.Santa Cruz County Elections 2016: The Candidates

[Editor’s Note: This is part one of our guide to the Nov. 8 election. Next week’s issue will cover local measures and state propositions.]



Kamala Harris


California Attorney General Kamala Harris began her career at the district attorney’s office in San Francisco. In her voter statement, she touts her past standing up to sexual predators, criminal organizations and human traffickers. She also vows to stand up to special interests, noting her history of prosecuting fossil fuel companies that have polluted California. Harris has also helped strengthen foreclosure laws in the wake of the housing crisis created by big banks immediately before and during the Great Recession. She says she’ll bring in federal dollars to repair the state’s water infrastructure. Harris additionally vows to fight for better schools, better access for families looking to place children in pre-kindergarten, more affordable college for residents and better health care for veterans.

Loretta Sanchez


Loretta Sanchez is currently the congressmember for the 46th district for the United States House of Representatives. In her statement to voters, Sanchez stresses her experience as a politician at the federal level as a contrast to Harris. Sanchez says her background as the daughter of immigrants has taught her the value of hard work and contributes to her ability to fight for comprehensive immigration reform. In her voting record, Sanchez points to her formal opposition to the Iraq War, her voting against the Patriot Act and her decision to cast a “no” vote against the Wall Street bailouts as proof of her political judgment and experience. She also says her experience in grappling with matters of national security renders her more qualified for California’s U.S. Senate seat.



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Anna Eshoo


Anna Eshoo, a veteran Democrat, began her political career on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993. She touts her ability to break through partisan gridlock in Washington D.C. to get things done for her constituents. Along with working on civil rights issues, Eshoo says she remains focused on making sure the federal government contributes funding to research of cutting-edge technologies being developed in her district. “My congressional district is the innovation hub of the country, even the world,” she says. “If we are going to keep it that way, and if the 21st century is to be an American century, we have to make key investments in basic research and the institutions that conduct it.”

Richard Fox


Richard Fox says he is a fiscally conservative, socially moderate and pro-choice Republican whose focus is on balancing the federal budget. Deficit spending that plunges the country further into debt is crippling the economy, he says, endangering the prosperity of future generations. Fox, a physician and attorney, also wants to end what he calls “crony capitalism,” or an economy that only favors those at the top, pointing to low labor force participation and low rates of homeownership as examples of how the current economy is failing. “For a healthy, growing economy for everyone,” he says in his candidate statement, “we need to control wasteful spending and borrowing with a Balanced Budget Amendment, whereby the President and Congress don’t get paid unless the budget balances.”

Jimmy Panetta


Jimmy Panetta currently serves as a prosecutor in the Monterey County District Attorney Office and previously served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy in Afghanistan.

Panetta says his military experience will serve him as he attempts to devise ways to strengthen America’s role as a leader in the global fight against terrorism. Panetta advocates comprehensive immigration reform, more affordable education and stimulating the economy through government investment in clean energy, job training programs and small business infrastructure. Panetta also vows to protect the California Central Coast’s unique environment while attempting to bring more long-term water security to the area. Panetta also points to his experience growing up in the household of his father, Leon, a longtime Congressman, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Secretary of Defense. “Policy is important. But this game is about people,” he says.

Casey Lucius


Casey Lucius is a Pacific Grove City councilmember, a long-time member of the United States Navy and a professor at the Postgraduate Naval School in Monterey. Lucius frames herself as a political outsider, unlike her opponent, and says her experience growing up in a lower-income family bouncing from apartment to apartment has informed her political experience. She positions herself as a moderate Republican, who is pro-choice. Lucius favors reforming the visa program to allow farm laborers to continue to work without fear of deportation. She believes America has forfeited its leadership role on the global stage and vows to work toward restoring it. Lucius says local water security is the most important issue facing residents and businesses. “If I were elected congresswoman, I would pursue funding for water projects so such projects would not be totally dependent on ratepayers,” she says.



Bill Monning


A California state senator for eight years, Bill Monning has authored more than 80 bills since his first inauguration, including the End of Life Options Act, which gives terminally ill patients the right to die with physician assistance. In his candidate statement, Monning says he would like to see the state legislature continue passing balanced budgets, while restoring critical funding to education, healthcare and public safety. “This is my last term under the term limits, but I am excited about the prospect of four more years,” Monning says. “As majority leader, I was able to get a lot done in the last session and I want to continue to work for my constituents in the 17th district and all of California.”

Palmer Kain


Palmer Kain, a Republican living in Santa Cruz, served overseas in the United States Army. He has a vision for three separate sectors: education, agriculture and the criminal justice system. “My opponent has been in office 22 years between the assembly and the senate, and he has not addressed the issues that affect the people of this community on a daily basis,” Kain says. Kain, who has never held elected office, says leaders must tackle water security on the Central Coast. “Our solutions don’t require a physical plant,” he says. “We just need to make sure everybody pays their fair share.”



Mark Stone


Mark Stone has served as an elected official for more than 20 years, sitting on school boards, the Board of Supervisors, the Coastal Commission and the California State Assembly. In his candidate statement, he says his priority is the most vulnerable Californians, including the poor, those in foster care and those facing terminal illness. In the past two years, he has had a number of bills signed into law, including foster care reform and his Student Loan Borrower’s Bill of Rights. “The main issues around the Monterey Bay continue to be water, housing and transportation,” he says. “I want to continue to work on these issues. I am finishing my fourth year, and if the voters are willing, I can spend eight more years. There is a lot of work to do.”

Sierra Roberts


Sierra Roberts did not file a candidate statement with the California Secretary of State, and her website doesn’t contain any information about her background or platform. According to VoteCircle.com, Roberts is a graduate of CSU Monterey Bay. She did not respond to interview requests.



Karina Cervantez Alejo


Former Watsonville City Councilmember Karina Cervantez Alejo currently lectures at CSU Monterey Bay. Alejo was born the daughter of farm workers, and became the first person in her family to earn an advanced college degree. “There are tough issues out there, including income inequality, housing affordability, and economic vitality,” says Alejo, who’s running for a seat currently held by her husband Luis. “Commitments to these issues don’t come overnight. It’s been a long history of involvement.” Alejo is also quick to point out that her opponent has already served two terms in the district, meaning she will only be eligible to serve for four years, instead of a full 12.

Anna Caballero


Anna Caballero has served as a Salinas city councilmember, an assembly representative and secretary of the California Business, Services and Housing Agency under Governor Jerry Brown. Caballero says that experience gives her a strong fiscal background that would aid her in the California State Legislature. Caballero wants to also focus on how land use issues intersect with affordable housing and agriculture. “We must protect our agricultural land and our range land in our rural communities,” she says. She also wants to address chronic widespread homelessness, youth violence and the needs of returning veterans—issues on which she says she has an edge because of her experience working closely with Brown.



Chris Krohn

Former Santa Cruz mayor Chris Krohn hopes to return to local politics nearly 14 years after his stint on the council. Krohn, currently a UCSC internship coordinator, says he feels dissatisfied with the current state of local politics and the sitting councilmembers. He is campaigning with values similar to those of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, he says, calling for better solutions to housing, transportation and water sourcing. Krohn, an avid environmentalist, hopes that with the election of four new councilmembers, Santa Cruz City Council leadership will evolve into a “neighborhood first” approach.

Nathanael Kennedy  

Often seen speaking at public meetings on issues such as local policing and sidewalk chalking downtown, Nathanael Kennedy is stepping into the political arena in the hope of having a greater impact. His arrests between 2002 and 2014 for charges that he has blamed on his bipolar disorder have been an issue in the campaign, but Kennedy wants to focus on addressing homelessness through policies such as opening more public restrooms downtown and increasing the number of police officers on bicycles. He also wants to change sidewalk chalking restrictions from a misdemeanor to an infraction, and open public spaces for legal sidewalk chalking.

Martine Watkins

A mother of two, Martine Watkins is currently working as a senior community organizer for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, and says she is campaigning with her children and future generations in mind. Watkins, whose father Michael is the county superintendent, is involved with local community organizations such as the Dominican Hospital Community Advisory Board and the County Child Care Planning Council.

Robert Singleton

At 26 years old, Robert Singleton has been running on a theme of “investing in our future,” and hopes to improve public safety, improve resources for substance abuse, and advocate for smaller, more affordable rental properties. The youngest candidate in the race, Singleton works as a policy analyst for Santa Cruz Business Council and as the Santa Cruz County Association of Realtors government affairs director. He also helped found the online startup Civinomics, which promotes community involvement in government.

Steve Schnaar

A Bike Church mechanic and director of the nonprofit Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project, Steve Schnaar is running for a seat after being part of Councilmember Micah Posner’s successful 2012 campaign. Schnaar previously served for six years as the administrative director for the Santa Cruz Hub for Sustainable Living. He advocates for 24-hour public restrooms, supervised homeless camping sites and more support for a more comprehensive transportation network with better bicycling infrastructure. He has also made a commitment to protecting existing heritage trees.

Sandy Brown

Sandy Brown is an assistant professor at the University of the Pacific, where she teaches urban food politics and other subjects. After attending UCSC, Brown received her doctorate in geography from UC Berkeley, where her research focused on food systems and farm labor politics. Brown, a longtime labor organizer, currently serves on the board of the California Institute for Rural Studies and the Agricultural Justice Project Advisory Board. Brown wants to focus on topics like sustainable development and economic development policies.

James Davis

Longtime Santa Cruz resident Jim Davis is a sales representative for Mapleton Communications, which owns several local radio stations. Davis says he wanted to run because current politicians aren’t addressing issues like homelessness and substance abuse. He hopes to develop new jobs for homeless individuals and address safety issues like littered hypodermic needles. A few weeks ago, Davis was arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence after failing to yield at a stop sign, which has complicated his campaign. Neither Santa Cruz Police nor the District Attorney’s office would comment on the test results. Davis says he was under the legal alcohol limit, and will dispute the charge in court if necessary.

Drew Glover

Drew Glover is the CEO of Project Pollinate, a nonprofit community group that provides assistance for nonprofit groups and community service projects. A lifelong resident of Santa Cruz, Glover is focusing his campaign on housing and transportation problems, inclusivity and environmental justice. He wants to limit UCSC expansion and promote environmentally friendly policies as the city grows. He also hopes to promote diversity and improve accessibility for people with disabilities.  

Cynthia Mathews

Political veteran Cynthia Mathews is running for a city council seat for a fifth time. After serving as mayor for four terms, Mathews will look to continue fostering a diversified economy that provides jobs and builds a sound tax base to support city services. Mathews served for 12 years as an appointed member of the city’s planning commission and zoning boards and as a member of Vision Santa Cruz, the advisory group that shaped the recovery of downtown Santa Cruz following the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. She has recently been discussing how to mediate issues around homelessness in Santa Cruz.

J.M. Brown

J.M. Brown serves on the Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Commission and works in public relations. He was previously a reporter at the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Brown is campaigning on issues from the addition of tourism taxes and local tax bonds to support for housing funds, and investment in cleaning up and establishing better maintenance of the habitats and wildlife surrounding the San Lorenzo River.



Ed Bottorff

Ed Bottorff’s campaign for re-election is focused on infrastructure. Most of Capitola’s revenue comes from sales tax, and so the sale of the Capitola Mall in May offers an opportunity, he says—developers want to invest more than $200 million in the mall, which could guarantee the city’s prosperity for years. “Barring that project, it becomes very challenging for Capitola in having new sources of revenue,” Bottorff says, noting that the city doesn’t have much land to develop. He wants to rebuild the Capitola Wharf, should the Measure F sales tax pass this November. He also wants to complete work on the Rispin Mansion Park, a project that has been ongoing for decades.

Bob Edgren

Bob Edgren, a retired property developer, wants to tackle three issues: relieving traffic, fixing what he calls a “hazardous” intersection and promoting the mall. “I want to keep the small village ambiance,” says Edgren. He supports a seasonal ban on cars at Capitola’s Esplanade and a plan to divert cars from the village. At the intersection of Clares Street and Wharf Road, he wants to build an overhead walkway from the library to the Rispin Mansion to alleviate pedestrian and bike traffic. He says he has 25 years of experience promoting malls, and wants to ensure that the new owners of the Capitola Mall are successful, since it’s a vital source of city revenues.

Kristen Petersen

Kristen Petersen, a 29-year-old congressional aide to Sam Farr, says she represents a younger voice and fresh perspective. She’s pushing for more affordable housing in Capitola, as described in the city’s general plan. She’s excited about the 41st Avenue corridor development described in the city’s general plan, but wants to limit development in Capitola Village, she says. While not officially on a slate with Sam Storey, Petersen says she supports his campaign and that their ideas on development are similar.

Sam Storey

Storey, a former mayor and city councilmember, entered the race in late September, after the filing deadline, as a write-in candidate. To vote for Storey, residents won’t be able to check a box—they must add his name. Storey, an attorney, was planning to wait until 2018 to return to politics, but decided to run after he was urged to by supporters, he says. His top concern is preserving the city’s “small-town feel.” The 41st Avenue corridor is an important economic engine, but development needs to be balanced with protecting neighborhoods, he says. “There’s a certain quality of life that people here enjoy in those neighborhoods, and I want to run on a platform to help preserve that quality of life,” he says. Storey also says he supports Kristen Petersen’s campaign and that they share similar visions for Capitola.



Dene Bustichi

Three-time Scotts Valley Mayor Dene Bustichi is seeking his fourth term on City Council. Bustichi, a controller at a construction business he owns with his son, was born and raised in Scotts Valley. “The character of Scotts Valley has always stayed the same, and I’d like to see that continue. I’d like to see local people have local control of our city, and not have outside influences, whether it’s party politics or other officials from outside the city trying to take control,” he says. He serves on the city’s economic subcommittee, and says that filling vacant commercial space on Scotts Valley Drive is a priority. He also wants to complete the town center project.

Jack Dilles

Jack Dilles says his primary concern for Scotts Valley is development. “The city is making some deals that I wouldn’t make,” says Dilles, a retired finance director for the cities of Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz and Morgan Hill. For example, he says, Scotts Valley loaned a hotel company $1.7 million in 2015 so it could build a hotel on Scotts Valley Drive. The loan is funded by a grant and future tax revenue generated by the hotel. The city has also deferred around $500,000 in traffic impact fees for the hotel. “I’m not necessarily against development. I just want to make sure we do it right,” he says. Dilles also says he wants to make a five-year business plan for the city, communicate better with the public and protect the city’s natural resources.

Rosanna Herrera

Rosanna Herrera, owner of Bruno’s BBQ in Scotts Valley, says she wants more of three things in local government: public input, transparency and full disclosure. Transparency means giving the public regular updates, she says. “Full disclosure is when projects are going on and they’re telling you, ‘Oh, we’re doing this great thing. We’re bringing this hotel into the city.’ But they’re not telling you that they’re helping the new hotel get financed,” says Herrera. “I want the full story up front. I don’t want half the story, and I need to go digging.”

Randy Johnson

Randy Johnson is running for his sixth term on Scotts Valley City Council. Things are going well for the city, he says—for instance, the town center project is back on track, with a developer interested in buying city property on Mount Hermon Road to build a brewpub. He’s served on councils that helped negotiate a farmers market and build a new library, a community garden and a performing arts center. The council recently brought two new hotels and a conference center to the city, which will help bring revenue. “I’ve heard more than one person say to me, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’” Johnson says. “So I kind of carry that along, because people are pretty satisfied with the direction of Scotts Valley.”

Donna Lind

Donna Lind currently serves as Scotts Valley’s mayor, and is seeking her third term on the City Council. She had a 38-year career with the city, first as a secretary and later as a police officer, before retiring in 2006. The city is currently “in transition,” she says, with its recent hiring of a new city manager and community development director. Soon it will also have a new deputy city manager and administrative services director, and a new police chief, she says. Lind says she’s running to help smooth the transition. “For me, the real important thing is to have consistency, and have that support for the next 50 years,” Lind says.



Oscar Rios

Oscar Rios is a former city councilmember in Watsonville, who began his career in 1989. He has served four times as mayor. He says one of the chief issues he would tackle if elected is affordable housing, as high rents have endangered the stability of the agricultural workforce. “I hear from a lot of workers in the city, and it’s hard for them to make ends meet,” Rios says. He also talks about the need to revitalize the downtown corridor, making it more of a magnet for visitors coming from throughout the Monterey Bay. “It needs to have more of a life,” he said. “We have the Fox Theater remodeling, and with Cabrillo College there is a potential for the plaza to be a very nice center.”

David Hermosillo

David Hermosillo is the former Watsonville fire chief. Now retired, he lists his life-long residency and love for his community as major qualifications in his candidate statement. In 60 years of living in Watsonville, he has undergone many personal transformations, from being a young student at Mintie White Elementary School all the way to being a grandfather. Hermosillo says he wants to prioritize public safety and attracting family-friendly businesses to the downtown area. His goals range from providing seniors with affordable housing to mentoring young people in Little League. “I will listen and advocate for our neighborhoods,” he writes.



Felipe Hernandez

The incumbent for the city council’s District 1 seat, Felipe Hernandez, is running unopposed and says his campaign is focusing on the importance of housing and economic development. “We have accomplished a lot during my mayorship,” he says. “We have approved more than 340 new houses for the community.” Hernandez says he also wants to foster more community engagement, adding that the creation of a popular new skate park is just the beginning. Hernandez says there is much more work to be done in Watsonville, including tackling the presence of the carcinogen chromium 6 in some of the city’s wells.



Trina Coffman-Gomez

Trina Coffman-Gomez is the incumbent running for her second consecutive term on the Watsonville City Council. Coffman-Gomez says she would like to continue the council’s momentum on job creation, as a new FedEx shipping center brings around 500 jobs to the area. Coffman-Gomez also says city leaders need to work to enhance public safety, adding that she supports Measure G, which would infuse $1.4 million into the city’s police and fire departments. “I am in touch with the business community, the agricultural community, the police and fire departments,” she says. “I reach out to all the different agencies and make sure their voices are heard.

Doreen Martinez

Doreen Martinez is a former union organizer who says she wants to bring higher-paying jobs to downtown Watsonville and make its neighborhoods safer. She also emphasizes the need for a park in District 6 for young people and dog owners. Martinez is eager to hear the concerns of the community because she hopes to represent everyone. “I want to be a part of beautifying Watsonville,” she says. “I love this community and the community members who live here.”



Peter Wilk

Peter Wilk is running unopposed for Capitola treasurer. Wilk says that while he’s not an accountant, he has a Santa Clara University M.B.A and can help oversee the city’s finance department. For the past two years, the retired engineering manager has served on Capitola’s environmental commission. “Nobody wants to do it, because it’s not really a glamorous position,” Wilk says of the treasurer job. “But I thought it was a good opportunity to learn about the government.”



Randall C. Brown

Elected to the San Lorenzo Valley Water District’s board in 2012, Randall C. Brown was commissioned to write the history of the water district a year earlier, publishing his findings in 2011 for its 70th anniversary. His research into the past, he says in his candidate statement, helped him understand the challenges of the present. His statement also says he has helped the district navigate a number of challenges, including a major drought, a rebuild of the administrative team and a public trust restoration through increased transparency—one prompted by a grand jury investigation two years ago. Although Brown could not be reached, his statement cites his two years of experience on Wall Street, which he says have informed his ability to deal with the district’s financial situation.

Margaret V. Bruce

Touch-screen voting machines
PROPER SCREENING Workers at the county election headquarters train on new touch-screen voting machines. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER

Margaret V. Bruce, an incumbent candidate for the San Lorenzo Valley Water District, has held her position for four years, and believes she has more to give. Her plan, if re-elected, is to continue thinking long-term, she says, prioritizing the financial sustainability of the district so that the San Lorenzo Valley water system can be the best it can be. She says she’s interested in working on conjunctive use projects to allow the different parts of the water district to flow together seamlessly and help the district’s resources be used in a way that supports and sustains the local natural habitat.

Bill Smallman

Bill Smallman has worked as an estimator, project manager, superintendent, and project engineer for various large water and wastewater improvement projects over the last 27 years. His connections and experience, according to his statement, would help him improve and maintain the San Lorenzo Valley Water District’s system. Although he could not be reached for an interview, he has worked on plans to solve water issues countywide, and says he has produced and stored more than 10 billion gallons of water every year using environmentally beneficial means. A former Lompico water board member, Smallman says he’s an expert on cost.



Rachél Lather

The Soquel Creek Water Board appointed Rachél Lather to fill a vacancy after the death of Director Rick Meyer. Lather, a semi-retired civil engineer, worked for 14 years as a sanitation engineer for Santa Cruz County. A single mother, she now works part-time for a company specializing in grants for water and wastewater. “I know about the cutting-edge trend of water funding in California,” she says. “So I’m hoping to bring that knowledge and help [the board] not have to raise rates as much.” A supporter of regional solutions, Lather would like to see a water transfer finalized with the city of Santa Cruz, although she adds there are still plenty of possible legal questions and potential chemistry issues to be worked out.

John Bargetto

With Soquel Creek running right past Bargetto Winery in Soquel, John Bargetto says he has pretty much always been interested in water—an interest that grew as district woes deepened. Bargetto, whose father Lawrence co-founded the district, says it needs to keep conserving and start pumping water into its aquifer, as well as look into creative recycled water solutions, like Pajaro Valley Water District has done. “I tell people there’s no easy answer. There’s no inexpensive answer, and there’s no quick answer,” he says. “What I hope to bring is my study of science. I studied science at UC Davis. I studied business at the University of Notre Dame. And I’m a farmer, too, in Corralitos. I know how to get things done.”



Bill Lee  

“I love the Harbor, the people and how it’s relatively small,” says Bill Lee, an incumbent Santa Cruz port commissioner. A Santa Cruz resident since 1968, Lee has been elected as a chair five times. A graduate from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Lee also has 20 years of experience as a boat designer and builder. He held the Transpacific Yacht Racing Record from 1977 to 1997 for running the Merlin, a Santa Cruz Yachts vessel, from Los Angeles to Honolulu in eight days.

Darren Gertler

Darren Gertler grew up in Orange County and has lived in Santa Cruz for more than a decade. As a Sea Scout growing up, Gertler was raised in an aquatic environment and studied environmental systems in college. A science teacher, Gertler hopes to make the harbor “safer, more efficient and successful.”

Lenny Hewitt

“I’ve been sailing out of the harbor since the early 1980s and it’s been a great experience, sailing with some of the best in the world, right here in Santa Cruz,” says Lenny Hewitt, a resident of Santa Cruz since 1964 who has worked for the harbor for 23 years. He says he’s running to help keep the harbor running efficiently.

Dennis L. Smith

Incumbent Port Commissioner Dennis L. Smith hopes to continue taking the harbor on a path of transparency and accountability. “I really want to see some projects through,” says Smith, who adds that owners and renters are his number one priority. The retired Santa Cruz County sheriff lieutenant is proud of helping to rebuild the harbor after the 2011 tsunami and consolidating then refinancing the Port District’s debt in order to pay it off quicker.

Neli Cardoso

For the last 28 years, Neli Cardoso has fished out of the Santa Cruz Harbor, which has become a second home to her. “I love the ocean and the harbor,” she says. “[If elected] I will make sure the slip owners are treated fairly.” She also wants to monitor the harbor’s environmental impact and make the harbor more user-friendly by repurposing eight acres at 7th Avenue and Brommer Street—currently zoned for a hotel—as a permanent parking lot for harbor guests.

Bryan Kretsch

Born and raised in Santa Cruz, Bryan Kretsch says in his candidate statement that the ocean has played a huge part in his life. He has been fishing out of the harbor since 1981 and is a project manager/engineer. He could not be reached for an interview.

Vicki Vance

Retired CEO Vicki Vance founded the tech company Drivedev 15 years ago. Her push into the political arena came earlier this year, after being inspired by Bernie Sanders’ campaign. “If you want to change something, start at the local level,” she says. If elected, Vance hopes to open up the harbor for more individuals with increased events and activities on the educational, recreational and commercial levels. “Having a mixed-use harbor allows us different opportunities than others, and I want to make sure we’re exploiting all the opportunities we can.”

Stephen Reed

Incumbent Port Commissioner Stephen Reed was appointed to fill a vacancy five years ago. Since he sailed into town in 1973, the harbor has been like a “home away from home” for Reed. The semi-retired consultant brings to the port more than 30 years of experience working with public sector budgets. “[Port Commissioner] has been a great job for me,” he says. “I really enjoy the work and working with the other commissioners and staff.” If re-elected, he wants to continue keeping harbor guests’ safety and the Port Commission’s fiscal responsibilities his main priority.



Bruce Van Allen

Former Santa Cruz Mayor Bruce Van Allen was appointed to fill a vacancy on the County Board of Education in early 2015, after years of working with local school districts through the San Lorenzo River restoration. Since then, he’s proud to have played a role in opening a high school in Freedom to house alternative education programs. He’s running to continue his focus on special needs resources and alternative education programs. “Our modern commitment is that every kid in Santa Cruz County gets a fair education,” he says. There’s a big transition underway, he adds, with Gov. Jerry Brown’s local funding control formula funneling money directly to schools instead of going through the board. He wants to make sure occupational and alternative programs can still exist with the responsibility now on districts.

Christopher Charman

As a father of two sons currently in school, Christopher Charman has no political ambition, he says. He just wants the kids to have a voice on the board. Working as a real estate broker, Charman says he prioritizes making Santa Cruz affordable so that after local schools train new teachers for four or five years, they don’t go over the hill for higher paying jobs. The huge wealth gap in the county, he says, affects how much schools can fundraise. Charman remembers the Aptos High jazz program under Don Keller, which produced musicians who went on to work with David Bowie, Norah Jones and Ray Charles. When its funding went away, so did the program. In addition to finding a solution for such funding problems, he wants to make classes like shop and bike repair more accessible.



Daniel Dodge

Former mayor of Watsonville Daniel Dodge says he wants to continue his public service in Santa Cruz County. A former student at Cabrillo College, he realizes the vital role that the school plays in the community. He wants to see Cabrillo offer four-year degree programs in the future, as well as address the statewide teacher shortage and maintain its status as a pipeline for other nearby universities and colleges. Concerned about traffic problems across the county, he also wants to make it easier for students to easily access classes by expanding the Cabrillo Center in Watsonville and drawing more South County students to that location.

Leticia Mendoza

Leticia Mendoza believes her professional experience and academic background provide her with the expertise and understanding to address the educational needs in Watsonville. She has a B.A. in economics and a master’s degree in public education. She manages a state-funded preschool program and has worked as executive director at a Watsonville nonprofit for seven years. If elected, Mendoza would like to increase educational access for people in Watsonville and ensure that students get the necessary curriculum to enter their local workforce.



Lupe Rivas

A retired teacher with 35 years of experience, Lupe Rivas has served on the board for four years. She says she’s committed to making the internet accessible to all children and expanding mental health services for middle school children. At this point, she feels it would be difficult to get a new board member in gear for the projects already in progress, like Pajaro Valley High School construction. Reducing class sizes from 30 to 24 at the K-3 level has been her proudest achievement. Rivas wants to keep safeguarding state and federal funding so that it goes toward low-income students and English learners—coming from a migrant family, she understands how vital education is to success.

Georgia Acosta

Local agriculture businesswoman Georgia Acosta currently serves on the Cabrillo College Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, and is concerned about the district being, as she puts it, “terminally shorthanded.” People are looking for choices, she says, but charter schools in the area have extensive wait lists. Coming from a business background, Acosta says she knows how to be fiscally savvy, pointing to the scholarship for seniors she secured at Pacific Coast Charter School as the board chair. Acosta wants there to be a better balance between math, science and the art. With agriculture being the primary South County industry, there could be more to prepare students for that track also, she says.




Incumbent Jeremy Ray has been the Live Oak School Board President for the past three years. He presided over the establishment of the Live Oak Boys & Girls Club and, if re-elected, hopes to focus the next four years on continuing to establish better relationships between the School Board and parents. When asked why he’s running again he says, “It’s rewarding to know I can make a contribution.”


When longtime friend and former Live Oak School Board Member Michael Pisenti passed away last year, Lelieur decided to follow in his friend’s shoes. A retired truck driver and father of four, Lelieur believes he can bring fresh energy and transparency to the school district. “I’d like to make the school board more accessible to the parents,” he says. “It’s important to keep them involved.” Lelieur also hopes to improve art and afterschool programs for students, as well as the music departments: “We need to remember there’s a direct correlation between math and music.”


Heather Rhodes already has Live Oak School Board experience, having been unanimously chosen in 2011 to fill an emergency vacancy. With two positions opening up this election, the mother of two—who has owned and operated Energy Construction with her husband since 1993—was asked and encouraged to run by a few current members. She says her previous service on the board was rewarding as she helped establish the Live Oak Boys & Girls Club and the Day Worker Center, located next to Green Acres Elementary. “My primary focus has always been the community and how diverse it is,” she says.



Kim Shultz

A trustee for Scotts Valley Unified School District (SVUSD) since 2013, Kim Shultz is running for re-election on a platform of promoting a higher level of engagement among students and constructing the middle school on time and within budget. In his work as senior transportation planner for the Regional Transportation Commission, he has experience with requests for proposals, overseeing construction and dealing with large regulatory bodies. He also says he would like to see the district have a discussion about looking for different ways to fund extra-curricular and art programs.

Michael Shulman

Seeking a third term on the board, Michael Shulman hopes to support newly hired superintendent Tanya Krause, who began over the summer. He also wants to help the middle school construction project stay on track. He’s well aware that the school district received a lot of attention in June for a rape fantasy letter that a high school boy wrote about a fellow classmate and handed to her, according to a Santa Cruz Sentinel story at the time. “I wish the Sentinel had handled it a little more sensitively,” says Shulman, who says officials had been in the middle of a process at the time. He notes that the student who wrote the letter is now no longer at the school, a resolution everyone has been happy with, he says. With three board members up for re-election and the two others having recently resigned, Shulman wants to make sure the district doesn’t experience a complete turnover in leadership.

Sue Rains

Sue Rains has lived in Scotts Valley for almost 25 years. She’s served as president and treasurer of the Vine Hill Elementary PTA, and treasurer of both the Scotts Valley Middle School PTA and Scotts Valley High School Falcon Club. Rains says she has a knack for finances and budgets after more than 30 years working in accounting for various Silicon Valley companies. Where other people may shrink away from budget analysis, Rains says she thoroughly enjoys it, adding that she thinks it would be valuable for the board and community to sit down together and address all of the district’s various needs while putting together the next budget. Rains also says it is time for change within the board, and hopes to achieve a higher level of transparency and communication between the board and the community.

Farah Galvez Theissen

Farah Galvez Theissen says she understands that incumbents are hard to beat, but feels it’s time for an infusion of new energy and fresh perspectives on the school board, in order to get to the next level and tackle issues like funding. She is looking to open up communication between the board and the families it serves. With a son at Vine Hill Elementary, she seeks to bring a sense of urgency to the rebuild of Scotts Valley Middle School, and wants to see the bond money approved in June of 2014 swiftly and properly put to use. Over the past 14 years, Theissen has held a long list of volunteer positions that include vice president of membership and fundraising for the SVHS Parent Club, PTA President at North Valley Council in San Jose and PTA Vice President of Organizational Services in Santa Clara County. She is currently on the Vine Hill PTA board.

Sue Roth

An active member of the Scotts Valley Community since 1976, Sue Roth has been a trustee for Scotts Valley Unified School District for 12 years. She has also served the parents’ clubs—as president at Brook Knoll School, vice president at Scotts Valley Middle School, co-president at Harbor High School and Vice President at Santa Cruz Cruz High School. During her tenure on the SVUSD board, Roth says that a main tenet has been conservative fiscal stability and planning. She notes a three-year parcel tax that saved five teaching positions during the state’s economic downturn, and the bond measure approved for the reconstruction of Scotts Valley Middle School—a “complicated and intricate process,” she says—as recent highlights. Roth’s goals if re-elected include continued conservative fiscal accountability with balanced budgets, completion of the Scotts Valley Middle School rebuild project, seismic upgrading of the elementary schools, and continued student achievement through quality educational programs.



Stephanie Espinola

Since declaring her election bid, Stephanie Espinola has taken a job as an instructional aid for Scotts Valley Middle School, and she has decided not to run a campaign—so as to avoid any possible conflict of interest. If she is elected to the board, she’ll make a decision about whether or not to resign from her new job for a seat as a trustee, she says via email. According to her candidate statement, she has served as Brook Knoll PTA president, Scotts Valley Middle School PTA president and the president of the Scotts Valley High School Falcon Club.

Roger L. Snyder

After witnessing the district’s handling of the lewd letter at the high school, Roger L. Snyder couldn’t help wondering if he might be able to help the board communicate better. Snyder, a product manager who has worked for a number of Silicon Valley companies, concedes there were some things that board members couldn’t have said, but he still felt leaders could have been more direct with parents. “In my job, I’m always clear about what people can get,” he says, “and what they can’t get and when they’re going to receive that information.” Snyder, who has four daughters, worked on the campaign to pass Measure A and fund school repairs and says he’s excited about the district’s new superintendent hire.

Gia Schwarzer             

Gia Schwarzer could not be reached for an interview and did not file a candidate statement. The Sentinel reported that she’s a marriage and family therapist with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and is a member of the Measure A Bond Oversight Committee.

Corey Warner

Corey Warner could not be reached for an interview, but according to his candidate statement, he has worked for an electrical subcontractor for 17 years. He says participated in the new Middle School Design Committee and would make a great candidate to represent Scotts Valley families.



Marissa Ferejohn Swett

There hasn’t been an election on the ballot in Mountain Elementary District since 2002, and that’s why it’s important for voters to engage with the only publicly funded institution in the area, says Marissa Ferejohn Swett. As a teacher at Soquel High School for 13 years and a parent of two children at Mountain Elementary, Swett is looking to the next few years when the school’s funding changes. Schools like Mountain Elementary will soon go back to getting state funding per student. She worries that if the district starts trying to bring in more students, it will change the school’s character. “One of the things that is great and universally loved at the school is that it’s a one-school school district and there’s 119 kids spread across K-6,” says Sweet. “If we let in more transfer kids those conversations are going to have to be had.”

Mark Swan

Mark Swan has been on the board for six years, working to maintain good relationships with teachers and ensure that Mountain Elementary has a 21st-century curriculum with problem-solving and critical thinking at its core. Over the past years, Swan has worked with the board to bring in more aides into classrooms and hire a P.E. teacher. He says it was a team effort: “As a group, we really work shoulder-to-shoulder, and for what it’s worth, I think that’s part of a recipe for success.”

Mary Navas

“You can probably ask a million people to remember if they had a teacher or teachers that were influential in their life, I know there was in mine,” says Mary Navas. It’s the reason that her focus is on the teacher-student relationship and inspiring kids to learn. Each child learns at a different pace with a different style, and it’s critical to have classes small enough for them to thrive, she says. For Navas, a parent of three Mountain alumni, her biggest accomplishment so far has been to get a new modular classroom for the children. Mountain now has 101 chromebooks, something that Navas thinks is critical for keeping kids technology-literate, in addition to increasing a robust performing and visual arts program.

Simon Fletcher

Kids today have to be able to think critically and consider multiple perspectives, says Fletcher, principal of Pacific Collegiate Charter School and father of two children, one of them currently at Mountain Elementary. The early years are an important part of the modern education system, he says, and one that requires driven, passionate teachers. During his time on the board, he’s been a part of proactive planning that he says has ensured that the school squeezes every bit of value out of their funding. At Mountain, the arts are hugely valued and that’s what Fletcher wants to preserve. During his time on the board, they’ve modernized and given raises as high as 7 percent—the product of proactive financial planning that he wants to sustain for the future.



Bruce Bettencourt

A lifetime Santa Cruz County resident, Bruce Bettencourt has owned two pharmacies, one in Santa Cruz and another in Scotts Valley. He has served on the Central Fire Protection District (CFPD) since being appointed in 2011. “The Board of Directors had to make some difficult decisions this year,” he says. The CFPD has had its share of controversy after denying a pay increase to firefighters earlier this year and having firefighters pay a portion of their own health insurance. But Bettencourt says the district is the only one to his knowledge making payments to reduce the funds owed to CalPers. If re-elected, he hopes to continue representing the CFPD taxpayers along with representing emergency workers in a fair and professional manner.

Charles Howard

Howard did not reply to requests for an interview, but did submit a public statement on his campaign. He has been a Santa Cruz County resident for almost 50 years and spent the last 20 on the CFPD Board. He is proud of his work as a member who saw the construction of a new fire station and the earthquake retrofitting of two others.

Michael C. Mitchell

Michael C. Mitchell has 31 years of experience as a firefighter, and retired as the assistant fire chief for the Central Fire District. He has been on the board since 2000. He says he understands the everyday challenges faced by emergency workers throughout the county. If re-elected, Mitchell says he will make sure the board continues to be fiscally responsible while facing rising costs. “There are many unknowns the board constantly faces,” he says. “Insurance keeps rising so we must continue getting the biggest bang for the taxpayer’s dollar.”  

Richard Phillips

Richard Phillips did not return calls or submit a public statement. He is running as an incumbent.

John P. Lucchesi  

John Lucchesi could not be reached, but according to his public statement, he has lived in Soquel since 1973 and spent 25 years as a battalion fire chief. He is running to provide transparency to the board, and to maintain the welfare of CFPD customers and workers. “We need to pursue, not isolate, future opportunities to address comparable services with allied agencies for an improved cost effective system,” he says.

Owen T. Miller

Retired first responder Owen Miller spent years as a firefighter, captain, fire marshal, battalion chief and more. He decided to use his 33 years of experience to run for the Central Fire Protection District Board because he knows first-hand how difficult the job is and what other first responders need. “It bothers me that [two years ago] Central Fire had its training budget cut,” he says. “I want to ensure our firefighters continue getting the best training and education the county and state have to offer.”

Kevin Walter

A Pleasure Point resident for 45 years, Kevin Walter spent 31 years working for the Soquel School District and 12 years as a paid call firefighter and EMT. He decided to run for the Central Fire District to give emergency workers a fair voice. “I believe it’s time for a change,” he says. “They need someone who can listen to their cares and concerns.” If elected, he hopes to bring more transparency to the Board and to bring an “open door” policy for workers and the public to operate with. “I will discuss any issue with any concerned person so no one is left in the dark,” he says.

David Burnham

Inspired to run for the Fire Board after attending several of their public meetings, Burnham believes he can bring some fresh ideas. “There needs to be more transparency and discussion on the board,” he says. The retired truck driver has lived in Live Oak for 42 years and worked with his local labor union when driving for the Coca-Cola company. He sees recent financial cuts to the Fire District as a major issue in this election “We need to continue with the excellent service [the fire department] has done over the years without losing good people.”  



Jane A. Armstrong

Jane Armstrong has served as board president for the Scotts Valley Fire Protection District (SVFPD) and on the finance and personnel committees as well as the fire district newsletter. Her statement says she works to keep spending under control and listen to the community, and has worked for a taxpayer watchdog group, the Santa Cruz County Fair, Exchange Club of Scotts Valley, California Women’s Clubs, and International Programs. Armstrong could not be reached for this story.

Alan L. Smith

Alan L. Smith has been jokingly telling people to write him in for president. “People don’t like money in politics,” he says. “I’ve got none.” Smith, an incumbent on the SVFPD’s board of directors, says he’s learned over the past five years that it’s experience that counts. He was a part of hiring Fire Chief Daniel Grebil, who’s now retiring, and says the district will soon have to recruit and hire someone else to fill the job. Additionally, Smith says that working through the economic downturn has helped him and the district to plan for future uncertainties. “I’ve worked with the budget in good times and bad times,” he says.We don’t know what the future will hold, but we need experienced board members to keep the ship aright.”

Arthur E. Smith

A former firefighter of 34 years in Felton and Monterey, Arthur Smith has served on the finance committee for the fire board since he stepped on in 2002. It’s that background in finance that’s served him well so far and will continue to inform his work if re-elected, he says. The biggest issues we face in the future in my opinion are probably healthcare costs,” he says. Back in 2008 when the financial crisis hit, the board had to ask firefighters and employees to take pay cuts in order to avoid layoffs. Smith says it was a major accomplishment for all involved to have gotten through that and finally get salaries up again. Thankfully, the district is starting to see an increase in property taxes again, says Smith, but retirement and health care still require a watchful eye with careful monitoring of reserve funds.

Russ Patterson

Russ Patterson has very specific goals for the fire district. If elected he wants to look at rebuilding Fire Station 1, which he says is not up to earthquake safety standards, and consider moving it to Mount Hermon Road. Patterson also wants a reserve Type 3 engine with 4-wheel drive, so that the district can be better equipped for “urban and wildland interface fires.” Currently, the district only has one, which has put a strain on resources when major fires like the Soberanes one hit. Patterson has been an emergency management consultant for 10 years and before his retirement, he was captain of the Campbell police department and emergency manager there. Finding a new fire chief is also crucial, says Patterson, and he wants to be a part of it: “I travel throughout the state and the rest of the country, I see what’s happening in the fire service. I understand financing, special districts, budgeting, how fire districts work, I could come in and hit the ground running.”

Daron L. Pisciotta

A veteran of Santa Clara County Fire Department for the last 29 years, Daron Pisciotta has been looking for a way to give back to his community. Pisciotta, who currently works as Santa Clara County’s deputy fire chief, says the time feels right now that his kids have grown a little older. He says he’s learned how to help keep firefighters safe from health hazards like cancer by making sure their spaces at the station won’t pick up any of the contaminants from the job. “If they’re happy and safe, they can provide more to the community they serve,” explains Pisciotta, adding that although the department is doing many of these things already, he can help it stay on track. “I want to keep their families in mind.”

Shawn Mosley

Senior systems engineer Shawn Mosley hopes to bring “conservative but innovative ideas” to the SVFPD according to his candidate statement. Mosley, who could not be reached for an interview, says he wants to spread safety awareness, especially to children.


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