A crowd of about 100 turned out to help state Senator Anthony Cannella celebrate the opening of his new Ceres office.
The Republican lawmaker arrived at the office at 2561 Third Street (opposite the Ceres Library) and found a large number who were gathered there. He greeted the public who enjoyed a full table of sandwiches and snacks outside and began touring the numerous offices inside, including a conference room.
The Ceres office replaces the office he had in downtown Modesto. Cannella explained that he closed the Modesto office because it fell outside of the new 12th Senate District boundaries when they were redrawn. Because the district is so large, Cannella has a need for offices in Merced and Salinas. His main office continues to be at the State Capitol building in Sacramento.
Cannella said he generally makes it to his Ceres office once a week but the officer is routinely staffed by District Director Helen Filice Condit, Field Representative Mia Brudnicki, and Office Aide Andrew Yenni.
"I don't spend a ton of time in the office," said Cannella. "I'm up in Sacramento Monday through Thursday and come back Thursday. We'll have meetings in here so I'm in here maybe every couple of weeks. I'm mostly out and about in my district. I don't like sitting in an office."
The 12th Senate District covers a wide area in Central California, including King City, Salinas, Soledad, Hollister, San Juan Baptista, Los Banos, Newman, Gustine, Patterson, Westley, Turlock, Ceres, a small part of Modesto, Delhi, Livingston, Winton, Snelling, Planada, Le Grand, Chowchilla, Madera, Kerman, Raisin City, and Kingsburg. The district was deliberately carved around Fresno to keep it in the 14th Senate District.
The Ceres location made sense, said Cannella, because he lives in Ceres and so does his district director Condit.
"This is my hometown. It's just easy for us to come to Ceres instead of Modesto. This is nice. I like being in Ceres and downtown's really growing so it's great to be a part of it."
Cannella said his office is drawing lots of out of town folks - like from Turlock - to downtown Ceres, which also boosts trade in Ceres.
Helen Condit said most people who come to the senator's office need help dealing with a state agency, such EDD, DMV, the state Franchise Tax Board, and state disability.
"They were not returning phone calls," said Cannella. "Literally their callback rates was seven percent."
"It's an automated system so they have trouble getting through," said Condit, "so they contact us and we're able to get through EDD and get their questions answered in a timely manner so they're able to get what's coming to there."
Cannella has seven employees working in his State Capitol office and nine in the district.
The former Ceres mayor is serving his second term in the California State Senate and cannot run for a third term because of statewide term limits. He has the option of calling it quits in politics at the end of his term in December 2018 to spend more time with family and his civil engineering firm or run for a different state office.
"I'm just going to work hard. We've got lots of stuff going in the Senate so that must be my focus. I found that if I'm thinking about the next office I'm not paying attention to my current office. That's what I want to pay attention to."
Possible political aspirations for Cannella are running for the California State Board of Equalization or lieutenant governor.
"I have an account set up for lieutenant governor," said Cannella. "It's something I'm contemplating. Running statewide is hard anyway. It would definitely be a challenge but one thing I have tried to do is work very hard with everybody and I think I've been successful. The reality is though I think the Republican Party, at some point, needs to start appealing to different process. I've tried to do that. I've worked with folks that Republicans traditionally have not worked with. It would definitely be hard but people told me when I was going to run for the Senate that it was going to be hard too."
Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsome will be termed out in 2018 and is expected to run for governor.
Cannella's Ceres office is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and may be reached at 577-6592. The Sacramento office may be reached at (916) 651-4012.