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Chiesa eyes Mayfield's seat
Lifelong Hughson resident and farmer Vito Chiesa is trading denim and boots for business suit and dress shoes for the world of politics. The 43-year-old agribusinessman announced last week that he wants to become the next county supervisor in District 2 to succeed Tom Mayfield.

Mayfield, also a Hughson farmer, is retiring from the Board of Supervisors next year. If nobody gets a 50 percent plus one majority in the June primary, the election will go to a run-off in November 2008.

Chiesa is the first to announce his candidacies. He anticipates that Les Weidman, former Stanislaus County sheriff and now Hickman area farmer, will run.

Protecting farmland from urban encroachment will be among his campaign themes.

"Farmers are environmentalists but protecting farmland and the environment obviously will be a key staple of my platform. Protecting better police and fire protection out in the rural areas will be very important for me."

The county is in the process of retooling its Agricultural Element to the General Plan. Chiesa said the document has many good things for the protection of agriculture.

"This is a discussion for the whole board. This is a discussion not only for the district but for the county. We have to decide as a whole that ag is going to be part of the portfolio of jobs and job creation. I'm a firm believer that's a yes. We need to sit down and bring the builders to the table, bring business to the table ... and sit down and decide how important that is."

Chiesa said another priority for him would be "making sure that the southern area and the east area (of the county) get their fair share. For too long all of the eastside and southeast - District 2 - has not gotten their fair share."

Specifically he doesn't feel the district has received its share of road monies and police services.

"People just feel that Modesto is the all-consuming entity," said Chiesa. "And having the county offices at 1010 Tenth Street with the city offices, they're probably correct in their assumption. Most of the money is staying there. So it's time for someone to stand up and fight for the District 2 area."

District 2 encompasses Eastgate in east Ceres, as well as the area around Central Valley High School. The district also includes Hughson, Keyes, Denair, Turlock, Hickman and La Grange.

Chiesa, a 1982 graduate of Hughson High School, a has been married 17 years and has two children. He attended Modesto Junior College and graduated from California Polytechnic University. He returned to Hughson to become involved in his parents' farming operation. They farms almonds, walnuts and peaches.

He also farms his own ground in Stanislaus and Merced counties.

"I just decided that it's an opportunity in my life and I want to get involved and serve the community," said Chiesa. "Four years ago it would have been a little more difficult. My kids were younger. I've got a little more experience behind myself."

He says he has the support of his wife, Jill, and his daughter, Caroline, 15, and son Teo, 11.

"For me that's the most important thing. It's nice to have that support."

Chiesa has been getting off of some boards he's served on to make time for the supervisorial run. He is on the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau board, is a past president of the California Farm Bureau board, the Stanislaus County Fair board, and Chamber board.

"I'm removing myself from all those things," said Chiesa. "It was a commitment that I've made to myself and my family. I'm going to give it my all."

He predicts that he will appeal to voters because they know him as a locally invested individual.

"I'm not a career politician," he said. "I'm an outsider. Although I've dealt with these people and have dealings with them, sometimes it's on a frustration level trying to deal with county and regulations and the red tape."

Carl Fogliani, a political consultant hired by Chiesa, said Weidman has a history of dabbling in politics.

"It's very important to look at somebody who's running for the right reasons," said Fogliani, "not for other reasons like, 'I'm looking for something to do.'"