Santa Paula Council: Araiza Chosen for Experience and Contacts

By Sheryl Hamlin

On Wednesday September 26th, the Santa Paula Council ended the selection for the replacement for Martin Hernandez who resigned effective as of August 1, 2018 with the appointment of former Fire Chief Rick Araiza for the remainder of the Hernandez’ term, which is about two years.

Monday Night Interviews

There were twelve applicants for the vacant seat. Two dropped out: Luna (running for SPUSD board) and Melgar (citing business pressures). Of the remaining ten, two were unable to be present for the interviews on Monday: Gary Nasalroad and Janet Vasquez.

Eight were interviewed. Each candidate added a unique and insightful view of the city and the issues it faces. All were asked the same four questions by a different council member.

Highlights of Monday Interviews

Margaux Bangs, current chair of the Planning Commission, said that one of the challenges with the new growth in East Area 1 was keeping the dollars spent by the new residents in Santa Paula.

Andy Sobel, whose opening statement was comprehensive and pragmatic, said that although East Area would bring new spenders, the traffic issues will exacerbate. Sobel also noted the tension between new growth and open space while reading the General Plan documents.

Erin Bader, who is new to Santa Paula and is trying to build a house here with the idea of also opening a business, said that East Area 1 will be a challenge for the schools as well as a geographic challenge to integrate the East Area into the fabric of the city. As a registered nurse with an Marriage and Family Therapy license, she says mental health issues, particularly downtown, are evident.

Rick Araiza cited 32 years in some form of city government and a family history of 100 years in the area. Araiza said that “box stores won’t come”, so the city needs to foster entrepreneurs who may have ideas but don’t know the steps to implement the ideas. His top three issues: enhance public safety infrastructure, water rates, youth and arts. The 1960’s building now occupied by SPPD contains many code violations, he said.

Lonnie English, who is the director of One Step a la Vez, cited the potential of a partnership with Limoneira and Ventura County Community College District in East Area 1. Challenges will be traffic and low-income housing. She said there are still “racial color lines” in Santa Paula to overcome.

Harold Arsenault, a t-shirt entrepreneur with a law degree, has recently moved to Santa Paula and said that the city needs more experiences for disasbled and seniors. He was not aware of the East Area 1 project.

Derek Fourage, an accountant with the county of Ventura, said that Santa Paula’s utility bills are not sustainable. The city should consider a contract with the Ventura County Sheriff citing other cities (Moorpark, Fillmore and Camarillo) who have successfully contracted with VCSD.

John Marquez, a native with thirty years in business, said that Santa Paula must address homelessness, business friendly policies, youth services, roads, infrastructure, public safety and fire. He said that Santa Paula must not emulate Moorpark who built the new part of town and ignored the old part of town.


All council members marked four names. On the first round, the vote was: Bangs (2), Sobel (3), Bader (0), Araiza (2), English (3), Arcenault (0), Fourage (1), Marquez (3), Nasalroad (2)

Since there were only three who received a majority, the option were to interview only three or take another vote to select a fourth candidate. The latter option was chosen.

On the second round of voting the results were: Bangs(1), Araiza(3). So Rick Araiza was added to the round of four.

Wednesday Interviews

The Wednesday interviews consisted of two questions per council member, all identical. Each candidate could also give a five minute opening statement

Andy Sobel

Andy Sobel stated that he had attended all council meetings for over a year and read the agenda packets. As a Measure T Commissioner, he supported the tax, yet was concerned the city was too dependent on Measure T monies. Top issues included: communication, replacing website, transparency and working with community/schools.

Rick Araiza

His top three goals would be public safety infrastructure, youth infrastructure, Measure T monies and grants. He enumerated dozens of organizations where he volunteered. He cited organizations where he could pick up the phone and call people.

John Marquez

Describing a large and loving family, John Marquez referenced the “charm and character” of Santa Paula. He supported Measure T but said the percentages must be re-allocated as the city grows. He cited the need for more communication to get people behind the council.

Kay English

She said the youth council giving advisory input about Measure T was extremely helpful. The Youth Needs Assessment should be done for all services. She suggested fixing the roads for the poor neighborhoods. Although not technically a millennial, she said she had the digital skills of a millennial and would be an asset with policy research. She was concerned about families not having access to human services, as well as the homeless population.

The Voting

The council took a “straw” vote to see where they were in the collective mindset. The results of this voting were: Araiza(2), Sobel (1) and Marquez (1). Council Member Garman said that he would agree to change to Araiza who was his second choice. Council Member Crosswhite cited the depth and perspective of Andy Sobel. Mayor Gherardi said that Rick Araiza had contacts that would benefit the city. John Procter said it is not fair to reincarnate Martin Hernandez as a goal.

After the “straw” vote, Vice Mayor Garman moved to appoint Rick Araiza. This passed 4-0.

Special Notes to Voters

If Rick Araiza is one of the three winners on November 6, the election will take precedence, so the council must repeat this entire process. City Attorney Cotti said that the council could call for a special election as well. City Manager Rock indicated it would not be wise to resign the appointment until the county certifies the results of the November 6 election.

All applicants should be applauded for participating in this process.

To watch the entire meeting, click here.

For more information on author click sherylhamlin dot com

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