The city council has extended the deadline for applying for boards and commissions into next year, after a record low number of people showed up to apply for the jobs last week.
According to Mayor Roland Velasco, there has never been such a dearth of applicants for the various boards and commissions.
“People are busy,” Velasco said. “Work, family and other commitments may prevent someone from applying. If you want to make Gilroy great, you have to participate.”
He said Gilroy also has more committees than some other cities and that might be thinning the number of applicants.
Bike and Pedestrian Commission Chairperson Zach Hilton offered another reason why participation levels are low.
“It’s because it’s not a local election year,” Hilton said. “It’s also because some of the commissions and committees don’t do a good job sharing with the public who they are and what they do. They also don’t participate more publicly with the city council. You can look at the city council website and see their minutes, but very few have a strategic plan where you can see their projects and goals. We need to do a better job of keeping interest alive in the community.”
Applicants for the various boards and commissions were expected to be present to interview with the board, but only 11 of 15 of the people who filled out applications showed up for 24 open positions. The city council will seat applicants at the Jan. 8 regular city council meeting.
To help fill in for the needed spots, the deadline for applying for a position on available city boards and commissions has been extended to January 16.
By far, the most sought over seats are on the Planning commission, which had six applicants for two available seats. The Arts and Culture Commission, Historical Heritage Committee and Library commission had no applicants.
A potential bullpen of disappointed applicants to the Planning commission may serve as a ready pool of choices for unfilled positions since unsuccessful applicants are not barred from accepting other positions should their first choice fall through. Applicants are not encouraged to serve on more than one board or commission due to time constraints.
Aside from a shortage of applicants, some appear to be unprepared for the job. When applicants for the Planning commission were asked by Councilmember Dan Harney if they had attended any General Plan meeting and how many, only incumbent Tom Fischer said he had, which called into question how prepared the applicants were for the job.
The two commissions that promote art in Gilroy, the Public Art Committee and the Arts and Culture Commission, there was only one applicant, Judy Bozzo for six available seats.
“Those commissions should be extremely worried because city staff has already said that they want to combine the two,” Hilton said. “This gives them ammo now to make that decision.”
The following is a list of all board and commission applicants:
Gonzalez applied for the only open seat on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission. An avid cyclist, walker and runner, Gonzalez was seeking a way to give back to Gilroy. Gonzalez’s goal is to provide cyclists with safe and accessible routes to all destinations served by public roads, trails and public transportation.
Giordano applied for the open seat on the Buildings Board of Appeals and one the seats on the Planning Commission. For five years Giordano has worked in the Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Department in San Jose along with 12 years experience in the buildings material industry.
“One of my goals would be to make the process of obtaining a permit more streamlined and quicker for those who apply,” Giordano said in her application. “I would also like to see an online system where the community can research and/or obtain copies of the previous documents and plans for projects.”
Reyes has applied for one of the seats on the Housing Advisory Committee. Reyes has been a longtime homebuyer and former renter in Gilroy and believed the experience would assist her in the position. Reyes also volunteers at CASA, works as an advocate for children for over 20 years. Her goal is to create better housing in Gilroy and to clean up some of the city’s neighborhoods.
Carol Marques and Julie P. Garcia are the applicants for the Parks and Recreation Committee.
Marques is a retired teacher who has extensive experience working with various personalities. Marques is the President of the Gilroy Tennis Club, the Monterey Bay Area Coordinator for the United States Tennis Association, Vice Chair of Gilroy Growing Smarter and is a member of the Design and Promotion Committee for Downtown Gilroy.
Part of Marques’s motivation to join the Parks and Recreation Committee is concern over deteriorating safety at Gilroy parks due to increased instances of drug abuse and sales.
“We will take the parks back and make it safe for families,” Marques said. “That’s why I’m doing this.”
Garcia is the current chairperson of the Parks and Recreation Committee and is seeking to another term on the commission which began in 2011. Garcia’s volunteer experience includes work at the Garlic Festival, The Lord’s Table along with extensive volunteer work at school functions.
Garcia is concerned with worsening safety at Gilroy Parks and has seen an increase in criminal activity at Miller Park. Garcia is a staunch advocate for the Youth Scholarship Fund and believes Gilroy parks should be for everyone.
Nita Edde-Mitchell, Annie M. Tomasello and Catherine Cummins are the three applicants for the available seats on the Personnel Commission.
Edde-Mitchell has worked as a Nurse Administrator for the past 30 years and was at one time the Director of Patient Care Services for Cancer Care Associates in Fresno. Since moving back to Gilroy in 2011 Edde-Mitchell has a Director of Patient Care Services for three Gilroy hospice and home health agencies.
Edde-Mitchell is also a leading member of the Gilroy Rotary, an active member of South Valley Community Church, a participant with the Oral Boards for the Gilroy Police Department and a graduate of Leadership Gilroy 2017.
Edde-Mitchell is a regular attendee at Gilroy City Council meetings, has a genuine interest in local government and believes her work experience will serve as a tremendous asset in helping to make personnel decisions for the city.
“I would like to participate and give back to the city I grew up in,” she stated in her application. “I feel my experience will provide me the tools to provide assistance and support to the City of Gilroy.”
Cummins is a Human Resources employee with Santa Clara County who has extensive experience working with labor in public agencies. Cummins, who recently bought a home in Gilroy, believes she can provide a voice and represent the younger demographic in Gilroy.
“I am committed to improving this process for public agencies that are often cumbersome and hinders efficient hiring and personnel practices that lead to issues with productivity and goal achievement,” Cummins said in her application.
Tomasello is the current Chairperson of the Personnel Commission and is applying for her fourth term on the board. Tomasello is on the Board of Directors for the Gilroy Foundation, the Latino Family Fund Board, A St. Louise Hospital trustee, serves on the board of the Gilroy Hall of Fame and is on the Mayor’s Paseo Committee.
Domingo Chavez and Martha Johanson are the applicants for the two available spots on the Physically Challenged Board of Appeals.
Chavez moved to Gilroy a year-and-a-half ago and is dependant on a motorized scooter for his mobility. Chavez decided to apply to the board after experiencing barriers to accessibility on Gilroy city streets.
“I decided instead of complaining about the problem I would do something about it instead,” Chavez said.
In 1989 Chavez served on the Watsonville Restoration Coalition Coordinator.
Johanson is the current Chairperson of the Physically Challenged Board of Appeals and is seeking another term. The parent of a child with disabilities, Johanson is committed to advocating to ensure that all Gilroyans has access to everything part of Gilroy.
The most highly sought over positions are for the Planning Commission which finds Chairperson Tom Fischer running for re-appointment along with newcomers James D. Fay, Sam Kim, Steve Seebart, Patricia Giordano and young Marine Corp veterans Omkar Ranade and Travis Belanger.
Fischer, a 40 year Gilroy resident and the current Chairperson of the Planning Commission is seeking reappointment. Fischer also serves on the General Plan Advisory Commission, the Development Standards Task Force, the Citizens Advisory Committee for High-Speed Rail Downtown Area Plan, Community Working Group for High-Speed Rail and the Technical Advisory Group for High-Speed Rail and on the technical review and zoning review subcommittees of the Development Standards Task Force. Fischer has attended various city planning training workshops and has faithfully worked towards the fulfillment of the city’s general plan.
Fischer is a retired plumber with 35 years experience in the construction industry with 17 years as a project manager and estimator.
“When I moved here 40 years ago and the population was 14,000 and all the new people on the panel here think we still we have small-town charm, so we must be doing something right,” Fischer said.
With a background that includes a 20-year career of practicing transactional and general corporate law, as well as working as a Chief Financial Officer, Fay hopes to work towards smart growth in Gilroy.
“I would like to support the smart development of the city, enhancing the quality of life, safety, security and opportunity for its citizens and visitors,” he stated in his application.
Fay’s qualities include strong listening skills, objective decision making that is both fair and open-minded. Fay has recently become active in issues surrounding the development of Hecker Pass and Gilroy Gardens and is hoping to both provide valuable input to the city council, but to also organize citizens.
Seebart is a relatively new but active resident of Gilroy. Seebart was an active participant in the 2016 Gilroy Citizen Summit and has been the Chairperson of the Gilroy Historic Heritage Committee since April 2016.
Seebart is a small business owner, a volunteer with the United States National Archives and California Genealogical Society, a board member of the Ponderosa PTA, little league coach in Sunnyvale and had previously served on the planning commission in Patton Township Pennsylvania.
“While there is more to learn, these prior experiences provide me a good background in the forces driving Gilroy and reasonable measures we can take to manage our city’s future,” Seebart said in his application.
Belanger, a five-year Marine Corp veteran with a background in economics, moved to Gilroy last year from Santa Clara and is seeking to make a positive impact on his new community.
“My degree in economics helps me to understand the importance of maintaining supply and demand and to maximize benefits of a community,” Belanger stated in his application. “My service in the Marine Corp means that I’m a strong team player who can be counted on to get the job done.”
Sam Kim, a former officer in the Navy, serving on board the USS Niagara Falls. Kim is the Chief of Information Technology for Santa Clara County. Formally a resident of Clark County Washington, Kim was a member of the county railroad zoning task force and served on the School District Board of Directors for 16 years. In Clark County, he also served as president of a neighborhood association, a member of the Rotary Club. It is Kim’s goal to ensure the quality of life in Gilroy while keeping good jobs in town while providing good affordable housing.
“I live in a one bedroom apartment here in Gilroy and it’s shocking how much it costs,” Kim said.
Omkar Ranade, a Marine Corp veteran, who wants to serve on the Planning Commission to help preserve Gilroy’s small-town feeling. Ranade, a recent Gilroy resident and homeowner, works as a logistician who also works as a real estate broker is confident that his background will help him preserve the city’s standard of living as it works to bring in new tech business to town.
“Smart growth does not necessarily mean low-wage jobs,” Ranade said. “We need to attract jobs that will allow Gilroyans to stay and raise families.”
Bozzo is applying for reappointment to the Public Art Commission. Bozzo’s main goal is to focus on fundraising to help bring more public art into the community, like the mural at the Gilroy Public Library. She would like to see a portion of the city’s general fund dedicated to funding public art projects.
Patricia Giordano has also applied for a seat on the Planning Commission, but stated when asked if she would serve on another commission, she would.
James D. Fay has also applied to serve on the Open Government Commission.