With the entry of a third candidate, a real horse race has developed for the two open seats on the Ceres City Council this fall.
Eric Ingwerson is stepping off the council at year's end and decided against a re-election bid. His lack of filing extended the candidate filing period to Wednesday.
Tuesday's entry of Linda Ryno to the council race means that incumbent Ken Lane and Planning Commissioner Hugo Molina no longer have a free pass to obtain a council seat. A more competitive race also means some candidates will be raising and spending more campaign cash.
As the incumbent, Lane is considered by local political watchers as the favorite to become the top vote-getter in the race. In the three-person race of 2009, Lane was in the middle of the pack with the support of 1,521 voters. Both Ryno and Molina ran unsuccessful council campaigns in November 2011 and pulled numbers far less.
Molina may prove to be a formidable candidate but if past performance is any indication has his work cut out for him. In the 2011 three-person race, Ingwerson dominated with 1,225 votes (38.37 percent), defeating Ryno who collected 1,078 votes (33.76 percent) and Molina who trailed in third place with 879 votes (27.53 percent). Ryno has lived in Ceres longer and recognized more than Molina. Still, Molina could mobilize the support of the Latino community which is itching to get a Latino back on the council.
"When I ran my campaign two years ago, I was the new kid coming from the shadows as the unknown candidate," said Molina. "I believe that had in major a part to do with my results. This time I have been able to show many people that I am a man of integrity and of commitment."
Molina said he has gained the support of state Senator Anthony Cannella, Mayor Chris Viera, Lane, and councilmembers Mike Kline, Ingwerson and Bret Durossette.
Ryno sees her chances of election as "just as good as the other two candidates."
"While I was very pleased in how well I did in the City Council election in 2011, I believe there is always room for improvement," said Ryno.
Ryno, a resident of Ceres since 1983, is no stranger to the workings of City Hall. She worked as the administrative secretary for the Ceres Planning Department for 29 years. Now retired, the 59-year-old candidate said her goals as a councilmember would be to increase the transparency in government, assure safety for all citizens and insure that the council and city staff is held accountable to citizen's requests for assistance with respect.
"I am running for office because I believe by being a resident of Ceres for 30 years, I understand the issues that are impacting our neighborhoods and us as individuals," said Ryno. "I have the knowledge and perspective of working for the city of Ceres for almost 30 years before retiring, as well as being an independent thinker who will make informed decisions."
Ryno said she would like to address issues of blight in Ceres, as well as lack of shopping and dining venues.
A Manteca High School graduate, Ryno is married to former police Sgt. Sam Ryno. They have two sons, Lucas, and Zachary and first grandchild, Logan.
Molina, 35, said he is running to help out with the "economic revitalization" of the city.
"I will work very closely with all city departments to insure that we are, for one, business friendly, and perhaps offer incentives to prospecting business as well as those in existence," said Molina. "I am an ardent supporter of the economic development plan undergoing right now through a consultant that the city commissioned, the findings of such will give us a clear path to use as a map to provide our city the industrial activity and the business strategies so that we can have a much more prosperous and successful economic future."
Molina said among his top priorities would be to enhance public safety and recreation.
An appointed Ceres Planning Commissioner, Molina said he enjoys serving Ceres and looks forward to "putting my commitment into action when elected as a city councilman."
As the owner of Palmwest Insurance Services in Los Banos, and previous management positions, Molina feels he has a proven record of success "regardless of the challenges that present themselves, including the current economic downturn."
"My analytical business skills, budgeting experience and ability to work with other professionals would serve my ability to make sound decisions with respect to the long term interest of Ceres," he said.
Molina obtained California state insurance license in 2008.
He and his wife Gabriela have two children, Victoria and Ethan.
Molina, who is a youth leader at El Nuevo Pacto church, Modesto, is also volunteer English as a Second Language instructor at Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children. He also is a member of the Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda Association.
Lane said he is not changing his campaign strategy now that a third candidate has entered the race.
"I'm going to get my message out," said Lane, who was elected to the council both in 2005 and 2009. "I serve this community as a servant. It's not about me."
He expects to raise and spend $30,000 to get his message out but said the community should feel confident returning him to the council.
"It's really about the experience that I sat through the good and bad. We've survived some of the worst budgetary times. We've balanced the budget and are being able to maintain services and, in some cases, improving services in police and fire. We've been good stewards of the city and for the taxpayers who we work for."
Lane said when the council enjoyed better fiscal times in his first term a number of accomplishments included construction of the Ceres Community Center, improvements at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park, and the Costa baseball complex, the addition of Ceres Fire Station #4 as well as the new Whitmore interchange. The city continues to improve streets, he said, but must find ways to pursue redevelopment since the state abolished redevelopment agencies.
Lane said he wants to see the city pursue surface water for a reliable and clean source of drinking water in the future.
"Surface water is a must for the citizens of Ceres," said Lane, who acknowledges that increased water costs will not be popular. "Setting politics aside, we have done things that have not been popular but they are necessities for the community. I don't like paying higher bills either."
Born and raised in Ceres, Lane, 53, served on the Ceres Planning Commission. He is a member of the Ceres Lions Club. He is employed with MoCal Office Systems in Modesto.
Ingwerson is leaving behind a long history of government service. His foray into city politics came during a 1988-1994 term on the Ceres Planning Commission. He then served on the Ceres City Council from 1994 to 2003 and was mayor from 1998 to 1999 and 2001 to 2003. He was appointed to the Ceres School Board in 2007 and elected to a two-year seat on the council in 2011.
Betty Davis, Mike Welsh, Lourdes Perez and Valli Wigt are each guaranteed another four-year term on the Ceres Unified School District board. All four School Board incumbents are uncontested for re-election in the Nov. 5 election.
The race for the Stanislaus County Board of Education for Trustee Area #2 has pitted Alice J. Pollard against Hughson farmer Christopher Barth. Trustee Area #5, which includes Ceres, has challengers in community volunteer Adriana Garcia and Newman business owner Bob Vizzolini.
The Keyes Union School District generates three candidates for three open seats for School Board, which means an appointment will be made in lieu of holding an election. The terms of Jeff Reed, Jimmy Emmons Sr., and Tony Aguilar expire this year. Aguilar chose not to run again. Candidates for the three seats are Reed, Emmons and Audrey Mercer and will each be appointed.
Residents of Keyes will be voting for representatives to their Community Services District Board. The seats occupied by William Alexander, Davie Landers and Eddie Jones all expire this year. All three are seeking re-election with challenger Johnathon Parker in the mix.
Harinder Grewal will be appointed to the Keyes Municipal Advisory Council since he was the lone candidate. Another seat was open but produced no interest. The Keyes MAC meets to discuss matters facing the unincorporated town and makes recommends to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors on matters affecting Keyes.
Ceres Fire Protection District, which contracts with city fire services to fight fires in the rural belt around Ceres, has an open seat with the expiration of Robert Renstad's term. Renstad was the only candidate and will be appointed in lieu of an election.
Two open seats on the Hughson Fire Protection District attracted two candidates in Raymond Camagna and Gus Villarreal. Since there are no challengers and thus no need for an election, an appointment will be made by the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.
In the Westport Fire Protection District, incumbent board members Martin Avila and Edward Amador Jr. are unopposed and will be reappointed to avoid unnecessary election costs.
One director position on the Turlock Irrigation District will not be on the ballot since there were no challengers. Division 2 covers Ceres and incumbent Charlie Fernandes has filed without opposition. There are races in Division 5, which has incumbent Ron Macedo pitted against Darrell Monroe. Joe Alamo and Daniel Agundez are in a fight for TID Division 3.
A total of three seats were open on the Monterey Park Tract Community Services District board but attracted only two candidates in Grady L. Jordan Sr., and Bettie Yelder.