Two challengers are taking on incumbent Ceres City Councilmembers Bret Durossette and Mike Kline in the Nov. 4 municipal election.
Ceres residents Don Cool and Melvin E. Yeakley became council candidates prior to Friday's deadline to file nomination papers.
An expected challenge of Chris Vierra's mayoral seat did not materialize when Councilmember Linda Ryno did not return her nomination papers to run for the four-year seat. Ryno cited a change in her personal life "that will not allow me to run my campaign as it should be."
The entry of Cool, 62, and Yeakley, 64, into the council race stirs up what would have otherwise been a quiet coronation of the two incumbents.
"There's some folks who are pretty excited," said Cool. "I'm pretty excited. They want a change. This is something I've talked about for a number of years."
Cool said Ceres has a lot of issues but he is most concerned about the perception outsiders have of Ceres because of blight.
"We need to turn that around," said Cool. "It used to be a great little town and I think it still could be a great little town. It's still home to me so I care about it. It's going to take some good code enforcement, some good work by our Police Department and that's headed the right direction but you can't let up. We need to put some teeth in some of these ordinances so we quit getting repeat offenders. If you take care of the little things it'll take care of the big things."
Cool said he doesn't anticipate spending much on his campaign and said he will concentrate on delivering his message door-to-door.
"I'm new at this, and I could be wrong, but I don't think a guy needs to get $7,000 to $8,000 to run for a council spot in the city of Ceres," said Cool. "I'm not a big yard sign guy."
Cool graduated from Ceres High School in 1971. Work took him to Houston, Texas, in 1990. After spending time in Deadwood, S.D., Arkansas, and Wisconsin, Cool returned to Ceres in 2002 to take care of his ailing mother.
Yeakley, a Ceres resident since 1989, said he is running to help clean up Ceres. The Army veteran has appeared at a number of council meetings in the past - the last time in April - lodging complaints about the way Ceres Police handle noise violations reported in his neighborhood.
"Nothing's been done," said Yeakley. "The city hasn't progressed at all. The city is in shambles. You've got citizens who just don't obey the law. They throw their trash out in the street. They park their cars on the lawn, the noise issue, they just don't have no concern for the city at all. And one of the problems is, I hate to say it, but they don't want to assimilate and that's a big problem here."
"I want this to be a pleasant place to live," said Yeakley. "Just tighten up on the code enforcement stuff and give the Police Department what they want ... I've never seen such a bad city before. I mean, there's some good parts you can probably find but there's a lot of bad ones."
Yeakley, a 1968 graduate of Sunnyvale High School, admits that he has no strategy and called campaigning "virgin territory." He feels his chances of being elected are "slim to none" but pledged not to take the council stipend nor the benefits.
Kline and Durossette were both elected to the council in 2011. Durossette was first appointed to the City Council in 2008 after the death of Councilman Rob Phipps. Kline was elected after numerous tries at elective office that included the School Board race.
"My vision is keep moving the city forward," said Kline. "I think we've done a good job by restructuring our management structure with a permanent fire police and police chief and a permanent city manager now. We've made steps since I've been on the council to update our infrastructure so that it's more business friendly. We're trying to be more shovel ready, whether it's for housing or commercial."
He said the city hired an economic development manager in Steve Hallam and it's paying off with new additions like WSS Shoes and soon-to-arrive Ross Dress for Less.
Kline said he has set a campaign budget of $8,000 to keep his seat.
Durossette, who is president of the Ceres Lions Club and a Ceres High School teacher and coach, said the council has done a good job and that he deserves to be returned to the council.
"I think the council's doing a great job," said Durossette, 47. "We re-established the concessions (to employees). The city, I think, is going the right direction, from an economics point. Our image, I think, is really good. If I didn't think I could have an impact still on City Council stuff ... I wouldn't run."
Durossette said he wants to see Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center with its Walmart Supercenter as an anchor, become a reality. He said also wants to continue strengthening the police and fire departments.
He said he expects to spend at least $12,000 to $16,000 on his campaign.
"We're going to fundraise, whatever we have to do to be competitive."
A Ceres High School graduate of 1985, Vierra has been on the Ceres City Council since his Sept. 16, 2003 appointment to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Councilman Andy Constantinou. Vierra previously served on the Planning Commission. Vierra's first council run came in 2005. He was appointed vice mayor in 2007 and was re-elected to the council in 2009. He was appointed mayor in 2011 to fill the seat vacated when Anthony Cannella became a state senator, and was unopposed in that year's election.
City treasurer unopposed
Harry Herbert is the lone candidate in his re-election bid as city treasurer.
CUSD trustees skate
There is also no contesting of incumbents for the Ceres Unified School District Board of Trustees. Jim Kinard is a declared candidate for Trustee Area 1, Faye Lane in Trustee Area 4 and Teresa Guerrero in Trustee Area 7.
Ceres voters will be deciding yes or no on Measure D, the council district election proposal; and on Measure E, increasing the Transient Occupancy Tax paid at both of Ceres' motels.
Currently Ceres City Council members are elected on a citywide basis. That would change under Measure D, which would divide Ceres up into four council districts. Candidates could only run for council within the district they reside.
District elections would not take place until 2016. The office of mayor would continue to be elected on at at-large basis since there is only one mayor.
The city is putting the matter before the voters out of concern of being the target of a legal challenge by minority advocacy groups. Experts say the California Voters Rights Act may be flawed but has opened the door for minorities to successfully sue cities, school districts and special districts to abandon at-large districts, claiming that minorities have a tougher time getting elected in them.
Only one of the four new proposed council districts contains a majority of minority voters. That district is currently occupied by Ryno.
In Measure E, the city wants to increase the five percent TOT from five to 10 percent. The tax is collected by the Howard Johnson Inn and Microtel Inn every time someone rents a room and passed onto the city. Residents would not pay the tax unless they stay at the motels.
The county Elections Division reported that only one person has filed to run for the Keyes Union School District Trustee Area 1 while none have come forth for Area 4 and 5. Bob Edwards, an incumbent, is seeking re-election to Trustee Area 1.
Three candidates have filed to run for two seats on the Keyes Community Services District Board. Incumbent board member Mike Bernal is a candidate as is Antonio "Tony" Aguilar and retired city of Ceres worker Davie Landers.
In the Keyes Municipal Advisory Council (MAC), three long-term seats are open and attracted all three incumbents. Davie Landers Jr., William Alexander and Jeff Reed are all on the ballot with no opposition. Only one candidate has materialized for the short term seat: warehouse manager Mario Amaya. The Keyes MAC acts as a city council to discuss community concerns but can only make recommendations to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, the body which has jurisdiction over the unincorporated town.
Monterey Park Tract
There are two open seats on the Monterey Park Tract Community Services District, which oversees the water system in the rural enclave located southwest of Ceres, west of Crows Landing Road. Incumbents Francisco J. Diaz and Susan Stransky are unopposed.
The Riverdale Park Tract Community Services District in south Modesto west of Carpenter Road has attracted seven candidates for five open seats. Candidates for the full term are incumbents Kelland Murphy and Diana M. Culwell-Caro and Rudo Caro and challenger massage therapist Timi Horn. Two short-term seats have attracted candidates in retired welder George Bixler, janitor Duane Shugart and Rita Hodges.
Small fire districts
Both incumbents serving on the Ceres Fire Protection District board have filed for re-election. Harlan E. Smith and Jerry Hancock both want to continue serving the fire suppression needs of the rural areas adjacent to the Ceres city limits. The small district contracts with the Ceres Fire Department for service.
Four candidates are running for three seats on the Hughson Fire Protection District. Fire Captain Justin Vincent, and incumbent board members Miguel Oseguera, Jeffrey Serpa and David S. Absher have all filed as candidates.
Westport Fire Protection District also has three seats open. As of deadline, no candidates had filed. Westport is a rural community southwest of Ceres with a fire house next to Westport School on Carpenter Road and south of W. Grayson Road.
TID board race
Two seats are open on the board of directors for the Turlock Irrigation District, which supplies electricity to Ceres and irrigation water to Ceres area farms. Charles Fernandes sits in the Division 2 seat and is not up for re-election this year. However, Michael Frantz, the incumbent in Division 1 which covers Hughson, is being challenged by retired educator Tracy Sunde of Turlock. Thus far, incumbent director Rob Santos is unopposed.
South Modesto MAC
The South Modesto Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) has two seats open but only one candidate in retired cannery worker Hortencia Franco.