Newcomers mix it up in Gavilan board race

Walt Glines

Two longtime Gilroyans and former Gavilan College students have
entered the race for the Gilroy seat on the college’s board of
Two longtime Gilroyans and former Gavilan College students have entered the race for the Gilroy seat on the college’s board of trustees.

Incumbent Deb Smith does not plan to run for her seat and Walt Glines and Eleanor Villarreal, both 62, will square off for the November election.

“We’ve been friends for 40 years so that makes it a little tough,” Villarreal said of Glines. “It’s going to be a very positive race. May the best candidate come forward.”

Glines agreed the rivalry was a friendly one.

The candidates’ experiences with the college go back decades. Glines attended classes at Gavilan when it was still located at the old Hollister Airport and Villarreal’s graduating class was the first to walk across the stage at the new Gilroy campus in 1960.

Married with one son and one grandson, Glines is the circulation manager for South Valley Newspapers. Villarreal is a realtor with Century 21, and is married and has two grown children. Though neither has served in an elected role, both counted numerous volunteer activities and boards to which they were appointed.

Villarreal said she is interested in expanding Gavilan’s offerings in San Benito with the campus planned for Hollister and in focusing on the best interests of the student body, from high school students in the Dr. T.J. Owens Gilroy Early College Academy to returning students with jobs and families.

“Gavilan is such a fabulous community resource and I can’t stress that enough,” she said. “I want to maintain that.”

Glines and Villarreal agreed the discovery of about $270,000 in misallocated funds by the Gavilan College Educational Foundation will require stronger board oversight in the future.

With more students to educate than it has money for, Gavilan will have to focus on capturing as many state funds as possible in the coming years, Glines said. Expanding Gavilan’s role in San Benito and Morgan Hill was also one of his top priorities. As someone who has been active in the community since he moved here in 1965, running for Gavilan’s board seemed like the logical next step, Glines said.

Morgan Hill representative Laura Perry’s term also runs out this November but she will run opposed, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters’ website.

In Hollister, two seats are up for grabs and incumbents Elvira Robinson and Kent Child will compete against two newcomers to keep their positions.

Hollister native Tony Ruiz, 72, and his wife have six children together who all attended local schools. He attended Gavilan when there were only 79 students there, then went on to earn a Master’s degree in literature. The lifelong educator taught high school for several years before teaching Spanish, Spanish literature, English and history at Gavilan for 30 years. He retired 10 years ago. He has also served on the San Benito County Joint Union High school board, said he’s “very familiar” with the Brown Act, plans to be accessible to community members and believes the college can better serve its students by developing satellite campuses.

“I believe community colleges are going to play a much more dramatic role in the education of people of all age groups in the future,” he said.

Hollister resident and 20-year Hartnell College instructor Stelvio Locci will also make a run for one of the two Hollister seats opening up. He would not give his age but has two children and two grandsons. He sees his candidacy as an opportunity to serve his community and has served terms on the Mount Pleasant school board and on the board of the California Community College Association.

“Nowadays, a high school degree is good but it’s not enough,” he said. “As a graduate of a community college, I can say that if not for community colleges, I wouldn’t have the degrees I have now.”

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