Longtime Gilroy City Councilmember Peter Leroe-Muñoz has decided not to pursue a fourth term after serving in his seat for 12 years.
The nomination period for the November election ended on Aug. 17, with six candidates qualifying for the ballot who will vie to fill the three open council seats.
“When I joined the council back in 2010, I told people I viewed this role as something I hold in trust and eventually give back to the public,” Leroe-Muñoz said. “That’s what I’m doing. I think it’s time for others in the community to have the opportunity to serve on the council. I hope my stepping down may open the doors for other leaders to step forward.”
Leroe-Muñoz will continue his work as an attorney representing the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, focusing on the ever-changing policies in the technology world. He also plans to remain active in Gilroy by continuing his role with the South County Youth Task Force, which is a partnership of local jurisdictions that aim to create positive alternatives for young people at risk of falling into a violent lifestyle.
As for other future plans, Leroe-Muñoz said that’s to be determined after his council term ends in December.
“I have no immediate plans to run for office in the near-term future,” said Leroe-Muñoz, who unsuccessfully ran for State Assembly in 2018. “But, I have been doing this long enough to never say never. I will keep my options open.”
Leroe-Muñoz entered the council race in 2010 during a time when public safety and the rise in gang activity in Gilroy was among the top concerns of residents, he said. He noted that his prior experience as a deputy district attorney in San Benito County gave him a unique perspective to tackle the issue, having been involved in both the prevention and suppression sides of crime-fighting.
The Youth Task Force, which formed in January 2012, has played a major role in making Gilroy a safer city, according to Leroe-Muñoz, who said events such as Ice Cream with a Cop and National Night Out have allowed families and public safety personnel to interact in a positive environment.
Gilroy’s public safety was thrown into a national spotlight following the 2019 shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, where three people were killed and 17 others were injured. Leroe-Muñoz said he and other city leaders were able to be the voice of Gilroy to the outside world and stress the importance of the event on the city’s culture.
“We were able to speak about what the city was going through to people who didn’t really know Gilroy, expressing why the Garlic Festival means so much to us and how difficult it was for us to address the emotions in the weeks and months later,” he said. “I’m proud of just being able to offer that small bit of leadership.”
Leroe-Muñoz, who has served as Gilroy’s representative on a variety of regional boards such as Valley Water, Association of Bay Area Governments and the Silicon Valley Regional Interoperability Authority, also stressed how critical it is for the city to have a seat at the regional table, when so often Santa Clara County’s southernmost city gets overlooked by decision-makers in the northern areas of the county.
Leroe-Muñoz said the future council has many issues to address in the coming years, mainly homelessness, unfunded liabilities and how Gilroy can expand on its unique attributes.
Being on the council comes with a steep learning curve, where members have to quickly get up to speed on numerous issues they may or may not be familiar with.
“I don’t think anyone can come into this role having fully prepared for it,” he said. “There’s so much learning that happens on the job.”
Leroe-Muñoz advised new council members to always keep the city’s best interests “top of mind.”
“There’s going to be times when you may disagree with colleagues, and times when you may not always get along as well as you’d like,” he said. “When you keep the city’s best interest top of mind, that’s always your guiding star. Even when we disagree we are all trying to work in the best interests of the city. That has to be at the core of every decision a council member makes.”
Leroe-Muñoz thanked the voters, community, city staff and his colleagues for helping him along his 12-year council career.
“This has been a tremendous ride,” he said. “I cannot express how personally fulfilling this has been for me and how exciting it was to be part of something much larger than I am. This has been one of the highlights of my career, and I’m very excited to see what others do in regards to the future of Gilroy.”