Gilroy voters reached to a well-loved figure of the past as the answer for the city’s future, welcoming former mayor Don Gage to lead the city by a 53.9 percent majority and 5,626 votes.
Now that the election is over, Gage said he’s ready to get down to the real work.
“People elected me because they are looking to me to fix things, and I intend on that,” Gage said.
The first thing Gage wants to do as mayor is reach out to each Council member to find out what their individual vision is, and how he can help them reach their goals.
“My goal is to try and see what the common denominator is for everybody, so we can put our heads together and accomplish those things,” Gage said. “And I’ll start with Peter and Dion, because we had a race, and I want to unruffle any feathers that may have been ruffled.”
Councilmen Peter Arellano and Dion Bracco ran against Gage for the mayoral seat and lost handily, with Arellano placing second with 29.6 percent of the vote (3,089 votes) and Bracco coming in last with 16.47 percent (1,719 votes).
Gage said that Bracco and Arellano both called him on Wednesday morning to congratulate him, adding to Gage’s confidence that having two ex-campaign rivals won’t hinder the cohesive Council dynamic that he envisions as mayor. (Both Arellano and Bracco ran from safe seats and will remain on the Council for two more years.)
“I think you’ll see cooperation. It will take a little time, but I hold no bones for either of those two,” Gage said. “I believe they are both dedicated to Gilroy and are passionate about the community in different ways. We just have to pull all that energy together and focus it to work together.”
Numerous calls and emails to Arellano and Bracco were not returned over a two-day period.
Pulling Council member’s goals together to work as a team is Gage’s top priority as he steps into his new role.
“I want to get the City working for the people, and that is going to take us working together,” he said.
Another priority for Gage is to look at the budget to determine if there is room to hire a few police staff to tackle problems he sees in the community, such as graffiti.
Councilman Peter Leroe Munoz said as the campaign season is set aside, it is time to refocus on governing.
“I am hopeful, and sure that he can come in and work to continue the atmosphere of respect that the City Council has shown over the last few years,” Leroe Munoz said.
“I hope that as a leader he will solicit opinions from everyone, not just Council, but from all different people, including staff and members of the community,” he said.
Gage wins by wide margin Tuesday night
Spirits were high at Mama Mia’s restaurant on First Street, where Gage gathered with about 60 of his supporters as the early election results rolled in Tuesday night.
“I think with Don at the helm, Gilroy has nothing to do but grow and prosper,” said supporter J. Chris Mickartz, owner of the Gilroy Fitzgerald House Bed and Breakfast.
“I am so excited he even considered running, and came in to get Gilroy back on track,” Mickartz said.
Mickartz said Gage’s regional connections will help Gilroy get noticed by the rest of the county.
“It’s very easy for Gilroy to be forgotten as the step-child way down south,” she said. “Gage can help us have more of a presence in the county.”
Mike Wasserman, District 1 supervisor, high-fived Gage the moment the first batch of early results were reported at 8:03 p.m.
“I think this will be a victory for Gage, and a victory for Gilroy,” Wasserman said.
Gage himself was confident Tuesday night – but not confident enough to celebrate his victory just yet.
“This is a great way to start the night,” Gage said, dressed in a button-down and an American flag tie. “I’m just glad this part is over. Now the real work can start.”
Gage’s wife Jeanne, 71, worked her way though the crowd of her husband’s supporters with a glowing smile.
“I am so happy to be back to serve the community here, to be among the people I’ve made friends with in the 69 years I’ve lived here,” Jeanne said.
Jaime Martinez, 37, came to Mama Mia’s to support Gage after voting for him earlier in the day.
Twenty years ago, Martinez was in a gang when Gage helped change his life.
“I was 17, he sat a bunch of us gang members down and talked straight to us,” Martinez said. “He motivated me to go to college, and spent time with me.”
So Martinez got his life together. He attended Gavilan College and later, San Jose State University. Today, Martinez is a social worker focused on working with the mentally ill in the criminal justice system.
“When I saw him on the ballot, I thought ‘look who is coming back,'” Martinez said. “It’s great. He really cares about people.”
Recently elected Council members Terri Aulman and Perry Woodward also expressed their excitement for working with Gage.
“I’m happy for Don, and I think this will be a great Council dynamic,” Woodward said.
Mayor Al Pinheiro, who has endorsed Gage throughout his campaign, lingered at Mama Mia’s Tuesday night, waiting for the moment a second batch of voting results were released by the county.
Pinheiro and a handful of Gage’s supporters stayed at the restaurant until 11:30 p.m., waiting for that update that would give Gage the confidence to announce his win.
“(Al) kept trying to hand the key to the City to me,” Gage said.
But that moment never came Tuesday night, and Gage went to sleep at midnight, not confirming his win until he woke up at 4:30 a.m.
Bob Dillon, Gilroy’s retiring Councilman said that despite his strong endorsement of Bracco for mayor, he believes Gage will rise to the position effectively.
“(Bracco) has given so much back to the city, and it’s a shame that he lost,” Dillon said. “But as to how Gage will perform? I think he’ll be Don Gage, and there is nothing wrong with that.”
Gage, a lifelong Gilroy resident, served on Gilroy’s City Council beginning in 1981 then served two terms as mayor from 1991 to 1997. He then won the seat to represent District 1 (South San Jose to Gilroy) as a Santa Clara County Supervisor, before his term expired.
He has been on the Water District’s board of directors since 2010, a publicly elected seat.
Gage, 68, graduated from Gilroy High School in 1963, when he began a 30-year career at IBM. He and Jeanne have three children and six grandchildren.
Gage will step down from the water district on Dec. 7, the same day he is sworn in as Gilroy’s mayor at 6 p.m. in the Council chambers.