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Council interest picks up
Don Cool pledges to enter the city contest

Interest in running for the Ceres City Council is expanding.

Don Cool picked up papers on Monday for a possible City Council run.

As of press time, Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra was unopposed for re-election. However, Councilwoman Linda Ryno has pulled papers and promised that she would return them. She has until Friday.

Cool's entry will mean competition for incumbent Councilmen Bret Durossette and Mike Kline, who are both officially candidates for re-election.

On Monday Hugo Molina, a member of Ceres Planning Commission, reversed an earlier cue that he may run for council, saying he won't run out of consideration of raising his children.

Cool's entry into the council race promises to stir up what would have otherwise been a quiet coronation for the incumbents. With his trademark Panama hat, long silver hair, long-time unconventional Ceres resident Cool has not been shy about expressing opinions at council meetings. Cool, who served on an ad-hoc committee last year to look into the issue of business sign practices conflicting with the city Sign Ordinance, was passed up for an appointment to the Ceres Planning Commission in April. Instead, the council appointed 19-year-old Couper Condit.

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.

Harry Herbert has picked up nomination papers to run for re-election as city treasurer, another office that is up for grabs. The office has rarely seen competition.

There are just two more days for candidates to turn in their nomination papers - with the required number of signatures of registered voters - to make the ballot.

In races where the incumbent does not file, the deadline is extended from Aug. 7 to Wednesday, Aug. 12.

Only incumbents have declared their candidacies for the Ceres Unified School District Board of Trustees. If the trend holds, the incumbents will be appointed by the Board of Supervisors in lieu of an election since there would be no opposition. 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.

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.

District elections would not take place until 2016.

Only one of the four new council districts contains a majority of minority voters. That district is currently occupied by Linda Ryno.

The office of mayor would continue to be elected on at at-large basis since there is only one mayor.

In Measure E, the city wants to increase the five percent TOT 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 nobody has filed to run for the Keyes Union School District Trustee Area 1, 4 and 5.

Two seats are open on the Keyes Community Services District Board. Incumbent board member Mike Bernal and Antonio "Tony" Aguilar are running. Both are guaranteed a spot if no additional candidates seek office.

In the Keyes Municipal Advisory Council (MAC), three long-term seats are open and have attracted all three incumbents. Davie Landers Jr., William Alexander and Jeff Reed are all on the ballot with no opposition as of press time. Only one candidate has materialized for the short term seat: Mario Amaya, a warehouse manager. 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.

No one is rushing to seek two open seats on the Monterey Park Tract Community Services District. The district oversees the water system in the rural enclave located southwest of Ceres, west of Crows Landing Road. No candidates have yet filed.

The Riverdale Park Tract Community Services District in south Modesto west of Carpenter Road has attracted three candidates for three open seats. Candidates are incumbents Kelland Murphy and Diana M. Culwell-Caro and Rudo Caro. Two short term seats have attracted no candidates.

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.

Three seats are available on the Hughson Fire Protection District and have thus far attracted the interest of three candidates. Fire Captain Justin Vincent and incumbent board members Miguel Oseguera and Jeffrey Serpa 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.

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 has no opposition.

The South Modesto Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) has two seats open but no candidates.