Two Garlic Capital natives who previously gave the public a solid “no” when asked if they would run for mayor in 2012 have re-opened the door of possibility, meaning Gilroy’s mayoral candidates could potentially double.
Gilroy City Councilman Peter Arellano and Don Gage – currently a Santa Clara Valley Water District director and former Gilroy mayor of six years – might toss their hats into the ring. The window to file papers with the city for mayoral candidacy will open on July 16 and run to Aug. 10, with a potential five-day extension period through Aug. 15, according to City Clerk Shawna Freels.
Despite declaring in January 2011 he did not intend to run for Gilroy’s top political seat, Arellano is giving it a second thought according to an email he sent to potential supporters Wednesday.
“Over the past year, I have been asked by many people of Gilroy if I would run for the office of the Mayor in 2012,” Arellano wrote. “Gilroy needs a strong, dedicated leader who has experience and knowledge of the past and present of Gilroy and a vision to lead it into the future. In this regard I am now considering entering the Mayoral race.”
Following a Dispatch story Friday stating Arellano’s intentions, Gage – who told the Dispatch last week he did not intend to run for mayor – said he’s also re-thinking about running.
Why? The commute would be infinitely better, for starters.
“It takes four gallons of gas in my truck,” joked Gage, a Gilroy native who drives 58 miles round-trip several days a week between his Gilroy home and water district headquarters in San Jose.
On a more serious note, Gage said he’s giving the bid for mayor “consideration” because “I’ve been watching all the shenanigans that have been going on, and have been getting a little sick about it. I’ve had enough of it.”
Coupled with people asking him to run for mayor and the prospect of returning to work in his hometown, Gage said his decision was prompted by the excessive “bickering” and “digging into everybody’s past” among City Council members as of late, Gage said.
Reacting to the news Monday, Councilman Bob Dillon – who never served with Gage on City Council but was endorsed by Gage on several occasions – said “personally, I think his time has passed.”
As for word of their fellow councilman’s possible change of heart regarding the mayoral bid, a couple of Arellano’s fellow incumbents are surprised; others say they saw it coming.
“I knew it a year ago, even though Peter didn’t. I would have bet 100 bucks,” said Dillon, who had an inkling Arellano wasn’t out of the mayoral picture.
Although Dillon never heard a word prior to Wednesday, “it just looked like (Arellano) was in campaign mode,” he said.
Referring to a Feb. 24 Dispatch story which reported that City Councilman and mayoral candidate Dion Bracco has a criminal record that includes a 1990 felony conviction for possession of methamphetamine for sale, Dillon added “I think the current situation with the mayoral race didn’t do anything to discourage (Arellano).”
That’s not the case, according to Arellano, who said Friday his decision to keep the mayoral door open “had nothing to do with the story of Bracco … this was already being thought of and worked on for the last month – trying to decide if I’m going to at least think of it more seriously.”
In the months that have passed since January 2011, “more and more people keep asking me to run,” said Arellano.
Fellow Councilman and 2012 mayoral candidate Perry Woodward – who said he was planning to solicit Arellano’s endorsement and campaign ideas – said, “I was actually a little stunned” by the news.
He’s happy to hear it, however. The more candidates, the better, said Woodward.
“I think that’s great if he decides to run. I think campaigns are good for the community,” said Woodward Friday. “If he runs, the fact that he can bring a different point of view will cause the campaign to have a wider discussion of the future direction of the community.”
Prior to Arellano and Gage, only Bracco and Woodward had announced their intentions to run.
Similar to Dillon, Councilwoman Cat Tucker said she wasn’t shocked at Arellano’s possible change of plans.
After people approached Arellano and asked him to run for mayor, Tucker said she heard the news through mutual friends.
“He hasn’t contacted me. I guess I’m not on his friends list,” she laughed. “It does take a strong team to run. He’s going to have to get a strong, dedicated campaign team.”
Arellano may be doing just that.
After “long and thoughtful” deliberation, Arellano is seeking friends and supporters of his past four council campaigns to help form an Exploratory Campaign Committee “since I do not take this endeavor lightly,” he wrote in his email.
Forefront topics for Arellano include focusing on a future that is “environmentally responsible, economically viable,” and “emphasizes prevention, respects employees, provides expanded programs for our youth and builds community through our diversity.”
Gage said public safety, providing services to the community, recreation programs, infrastructure and keeping furlough days at bay so that “City Hall is available to everybody” would be important areas of focus for him; although “I don’t want to prioritize one over the other,” he added. “I could list another 50 things.”
For a city of Gilroy’s size and population (around 50,000 people), Woodward said a mayoral campaign can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000. The year 2012 is also a general election year, Woodward reminded, meaning City Council candidates will have to compete with a cacophony of political noise along the campaign trail.
Gage said he would need to have his mind made up by June at the very latest. If Gage were to run, he said Woodward would likely be his strongest opponent.
“I’m keeping all my options open,” he said Monday. “I was born in this community and I hate to see stuff that’s going on continue …(City Council) has been bickering for a long time, and they don’t get anything done.”
About Peter Arellano
A graduate of Stanford University Medical School who currently works as a physician at Kaiser Permanente, Peter Arellano was first elected to Gilroy’s City Council in 1999.
He ran again in 2003 and lost, but was re-elected in 2005 and 2010.
During the 2010 elections – where Arellano raked in the third highest number of votes at 2,860 – he proposed building downtown parking lots behind neighborhood blocks to deal with parking problems, and touched on the importance of infusing money into the projects of the Department of Parks and Recreation to keep youth busy and out of trouble.
During his three terms serving on City Council, Arellano consistently fought for prevailing wages for workers who build city projects. He also supported a failed ordinance that would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Gilroy.
Arellano ran in 2010 for a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and lost. His current term expires in November 2014.
Arellano has two daughters and is a lifelong resident of Gilroy. He is 61.
About Don Gage
Don Gage is a 1963 Gilroy High School alumnus who attended Gavilan College and went on to work at IBM for 30 years beginning in 1967. He was elected to Gilroy City Council in 1981, and later served as mayor from 1991 to 1997.
In 1997, he was elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors representing District 1 which includes Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy. He was then elected to the board of directors for the Santa Clara Valley Water District in November 2010; his term ends in 2014.
During his time as mayor, Gage founded the Gilroy Gang Task Force. He also worked to raise money to purchase the old PG&E building near Railroad and Sixth streets, which the city used as a youth center before it was declared seismically unsafe several years ago.
On the water district’s website, Gage notes his experience of balancing public budgets; “a strong reputation for being a fiscal watchdog and for being an open and honest public servant.”
Gage is a lifelong resident of Gilroy. He and his wife, Jeanne Gage, have three children. Gage is 67.