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Political season gets underway on July 18
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Monday marks the start of the 2011 municipal elections process. It's the first day qualifying candidates may take out nomination papers for the office of mayor, three council seats and three seats on the Ceres Unified School District (CUSD) board of trustees.

All nomination papers - complete with the required number of signatures of registered voters living in the respective jurisdictions - are due by Aug. 12.

Candidates for city offices must obtain papers from City Clerk Cindy Heidorn at Ceres City Hall while those seeking a School Board candidacy must file at the Stanislaus County Elections Office, 1021 I Street in downtown Modesto.

Four seats on the Ceres City Council are up for grabs in the Nov. 8 election which has the potential to shake up the make-up of the existing council. The seats are:

• The four-year mayor's term, occupied by Chris Vierra who is serving out the unexpired four-year term of Anthony Cannella who resigned to become a state senator;

• An unfilled (two years remaining) council seat abandoned by Vierra when he was elevated to mayor. The council chose not to fill the seat by special election because of cost.

• A four-year council seat occupied by Bret Durossette;

• A four-year seat occupied by Guillermo Ochoa.

Ken Lane - he also serves as vice mayor - is the only member of the council who doesn't face an election this year.

Political insiders said potential council candidates could rise up from the ranks of the Planning Commission, specifically Hugo Molina, Laurie Smith and Mike Kline. Molina and Smith are untested in elective politics while Kline has unsuccessfully campaigned for both council and School Board.

Vierra said he's unsure if he will have an opponent but is not taking any chances and already started planning fundraisers. Vierra spent just under $25,000 in his last City Council race but said "I'd like to do it for less."

"The rubber hits the road when we see who runs," said Vierra.

Those rewarded with a win have the responsibility of serving many hours at council meetings and representing the city on various area committees.

"It's a big jump from council to the mayor's seat," said Vierra. "I didn't realize the commitment of time. There's lots of meetings countywide and regionally and meeting with constituents."

The mayor receives a stipend of $700 per month while councilmembers in Ceres collects $500 per month.

School Board race

CUSD voters will be deciding who fills three seats currently filled by Faye Lane and Jim Kinard, who both represent specific trustee areas, and Eric Ingwerson who represents the district at-large.

"This will be the last time voters will be filling an at-large seat," said Scott Siegel, superintendent of the Ceres Unified School District. "We will be creating new trustee areas for the 2013 election."

Only registered voters living within the respective trustee areas may run for the seats occupied by Lane and Kinard. A map of those areas is located on the CUSD website,

The Ceres School Board decided in early 2009 to phase out the at-large trustee seats after the San Francisco-based Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights sent letters to school districts encouraging them to voluntarily end at-large elections or risk being sued. The group contended that at-large districts were unfair to minorities seeking office. CUSD avoided litigation by reaching a compromise with the nonprofit advocacy group which also asserted that at-large method of election was racially polarizing and violated the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).

By the November 2013 election, CUSD will establish seven separate member trustee areas.

A list of all offices in Stanislaus County which are open in November are detailed on the county elections division website at