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New but inexperienced mayor, councilmembers installed
• Gone with the old, in with the new council
New Ceres council
Incoming Ceres City Councilmen Couper Condit and Bret Silveira and City Treasurer Kayla Martinez take the oath of office Thursday evening as administered by City Clerk Diane Nayares-Perez. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Three new members of the Ceres City Council were installed during a Thursday evening swearing-in ceremony at the Ceres Community Center, ushering in a new crop of leaders with thin or no city government experience.

Viewed only by the public via a Zoom connection, City Clerk Diane Nayares-Perez administered the oath of office simultaneously to incoming City Councilmen Couper Condit and Bret Silveira and City Treasurer Kayla Martinez.

Next was Javier Lopez who repeated the oath of office administered by departing Chris Vierra, who has served as mayor 2011.

The new mayor said, “During these interesting times we’re pledged to remain focused and we’re all in this together. Together we achieve.”

Councilman Silveira commented that he had a great time during his 11 months on the Ceres Planning Commission but looks forward to the next four years serving the residents of Ceres. Silveira said he also looks forward to the council finding a “quality candidate” to replace him. 

Couper Condit publicly thanked his friends and family who helped get him elected.

“I look forward to the work ahead,” he said.

Councilman Channce Condit, who will soon vacate his District 1 seat following his election to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, welcomed the new members and said that he looks forward to “working with you very closely on the county level.”

With that the new mayor adjourned his first meeting.

Noticeably absent at the meeting were outgoing councilmen Bret Durossette and Mike Kline who both lost their election bids.

Lopez’s victory flew in the face of conventional wisdom which favored Bret Durossette, an experienced member of the City Council. Not even Lopez expected to win.

Javier Lopez oath
New Ceres Mayor Javier Lopez is sworn in as mayor to an event closed to the public. - photo by Jeff Benziger

“Of course, it wasn’t expected. Everybody was surprised. In the end, it’s what the people wanted. A lot of people distrust politicians. I want to change that. One of my strengths as a leader is being able to communicate with people. I haven’t got to where I am by winging it.”

Lopez, 37, said his involvement as a coach for the freshman football at Central Valley High School for the past three years has prompted him to run for mayor. He said he wants to “bridge the gap” between city government and the people.

Lopez may not be very accessible to Ceres residents given that he commutes to the Bay Area five days a week starting at 4:30 a.m. As a senior fire suppression technician for Fremont-based Red Hawk Fire Security, he services maintenance fire systems throughout the Bay Area. He doesn’t get home until 8 at night during the football season.

“Football has taught me to manage my schedule,” Lopez told the Courier last month. “I’m used to having long days. This (being mayor) is a priority. I want people to judge me based on my actions and not from what they hear. I will make the right decisions. The city of Ceres has so much potential. We’re turning a new page.”

According to Lopez, young people and Latinos contributed to his victory, along with other populations.

“That was a factor. I’m glad they’re engaged and encouraged. They’re looking for something new. I hope I do motivate them.”

“A lot of people are excited to see me win this election and are excited because I am Latino,” Lopez added. “But I’m not going to cater to just one group. I’m going to fight for everybody. I’m going to look out for everybody. That’s how it should be.”

Lopez has no experience in city governance.

“There’s going to be a lot of learning curves ahead,” he said. “I’ll adapt really quickly. You have to look at everything and make tough decisions. I can handle pressure. Being under pressure happens in my trade.”

“I want to bridge the gap between the city and community members,” Lopez added. “Being transparent is important. If we can start a committee that will tackle the homeless problem, that would be great. Clean and safe streets will be my top priority.”

He said while he lacks governmental experience Lopez thinks he brings a wealth of leadership because of his occupational and coaching experiences.

“My goal has always been to push people to become better than what they are.”

One of the first tasks for the new council next week will be appointing a vice mayor, said Lopez, as well as finding a replacement for Channce Condit who will be leaving next month. 

New ceres council
A first of the new Ceres City Council, which will be changing again next month when Channce Condit (far left) resigns to become a county supervisor. Left to right are Condit, Vice Mayor Linda Ryno, Mayor Javier Lopez, Councilman Bret Silveira and Councilman Couper S. Condit. City Attorney Tom Hallinan is visible at lower right. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Silveira has served on the Ceres Planning Commission for 11 month. He was appointed in January and weighed in a number of zoning issues and proposed developments. He was elected to the District 3 City Council seat on Nov. 3.

“It’s awesome,” said Silveira, when asked what it felt like to be a councilman. “I’ve lived in Ceres my whole life and this is just a step towards the next phase of my life, doing what I can to make sure Ceres moves forward as great as it’s been my whole life.”

He said he sees the new leadership as an opportunity to forecast a new vision for Ceres and “make some decisions that are going to last forever in Ceres.”

Silveira said while the new council will have to rely heavily on staff, he called that staff “amazing.”

“We’re just so fortunate to have all of our city staff that are professional and experts in their different fields,” said Silveira. “It’s been a pleasure working with the Planning Department and Planning Commission.”

He said his priority will be ensuring Ceres remains a safe community.

Couper S. Condit takes the District 4 seat after taking out incumbent Councilman Mike Kline. Condit was appointed to serve on the Planning Commission in April 2015 to fill a vacancy left by Dave Chapman. He was reappointed to a four-year term in December 2015. He was skipped over for reappointment on Jan. 27 this year.

Condit reclined to give a comment when asked by the Courier.

The Condit brothers are expected to serve together on the council at only one meeting, the one scheduled for Monday, Dec. 14. The meeting which normally would fall on Dec. 28 will be cancelled because of the holidays. Channce Condit will be abandoning the District 1 seat in early January to fill the District 5 seat on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. One of the first acts of the new and incomplete council will be determining how to fill Condit’s seat, which doesn’t expire for another two years.

Couper Condit is employed as the district director for state Assemblyman Heath Flora, R-Stockton. He is the son of Chad and Helen Condit of Ceres and grandson of former Congressman Gary Condit. Chad Condit ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012. Helen Condit was the district director for state Senator Anthony Cannella.

Silveira, a lifelong resident of Ceres, has been a deputy with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department for 29 years. The past 14 years he has been deputy director of the Stanislaus County Police Activities League. He coached varsity, JV and freshman football at Ceres High School from 1984 to 2004 and was a JV baseball coach from 1986 to 1988.

Official election results were read by the city clerk. Lopez defeated Durossette in an 8,753 to 6,924 vote outcome, or 55.83 percent to 44.17 percent.

In the Council District 3 race, Bret Silveira won with 1,900 votes (40.08 percent). Other candidates in order of vote strength were Juan Pablo Vazquez with 1,325 votes (27.95 percent); Mohinder Singh Kanda, 807 votes (17.03 percent); and Brandy D. Meyer with 707 votes (14.94 percent).

Couper Condit won the Ceres City Council District 4 race with 1,229 votes, or 38.19 percent, defeating incumbent Mike Kline who was in second place at 757 votes, or 23.52 percent. Others who ran were Eric A. Gonzalez with 626 votes (or 19.45 percent); and Daniel A. Martinez who picked up 606 votes (or 18.83 percent.)

Kayla Martinez was elected city treasurer with 8,802 votes, or 59.52 percent of the vote total. Sopheap Don-Carreon was in second place with 5,986 votes, or 40.48 percent.

Dale Butler contributed to this article.

Vierra with Lopez
Outgoing Mayor Chris Vierra and incoming Mayor Javier Lopez before the swearing-in ceremony held Dec. 3. - photo by Jeff Benziger