Meet the candidates for Fourth District County Supervisor
With four candidates vying for the position of Fourth District County Supervisor, the citizens of Watsonville and the Pajaro Valley have a difficult choice ahead of them as to who will lead their unique stretch of the county for the four coming years.
But according to candidate Jimmy Dutra, a 39-year-old small-business owner, the choice is much simpler.
To Dutra, there are only two contenders for the position—himself and the rest: Dana Sales, Terry Medina, and incumbent Greg Caput.
“The other three … are the same people who have been molding this community for decades and will continue to mold it in the same fashion,” says Dutra. “If they were going to go in a different direction, they would have headed there already. I am completely different.”
Although he has never held public office, Dutra secured an internship at the White House under President Bill Clinton while attending Santa Clara University and subsequently worked on two other political campaigns before transitioning into real estate and eventually moving back to his native Watsonville to start his own business, Jimmy’s Pumpkins.
“There aren’t very many family friendly places for people to go,” says Dutra. “I decided to open a pumpkin patch that catered to the community.”
Upon returning to Watsonville four years ago, Dutra saw an infrastructure in disrepair and a damaged local economy. This perceived state of the community, which differed so much from the one he remembered growing up in, compelled Dutra to run for Fourth District Supervisor.
“I saw a community that just wasn’t in any shape for people to enjoy,” says Dutra.
If (or when, according to Dutra) he is elected, he hopes to improve the roads and infrastructure in South County, advocate for small and “family friendly” businesses, and preserve the agricultural industry in the Pajaro Valley.
As of Dec. 31, 2013, Dutra has raised the most money of any Fourth District candidate, which he sees as a strong indicator that the people of the Pajaro Valley support his political vision.
“Everybody seems to be on the same page that there needs to be a change,” says Dutra. “People say we need young blood. I hear that so much. It is very encouraging.”
In contrast to Dutra’s ambitious campaigning, Sales, a real estate broker and trustee at the Santa Cruz County Board of Education, has been lying low since he announced he would run last August.
“One thing that has always bothered me about political campaigns is that it seems like one ends and the next one begins,” says Sales. “You have these long campaign periods where a lot of money is spent and a lot of fundraising is done, and we’re not talking about running for governor.”
Although Sales has received a few small donations to promote his campaign, which he plans to kick off in the coming weeks, he feels that a more grassroots approach is appropriate for the supervisor race.
“I would rather run a shorter campaign where I’m talking to people as much as I can,” says Sales.
Apart from a stint in the navy, Sales has lived in the Pajaro Valley his entire life. He was raised on a small family farm, and has since raised his own family in Watsonville. Over the past three decades, Sales has owned his own small business, Penguin Printing, and has worked as a banker and real estate broker in South County.
In addition, Sales served on the City of Watsonville Planning Commission, the board of trustees for the Pajaro Valley Unified School District starting in 1985, and as a trustee for the Santa Cruz County Board of Education since 1992.
Sales believes that his work in political offices in the county over the years will lend to his abilities as supervisor if he is elected.
“When you work at the county level, which I have for so long, you learn to build working relationships to make sure things can get done that others need in their communities and also that we need [done] in the Pajaro Valley,” says Sales.
Like Sales, former Watsonville Police Chief Medina brings a lifetime of experience working for the Pajaro Valley into the race.
First encouraged to run for office by his mentor and former Fourth District Supervisor and Watsonville Police Chief Ray Belgard, Medina drew recent inspiration to run from others who he says believe that the Fourth District is in need of stronger leadership.
“The combination of people feeling that the incumbent, although a nice man, wasn’t representing South County very well, and people very important to me—Ray Belgard, in particular—wanting me to run really inspired me,” Medina says, “and I have confidence in myself that I can do this.”
In addition to the more than 20 years serving as Watsonville Police Chief, Medina has worked as a labor negotiator, served on the boards of numerous nonprofits such as Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, and has been appointed to a variety of other governmental committees such as the oversight committee for the state’s dissolution of the City of Watsonville Redevelopment Agency.
“I hope people get from me that my past experience and success should be a pretty good determinant of my future success,” says Medina.
With a reservoir of government experience to draw from, Medina says he understands the issues facing the area and the limits of the county supervisor’s powers. Instead of claiming that he will fix all the problems facing South County on his own, if elected, Medina hopes to facilitate change organically by uniting leaders from the business, nonprofit, and governmental sectors of the Pajaro Valley.
“What I hope to do is get some people from these powerful groups—somebody in the city, the farming community, someone at the chamber, and the pilots association—who are willing to work together and talk about the important issues,” says Medina. “We have to take some baby steps to try to facilitate some relationship building—things I did at the police department. It’s the difference between management and leadership.”
Defending the Fourth District throne is incumbent Greg Caput. Caput says he seeks a second term in order to continue to fulfill the promises he made when he ran for the seat back in the 2010 election.
“I made commitments when I first ran [that were] based on smart growth over urban sprawl,” says Caput. “That would be my commitments to protecting the agricultural land, protecting the regional airport, and also the fairgrounds. That’s what makes South County unique and it’s the character of District Four.”
In addition to “sticking up for South County,” and continuing to make sure the Fourth District receives funds to fix roads, Caput hopes to increase personnel in the South County police force and fire departments, create safer routes to schools, develop more affordable housing, and bring quality jobs to the area, among other things.
Caput has placed a cap on his fundraising of $20,000, and claims that if he raises more than that amount, he will give the funds to charity. As in his first campaign, Caput will focus on a door-to-door approach.
As far as thoughts on his opponents, and any criticisms they may have about his term so far, Caput pays them no mind and seeks to treat the other candidates with “dignity and respect.”
“I’m focused on my campaign and my campaign alone,” says Caput. “I’ve kept my commitments and promises that I’ve made over the past three years and I am working toward continuing to do that.”