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Ceres City Council candidate profiles
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• Steve Breckenridge, electrician

Steve Breckenridge may sound like a broken record when he calls for Ceres residents to show up at City Council meetings, but he practices what he preaches.

The self-styled Ceres activist has made a name for himself by attending every meeting he can and asking questions and/or making comments on city business at hand.

The 57-year-old electronics technician has rebuffed council actions that limit personal freedoms. He said he is running for "self defense," adding he wants to fills a "vacuum if the people aren't going to be there."

"This form of government as never formed for these five people to run alone," said Breckenridge.

Breckenridge opposes city actions which he feels are socialist in nature. He opposes the generally accepted practice of government exercising eminent domain if it so chooses. He has protested the outlawing of smoking and alcohol consumption within city parks, saying it infringes on personal freedoms. He opposed regulations on parking RVs on residential lots. He remains opposed to mobilehome park rent control laws, saying it interferes with a businessman's ability to earn profit. He favors any kind of local ordinance to support and enforce federal immigration laws.

Citing the fact that the city was recently fined for providing contaminated water to its public, Breckenridge feels Ceres' "infrafstructure is terribly upside for the growth."

"Now we're going to pay Turlock (Irrigation District) to build a water plant? The point is Modesto isn't asking another town or irrigation district to supply its water."

Breckenridge supports WalMart's plans to build a Supercenter in Ceres.

"Let the free market decide ... on the caveat that they get no tax free deal. They pay from day one or they don't build."

Philosophically he is opposed to using redevelopment agency funds for private business. And he feels new development should pay its full burden of growth of services.

While he generally feels the council has restrained from making bad decisions, he wonders about their guiding principles.

"All five think they're Republicans. I find that amazing ... they have no clue as to what their party's platform is."

Breckenridge believes that the city uses far too many consultants. He chided the council's decision to spend $350,000 with a Berkeley firm to come up with a downtown revitalization plan, asking, "there's nobody locally who can develop a plan? We have no talent in the whole county?"

About the only time Breckenridge has been absent from meetings was when he's away serving in the state military reserve within the National Guard at Camp Roberts in Southern California.

•Guillermo Ochoa, incumbent

Guillermo Ochoa has enjoyed his time on the City Council and wants another term.

"It's been a fantastic learning experience," said Ochoa. "It took me the two years to be a city councilmember. Now that I'm there I see how it works within. We have four guys there who are exceptional, very smart and they're very future oriented."

Ochoa said he feels fortunate to be on the council and wants another term to "see everything come to fruition over the next four years."

In April the council had a team-building retreat in which they came up with a strategy and objective for the next few years "to lead Ceres in the right direction."

Ochoa considers "making sure we control growth" to be one of his chief concerns. In 2005 he campaigned on the platform that rapid growth is threatening the small-town flavor of Ceres. He continues to call for controlled growth without stopping it. He said the city wants to attract more manufacturing jobs for higher incomes.

The proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter as part of Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center has generated a lot of interest among Cereans. Ochoa said he won't take a position until all the studies are done but he hears from residents pro and con.

"Everyone's concerned as to what's going to happen. Some are for it, some are against it. That will be one of the big challenges."

Ochoa also believes that public safety is foremost on the minds of Cereans.

"People are concerned about safety, concerned about gangs, especially with little flair-ups."

He's hoping that Measure H passes next month to infuse more money into the general fund to hire more police officers and firefighters.

"I have my heart in it that it is going to pass," he said.

Citizens who vote to raise the Ceres sales tax a half-cent can expect transparency on where funds are spent because it will require an oversight committee, he said.

Ochoa sits on the City-Schools Committee.

"We've been able to harmonize with the school district with respect to the use of facilities where citizens have more access and go to one place to set it up." He said the panel is also focusing on programs to keep kids away from gangs.

Ochoa also represents the city of Ceres on the Tuolumne River Regional Park Commission.

"I've served two years on the council. I think I offer a different perspective of having lived in several different cities. I'm also a practical individual and sit back and analyze what my colleagues are doing and go along if I think it's a good idea."

While he has voted mostly with the majority, Ochoa said he feels he is "a very independent person." He opposed the council majority on whether or not to make the Ceres Commerce Center add foam pop-outs to its building architecture. He said he opposed the move because of the costs to the developer and because it made little difference in the outcome.

"Now I feel vindicated because the results have little impact."

Ochoa was appointed to the council in December 2005 by Mayor Anthony Cannella and the council to fill his unexpired council seat. He was the council's choice after losing the Nov. 8, 2005 election.

The 46-year-old businessman is the second Latino councilman; the first was Louis Arrollo.

His business experience includes working for family businesses, and the Center for Employment Training as a job developer. In 1987 he went to work as a human resources manager for Campbell Soup in Santa Cruz where he remained for 10 years. Ochoa also worked in human resources for Chef America in Los Angeles and in 1998 at Diamond Walnut growers in Stockton while living in Ceres. He resigned in 2003 resigned to run Garcia's Market in Empire. Ochoa is also a silent partner in Ceres' newest Mexican restaurant, La Perilla Restaurant. In 2005 he sold El Mercado Market in the Caruso Shopping Center. That freed him up to work for Yellow Transportation in Tracy, where he is the workers compensation coordinator.

Ochoa is a native of Mexico who came to Ceres in 1971. He attended Caswell, Mae Hensley, and Ceres High School and studied at Modesto Junior College. He earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration and economics from St. Mary's College in 1984.

• Mike Kline, wanting to serve

Michael Kline, 49, said he is seeking a City Council seat as a way of giving back to the community.

"I don't really have an agenda and I'm not out to prove a point," said Kline. "The biggest reason I am running is to get a little more involved."

Since becoming a council candidate, Kline has been attending council meetings and at times lobbed a question or two during agenda items. He has become more critical of councilmen.

While stating that he is impressed with Mayor Anthony Cannella, he's not impressed with the performance of the incumbents he's running against.

"I'm impressed with Anthony Cannella, the way he does things," said Kline. "But I don't think the rest of the council asks enough questions and try to find out a lot of information. He (Cannella) is always the one that is speaking up and he'll question almost everything on the agenda."

He said he would question more than his opponents on the dais, rather than rely on Cannella's opinion like he's seen done.

Kline said he is concerned that the council voted to spend $350,000 on a plan to improve downtown Ceres but understands the need.

"Downtown is long overdue. But I'm concerned that not all property owners will be on board. It's always that one or two that doesn't want to spend the money or be a part of it."

He also questioned why the council adopted a housing element update with outdated housing numbers.

Politics runs in his family. His grandfather, Henry Kline, served as mayor of Ceres from 1948 to 1952.

He is a salesman for Tony's Fine Foods.

Kline, a 1976 Ceres High School graduate, was defeated in his 1999 and 2001 bids for the Ceres School Board.

• Rob Phipps, council incumbent

Rob Phipps wants another four years on the Ceres City Council to continue seeing progress he feels is being made by the city.

"I want to see some projects completed," said Phipps. "I want to continue the way the City Council is right now. We have a good, strong council. We've got good staff now. It's an exciting time. Things are going to start rolling. I think over the next four years you're going to see a lot of new things completed. For the future I think we're at a turning point now for structure, growth and I want to be able to help direct that. I think it's important that we keep the council we have."

Phipps said public safety is very much on the minds of Ceres residents and believes the council has been doing all it can do. The city spends more than 75 percent of its discretionary funds on police and fire. He's supportive of Measure H, the half-cent sales tax and hoping residents support it as well.

"Everybody's scared about gangs - all the shootings, the drivebys, being able to walk in the park at night," said Phipps. "That's why I think it's important for Measure H to pass so we can get those police officers out there to help with that."

He said the council has been proactive in making parks safer. Phipps notes the city has installed gates and better lighting and using cameras for security as well as hiring private patrols of parks.

Phipps is supportive of a quest to revitalize downtown. The council recently approved a consultant to develop a vision and plan to development downtown into a destination location.

"It's a small price to pay for something that's going to be a very, very big project," said Phipps. "We need to do it right."

Phipps is anxious to see the Whitmore interchange project started as well as the Community Center.

"I've learned a lot where a lot of times the city's hands are tied by state regulations. Just like the water. Our quality of water in Ceres hasn't changed. But the state and federal regulations have changed and that's why we're having such a problem with our water wells."

The city is pursuing a surface water project with Turlock Irrigation District to meet the city's future water needs.

Phipps said the council has raised the bar for city staff "to perform."

"I think everybody's going a good job and I think it's proven because you see how nobody's running against Anthony. You've got Steve and Mike. Mike doesn't have an issue against us. He just wants to serve. And you've got Steve that just wants to be a watchdog. Steve can be a watchdog and not be on the council."