1999 St. Benedict's (Catholic church) was built and they did a phenomenal fundraiser for that. Why can’t we, as a community, do something like that? Let’s do a fundraiser for the community to start the seed money for the library.”

Medina said he believes the proposed half-cent sales tax, or Measure P, that is slated to be on the ballot to pay for roads is crucial.

“I stand by that,” he said. “One reason I would agree with a half-cent sales tax is because it is a two-thirds vote, meaning that when we receive that money it is going to what it says it’s going to. It’s not going to the general fund. It’s earmarked exactly for what the measure states.”

As people drifted into the room, Medina went over some of the talking points he had discussed with BenitoLink again. He told those who came to hear him that he considers himself a strong team builder who is capable of explaining to fellow board members why certain decisions must be made. He also said it’s difficult to communicate with the community because of a general lack of participation.

“I was at a meeting for Measure P at San Juan Oaks and almost no one was there,” he said. “Is it because all a politician is is ‘me saying something and not following through with what I have to say?’ Is that why people are so uninterested in politics? I can tell you right now if I did that in business I would not last for a month. It's me trying to bring people together.”

Medina said if he were elected, one idea he has to better communicate with residents is to have a monthly newsletter. He said if he treats the supervisor job as he would in running a company there are reviews every quarter, but he said he would want to start with a monthly newsletter. He also likes the idea of using Facebook to conduct town hall meetings.

David Nicolaysen, who brought his company, San Benito Mill and Timber to the area in 2000, said he had a good experience when he came to Hollister. He said he had been looking for real estate all over the state and ended up in Hollister working through a real estate company. Soon after arriving, though, he began to discover that there were deep-seated feelings about growth. Then he said when he walks around town he sees the poor condition of the roads.

“I notice there’s a measure,” he said. “This always seems to be the way they go, ‘let’s pass a bond.’ Bonds are taxes and they get put on property. I’m not in favor of any more bonds. Government says if we got a problem let’s just add another bond, and that just adds more cost to everybody. Would you be a guy who is going for more bonds or look for other ways to meet community needs?”

Medina repeated that he supports Measure P because it’s a sales tax and not a bond and because the money is guaranteed to go to the roads and not the general fund.

Nicolaysen complained about the agenda system at county supervisor meetings, saying that the people are supposed to determine what goes on the agenda, but, as far as he can tell, county staff are the ones doing so.

“Would you be in favor of telling the staff to slow down and let’s just see what comes from the public and what we need to discuss?” he asked Medina. “Like agenda 21, which makes all kinds of revisions on how land is handled. Where did that come from, the UN? It didn’t come from the people of Hollister.”

“It’s going to take time to understand all the inner workings, but the whole idea is to educate the community,” Medina answered. “Once they understand what’s going on and you’re able to present it in a form where everybody understands it, you don’t need a Ph.D. to read through these agendas, that’s getting back to the basics.”

“How will you do that?” Nicolaysen asked.

“You have four other members (supervisors) and you need to explain to them what the expectation is, and for me it’s for everyone to understand the agenda,” Medina said. “To make it easier for them to read. And there have been a lot of arguments about why we have these meetings during the day. Some say it’s because of the staff.”

“That’s what a lot of people are saying,” said Linda Lampe. “A lot are upset about that.”

Medina said while he doesn’t have it worked out in his mind yet, he thinks at least one of the two monthly meetings should be at night, so residents who commute can attend if they want. Currently, Board of Supervisors' meetings are held on Tuesday mornings at 9 a.m.

Lampe suggested town hall meetings in each district to discuss what may be of concern for one district, but not the others. Then key issues from each district could be brought up at a general meeting, she suggested. Nicolaysen agreed that night meetings could be more inclusive.

After Nicolaysen challenged the political system, covering everything from backdoor deals, cronyism, and union contributions, Medina answered: “It’s a balance. We have to figure out how to work with other people. It’s being able to be stern and make a decision you know will cause people not to like you, but you made it for the right reason. And it’s based upon the numbers you see. That’s the hard part. Being in leadership roles for the last 15 years, there are people who don’t like me because I did things that co-workers didn’t care for. But, once again, I made decisions based upon facts and figures.”

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]