PASSING THE GAVEL Outgoing Mayor Roland Velasco hands incoming Mayor Marie Blankley the gavel at the Gilroy City Council Chambers on Dec. 7. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

Marie Blankley was sworn in as Gilroy’s mayor Dec. 7, taking over the position that will lead the city council through a pandemic and economic recovery in the years ahead.

Two new faces, Rebeca Armendariz and Zach Hilton, joined the council as well, while Fred Tovar was re-elected for another term and Carol Marques was appointed to fill a vacancy.

Blankley handily won her election, garnering 68.86 percent of the votes in the two-person mayoral race on Nov. 3, according to final results certified Dec. 3. She was first appointed to the Gilroy City Council to fill an open seat in 2018, and later that year was elected to a four-year term. 

“I’m proud to have this opportunity to lead the town that I love through the bumpy road ahead,” she said. “It is truly an honor to have the voters put their trust and faith in me to guide us onto greater prosperity.”

Blankley is the second woman in Gilroy’s history to be elected mayor. The first was Roberta Hughan, who served from 1983-1991.

OATH OF OFFICE Gilroy City Clerk Shawna Freels (left) swears in Marie Blankley as mayor during a brief socially distant ceremony attended by Blankley’s family. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

She takes over the gavel from Roland Velasco, who was elected mayor in 2016. Velasco previously served on the city council from 1997 to 2007, and returned to the council in 2014.

Velasco thanked the council, his family and everyone he worked with throughout his tenure.

“When I was first elected back in 2016, I didn’t really have a lot of priorities,” he said. “My only real goal was to restore faith and trust in the mayor’s office. The mayor’s office has always been bigger than any one individual. It’s the office that represents the people of Gilroy. I wanted to bring some confidence back to the office.

“I hope that all of you would know that you could count on me to hear you out…so at the end of the day I know that I tried to make the best decision I can for the city.”

The council also said goodbye to longtime member Cat Tucker, who has served on the council since 2007. Before that, she served on various city boards beginning in 1997.

“I’m happy to have given it my all, and I know in my heart the city is better for it,” she said.

Armendariz, Hilton, Tovar and Marques were also sworn in to the council.

Armendariz is a founding board member and current president of CARAS, a nonprofit that focuses on advocacy, service and cultural events. Hilton, a 20-year City of Oakland firefighter/paramedic, has served as chair of the Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission. Tovar was first elected to the council in 2016, part of 16 years in public service that included time on the California Community College Trustees Board and Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education.

By being elected mayor, Blankley’s council seat became vacant with two years remaining on its term. Rather than calling a special election, which comes with an estimated $300,000 price tag, or taking applications from those interested in filling the seat, the council decided to appoint Marques on a nomination from Tovar.

Marques, who was elected to the council in 2018 to fill a two-year vacancy, was the next highest vote-getter in the Nov. 3 election.

Marques told the Dispatch that she is “very honored” to be appointed to the council for the next two years. She said it will allow her to see some projects that she worked on with the council come to fruition, such as homelessness and downtown revitalization efforts, as well as finding a developer to plan a recreational attraction at the 536 acres on Hecker Pass Highway.

“Helping the council and city administration get the city back on its feet economically due to the pandemic is another challenge I look forward to tackling,” she said. “Having the experience of the last two years guiding me, I feel I can hit the ground running and can be an asset to the council. I am excited to be part of this team.”

Hilton cast the lone dissenting vote for Marques’ appointment. After the meeting, he said he has a “great working relationship with Carol Marques but I never heard her publicly state that she wanted the position or what work she still wanted to complete.”

“I would have felt more comfortable supporting her appointment if there was a chance to hear from her during public comment or other council members advocate for her before a motion was immediately made when the item was brought up for discussion,” Hilton said. “I would have preferred to debate our options in the public view before showing the public that the council was just bringing back someone that wasn’t elected.”

Also during Dec. 7’s meeting, Tovar was appointed mayor pro tempore.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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