Chances are that a candidate for Ceres City Council will soon be knocking on your door – or has – given that ballots have been mailed out and Election Day is in just 20 days.
The three races for Ceres City Council have attracted a total of seven candidates.
In the Ceres City Council District 1, incumbent Councilman James Casey and Todd Underwood are in competition. The District 2 City Council race has Paula Redfern and Rosalinda Vierra going head to head while the District 4 council race has three candidates in Daniel Martinez, John Osgood and David Carreon.
Underwood, 43, is squaring off with incumbent Casey who seeks to be re-elected. Casey was elected in a special election to fill the District 1 seat in September 2021.
Raised in Ceres and an Army veteran, Underwood said his candidacy doesn’t come out of dissatisfaction with the way Ceres is being governed but more out of a desire to be involved in government. He does, however, have concerns about Ceres becoming like other cities with lesser living conditions.
“I’m ex-military so why sit on your butt and complain when we’re Americans, we were given the right to stand up so that’s one reason why I’m running,” said Underwood. “If you’re going to get into politics you have to start somewhere.”
Underwood is currently a telecommunications installer working in the Bay Area.
“What better place to learn how to get in politics than Ceres. It’s a great city… and a great place to raise a family and most of us would like to keep it a great place.”
Casey has lived in Ceres since 1974 and has owned and operated Casey Moving Systems in Ceres since 1995. An Army veteran from 1968 to 1971, Casey was elected to the Ceres City Council on August 31, 2021 to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Channce Condit.
Casey said his priorities are public safety, transportation, recreation, eradicating blight, sensible development serving all social stratas and providing business opportunities for residents.
Rosalinda Vierra said she wants Ceres to remain “a great little city.”
“We all want a safe community, and an economically strong community,” she said. “I am running for City Council for those reasons; to serve my community, represent my neighborhood and bring a new, fresh perspective to the council. I think my experience, as a mother, community servant, homeowner, and small business owner – plus my education and specialized training – allows me to bring a positive mindset, open mind, and new perspective with fresh ideas to the Ceres City Council.”
Vierra is a member of the Measure H Citizens Oversight Committee and the Stanislaus County Economic Development Action Committee. Vierra moved to Ceres in 2002 from Modesto after she began working for Bronco Winery. She has owned Party Helpers, a small business in Ceres since 2012
Vierra said she wants Ceres to have an adequate number of police and code enforcement officers. She would also like to see CPD reinstate its Street Crimes Unit and explore the possibility of Ceres having a Community Health and Assistance (CHAT) program like in Modesto “so our officers can focus on higher priority crimes, and traffic related issues, while trained specialists and clinicians assist with mental health calls.”
Paula Redfern, who spent 9-1/2 years as a security officer at Ceres High School, a Community Service Officer with Ceres Police, and code enforcement officer in Ceres, Hughson, Waterford, Merced County and now Modesto, said she is running because she cares “about what happens to our city.”
Redfern wants to see code enforcement strengthened in Ceres, saying it’s an important issue for all Ceres residents. She also wants to see more development on the west side of Ceres.
“We don’t even have bike paths down Service road and Morgan Road for all the kids going to Central Valley High School. Bike lanes would help.”
Redfern has been a lifelong resident of Ceres except for the three years she moved away in her 20s.
Daniel Martinez, a member of the Ceres Planning Commission, wants to replace appointed Councilman Mike Kline in District 4.
Martinez, 34, has been a member of the commission since his appointment last year. He previously ran for City Council in 2020, a race that went to Couper Condit. Martinez earned associate degrees in Communications, in Social and Behavioral Sciences and Language and Rational, all from Modesto Junior College. He is employed as a quality auditor for SunOpta Aseptic in Modesto.
The race has attracted two newcomers to local politics.
Osgood had been appointed to an empty council seat in November but on the evening he was to be sworn into office the council rescinded the appointment due to a firestorm of protests over controversial remarks he made on his podcast, Forgotten Liberty Radio. Wendy Byrd of the NAACP publicly charged that Osgood had practiced “hatred, bigotry, misogyny and racist terminology which makes specific ethnic and gender groups feel demeaned.”
Osgood has not responded to the Courier’s request for statements and background information.
David Carreon, 38, a lifelong Ceres resident said he is seeking the Ceres City Council seat “because I feel that there are problems in District 4 that have been neglected or overlooked for some time now and I don’t believe we’ve had a strong advocate for our part of town.”
Carren said that “the roads are banged up and in need of repaving, there are stretches of residential area that don’t have sidewalks in the close vicinity of Central Valley High and Blaker Kinser. I see kids walking perilously close to traffic on the dirt side of Hackett daily. My priorities would be to address these infrastructure issues with a focus that has been seemingly lacking for years now.”
He also advocates the refurbishment of the Ceres water tower and “see if we can get it designated as a state landmark.”
“At the end of the day, it all comes down to trying to make Ceres a better place for us to live, to work, for us to raise our families in.”
Carreon has been employed in warehouse distribution for the past 12 years and also runs a small T-shirt imprinting business in his spare time. He is the father of two boys, aged 2 and 5.
Three of the four open seats on the Ceres Unified School District had sole candidates with no opponents and thus will be appointed instead of appearing on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Real estate agent Cynthia Ruiz was the lone candidate for the Trustee Area 2 seat now occupied by Mike Welsh.
Incumbent CUSD board member Lourdes Perez was also unopposed in her re-election bid for Trustee Area 5.
Trucking business owner David McConnell, 62, faced no challenge as he automatically takes the Trustee Area 6 seat. Incumbent Betty Davis is retiring from the seat.
“My priorities would be to make sure that we are providing the best education and the safest environment for students,” said McConnell. “I’ve worked through good times and bad times in business and I think I have some knowledge that I can bring to the table. I would welcome working with the board members to continue providing all of our employees at the CUSD with fair honest transparent goals to make our school district one of the best in Stanislaus County.”
McConnell has been a resident of Ceres for over 30 years and raised children who went through the Ceres school system. He is the cofounder and a former president of the Ceres Unified School District Foundation.
In Trustee Area 3, Valli Wigt has a challenger in Mariah Jaquez who is an administrative assistant and student.
“I would like to continue with the social emotional programs that were started, building on student attendance and parent engagement, academic skills, and higher graduation rates,” said Wigt.
She also wants to see the district follow through with the construction of the Ric Campero Performing Arts building, the new pool at Central Valley High School and “hopefully the start of a new football stadium at Central Valley.”
Wigt said it is her honor to represent Ceres students and that she attends many school site events.
“I am proud of our district and all that has been accomplished during the time I have served,” said Wigt, who retired after 34 years of teaching K-6 students in the Ceres Unified School District and Oakdale Union Elementary School District.
“Upon retirement, I taught in the After School Program for CUSD,” Wigt said. “I taught a variety of classes which included combination classes for several years. I was a mentor teacher to new teachers, master teacher to student teachers, teacher in charge, Curriculum Council member, CUTA Rep, Ag in the Classroom Ambassador, music chaperone, was part of the Ceres High Boosters, and School to Career coordinator. I organized school career days for 20 years, interacting with many business organizations.”
The Courier was unable to reach Mariah Jaquez.
Mariah Jaquez did not have her contact listed as a candidate.