For the first time in Ceres history, the City Council will have a majority of Latino members with last week’s election of Daniel Martinez and Rosalinda Vierra. That is if you consider people of mixed and/or Portuguese descent to be Latino.
The two will join Mayor Javier Lopez who is midway through his four-year term to form the Latino majority. The remaining members are Councilman James Casey, who was re-elected last week to his District 1 seat, and Vice Mayor Bret Silveira.
Martinez and Vierra have a mixture of Latino and neither are fluent in Spanish.
“I think that plays a little bit but not necessarily a lot,” said Vierra, “because when people see us they still see the color but not realize we were born here, our families were born here, they parents and grandparents were all born here.”
Vierra’s father is of Portuguese descent and her maternal grandfather is from Cuba and other grandparents came from Mexican descent.
As of yesterday morning’s election count, Martinez had 646 votes (62.9 percent), over John R. Osgood’s 213 votes (20.74 percent) in the District 4 council race. David Carreon was in third place with 168 votes, or 16.36 percent of the vote.
In the District 2 council race Rosemary Vierra soundly defeated Paula Redfern in the latest election tally. Vierra had 689 votes in her column, for 71.03 percent of the vote; while Redfern collected 281 votes, or 28.97 percent of the vote. Vierra will be seated next month in the seat that has been vacant since Linda Ryno resigned in March.
James Casey, who was elected to the council last year to serve out the unexpired term of Channce Condit, was solidly re-elected on Nov. 8. Casey collected 1,113 votes, or 75.77 percent, in the latest count issued by the Stanislaus County Elections Division. He far outdistanced rival Todd Underwood, a 43-year-old telecommunications installer working in the Bay Area, who had 356 votes (24.23 percent).
“It feels fantastic,” said Martinez of his election to the seat presently occupied by Mike Kline, who chose not to run for the appointed seat. “I’m very excited. I can’t wait for a couple of more weeks to be sworn in and then really get to work.”
Martinez feels that he learned some lessons in his defeat for council in 2020, saying two years ago: “I didn’t fund raise very well, I didn’t get out as much as I could have in 2020 and the results showed that. This time I had a fantastic group of volunteers who walked a lot and talked to people. Getting out and getting in front of people and being more than just a name on a sign in the street.”
Martinez’s campaign ran a text messaging operation and a phone bank, posted signs and made a presence at the Chamber’s “One Table, One Community” event by being a sponsor.
The new councilman will be giving up his seat on the Ceres Planning Commission which he served on for the past year. After being sworn in next month, Martinez said he will attend a January workshop hosted by the League of California to educate new councilmembers about their responsibilities.
After that he wants to help the city in ways to improve the revenue stream and ways to promote downtown.
“Those will be my priorities – finding businesses that want to come downtown, working with my fellow councilmembers not just as words but as a plan and get that happening. But first it’s going to be learning everything, doing all the workshopping, figuring out the budget.”
Martinez said that his experience on the Planning Commission the past 13 months was a “beneficial experience” that prepped him for the council and acquaint his self with city staff members.
“A pretty big benefit, I believe, I got to watch how Laurie Smith conducted herself, how she prepared, how she ran the meetings. A lot of that stuff I’ll be able to take with me. I think it’s been super beneficial.”
Martinez said he’s got acquainted with council newcomer Rosalinda Vierra as their paths had crossed during the campaign. He also extended congratulations to Councilman James Casey, who was calling for Martinez to resign from the Planning Commission weeks ago. Casey insinuated that Martinez should have recused himself from voting on the El Rematito Flea Market conditional use permit extension because the market owners had endorsed him for council.
Vierra claimed the District 2 seat with 71 percent of the vote after she aggressively campaigned.
“I went to every house at least four times so I think they knew who I was and why I was running,” said Vierra. “But clearly no one wanted to go to the polls. I’m really disappointed in the turnout.”
Only 19.23 percent of the registered voters in District 2 actually voted.
“Even on Election Day I was out canvassing and still talking to the voters and we’re just like, ‘it’s too cold, it’s too wet, I don’t want to go.’”
Vierra went door-to-door carrying with her flyers printed in four different languages.
“It didn’t really matter if they spoke English or not, I still tried to communicate even in Punjabi. I think it’s important to kind of connect with everyone. All I speak is English but it doesn’t mean that they’re not part of the community. When I went out I did what I could to at least make everyone feel included and that they matter because they really do.”
Vierra also sent text messages to cell phone numbers of registered voters in the district and made some telephone calls.
If nobody answered the door she would leave a handwritten message seeking their support.
Of the voters she did make contact with, some expressed concerns about the rising costs of city utilities and the lack of housing.
“We’re really in a tough situation moving forward,” said Vierra.
She also suggested that some residents feel like they don’t know what’s going on in the city so she wants to increase citizen involvement with local government.
Vierra is coming into the council’s District 2 seat with some government panel experience. She has served on the Stanislaus County Economic Development Action Committee since 2013; and the Measure H Citizens Advisory Committee since her appointment in 2021.
Earlier in her life she attended Modesto High School and received her Medical Assistant Certificate from Andon College and a Legal Assistant Certificate from Harcourt College.
At Modesto Junior College she attended Administration of Justice classes and did an internship with Stanislaus County Juvenile Probation in 1996. Recently she has been working on an associate degree in social work from Eastern Gateway Community College. Vierra has earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Business Management from Phoenix University.
Vierra’s work experience included payroll specialist and Human Resources with Bronco Winery, which brought her to Ceres in 2002. She also worked as a public notary; a Logistics Supervisor with various almond and walnut processors; and an administrative secretary at Modesto Junior College. Since 2012 she was owned the home based business, Party Helpers.
Vierra said she ran to insure that Ceres remains a “great little city, which is a little bit of city and country mixed together.” She feels that she can bring a fresh perspective to the council.
“I think my experience as a mother, community servant, homeowner, and small business owner, plus my education and specialized training allows me to bring a positive mindset, open mind, and new perspective with fresh ideas to the City of Ceres City Council,” she said.
Her top priorities are seeing about adequate staffing of the police department and code enforcement officers.
“I also want to see if it’s possible to bring someone similar to the C.H.A.T. in Modesto to Ceres, so our officers can focus on higher priority crimes, and traffic related issues, while trained specialists and clinicians assist with mental health calls. I also would like to see Ceres Police finally get the Street Crimes Unit they have been discussing since Measure H was proposed in 2007.”
Vierra also wants to focus on “encouraging livable wage paying local jobs. This may also include educational partnerships, such Ceres Adult Education, City of Ceres Community Education and the local colleges, although service jobs and small businesses also bring employment and contribute to our local tax base. We need to have a good balance to adequately support a self-sustaining community.”
She also wants to see Ceres develop more housing.
“Housing and construction has started again after only 17 new housing permits last year, which is a great step in the right direction. I hope to encourage investors and construction in alignment with our general plan and community needs, sustainable growth that is within reasonable expectation and growth guidelines.”