The end of a political era in Ceres and Stanislaus County was recognized at Monday evening’s Ceres City Council with honors for retiring County Supervisor Jim DeMartini, Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra and City Councilmen Bret Durossette and Mike Kline.
DeMartini, whose District 5 includes Ceres, decided to step down from the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and is being replaced by first-term Ceres City Councilman Channce Condit. Condit defeated attorney Tom Hallinan on Nov. 3 in a 60 percent to 40 percent advantage. The final result showed Condit receiving 18,616 votes to Hallinan’s 12,409 votes.
Mayor Vierra read a proclamation honoring DeMartini’s 16 years of tireless service on the board. He noted how DeMartini has faithfully attended Ceres council meetings and worked hard to get the city to extend water service to the rural Monterey Park Tract community. DeMartini also served on a myriad of committees associated with his role as supervisor. After he read all of the committee roles, Mayor Vierra told DeMartini, “I’m not sure how you had much time for home life with all of these assignments.”
“It was an honor to serve with you,” the mayor told DeMartini. “You were at almost every one of our council meetings, which is pretty much unheard of for a Board of Supervisors (member) to do. You were always there to take our calls. You were always someone that had our back.”
A big critic of the way California leaders are running the state, DeMartini is selling his Westport area farm and moving to the Reno, Nevada area. He said his retirement plans include building a model railroad set and fiddling with his collection of antique cars.
“While California is losing a great person, Nevada is getting an exceptional person,” said Vierra.
Councilman Mike Kline also lauded DeMartini, saying “I don’t believe there’s been anybody who’s done more for their district.”
Vice Mayor Linda Ryno said she has never seen such a dedicated supervisor in her 40 years of being close to city government.
DeMartini said he always felt he could not represent the people sitting behind a desk in Modesto.
“I’ve enjoyed the 16 years – it went by fast,” said DeMartini. “I was getting tired just reading all those committee assignments I had. I think if you had taken all these staff reports for 16 years I think they’d reach halfway to the moon if you stacked them all up. There’s a tremendous amount of reading in this job.”
Mayor Vierra had a plaque for Durossette and Kline. Durossette, who lost his bid to be mayor, did not attend his last meeting.
Durossette was appointed to the City Council in 2008 and was elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2015.
“There’s been a lot that we’ve been able to accomplish and he always brought that coach mentality,” Vierra said of Durossette.
Durossette’s Council District 3 seat will be filled by Planning Commissioner Bret Silveira who won the Nov. 3 election with 1,900 votes, edging out Juan Pablo Vazquez who collected 1,325 votes. Third and fourth place finishers, respectively, were Mohinder Singh Kanda with 807 votes and Brandy Meyer with 708 votes.
Kline was praised for his service as a member of the Ceres Planning Commission from 2007 to 2011 and as a city councilman since 2011. Vierra said that prior commission experience helped to bring Kline up to speed on city issues before he made it to the council.
“You’ve done a great job,” Vierra told Kline. “You’ve asked the tough questions, you dove in and it’s really been a benefit to the citizens.”
Kline’s District 4 seat will be filled by Couper Condit who received 1,229 votes to Kline’s 757 votes. Eric Gonzalez received 626 votes while Daniel Martinez received 606 votes.
“It’s been a pleasure serving with you,” Kline told the mayor.
Ryno briefly took over the meeting to honor Vierra, who served on the Planning Commission from 2001 to 2003, as a city councilmember from 2003 to 2011, and as mayor since 2011. He was given a plaque with a “key to the city.”
She expressed appreciation for all three men who devoted a collective 38 years serving Ceres.
“I appreciate it as a councilmember but I really appreciate it as a citizen that you’ve taken that time and that interest and dedication for everyone in the city,” said Ryno.
Kline and Condit also thanked Vierra for his service.
“The reason I got into politics was because I said if I was going to live in the community I wanted to at least try to make a difference,” said Vierra. “Most of you up here know that my family’ been in the city of Ceres for over 120 years so I thought if I was going to live here and raise a family then I wanted to be involved. But I made the stipulation at the time that I didn’t want to be a career politician; and I turned around and I look and I’m the longest standing politician, I believe, in Stanislaus County.”
He said the job involved “a lot of joy” but also pains, such as the death of councilmen Rob Phipps and Guillermo Ochoa.
Vierra also said the council may have had disagreements but always came together for the best interests of the community.
He recited some of the accomplishments during his service, which including building the Ceres Community Center, Ceres River Bluff Regional Park, the Whitmore / Highway 99 overpass, planning for the Mitchell/Service interchange, installed landscaped medians on Mitchell and Hatch roads, sewer and water infrastructure improvements, the downtown Fourth Street makeover and laying the groundwork to build the surface water project. He also mentioned how the city has worked on plans to bring the ACE train to Ceres.
The new City Council, led by Mayor Javier Lopez, will be seated next month with new members Couper Condit and Bret Silveira. The empty seat left by Channce Condit will have to be filled by appointment or a special election.