2018 was a year to expect the unexpected.
An election year always brings changes, and with the majority of seats open for two of the Pajaro Valley’s major decision-making bodies, a new look was guaranteed.
But 2018 brought much more than Watsonville expected at the onset of the year.
Watsonville City Councilman Oscar Rios, elected in 2016, resigned abruptly in February following misconduct allegations from decades’ past.
Three months later, Watsonville’s city manager since 2015, Charles Montoya, announced his resignation after he accepted a position in Avondale, Ariz.
By mid-year, the council promoted its assistant city manager, Matt Huffaker, to the top position, and welcomed a new council member, Aurelio Gonzalez, to replace Rios.
But the reshaping of the city’s government wasn’t done yet.
The November election saw political newcomer Francisco Estrada become Watsonville’s mayor, who will lead the council in 2019. Nine-year city council veteran Nancy Bilicich termed out, replaced by Ari Parker, while Jimmy Dutra, who chose not to re-run for council, saw his county supervisor bid fall short.
The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees also received a shake-up that not many saw coming.
Willie Yahiro, a 28-year stalwart of the board, was upset by Daniel Dodge Jr. in the November election. Longtime trustee Leslie De Rose’s time on the board also came to an end thanks to another newcomer, Jennifer Schacher. Jeff Ursino, after two terms on the board, opted not to run again, and his seat has been filled by Jennifer Holm.
All of these changes were amid the city’s sesquicentennial celebration, making it an historic year, in more ways than one.
Changes weren’t just made at the top. The Register-Pajaronian, also celebrating 150 years in 2018, announced a change in its publication schedule, reducing its print edition from three days to one large edition on Fridays, while becoming a daily publication online.
S. Martinelli & Co., completing the sesquicentennial trifecta, returned to its roots by producing hard cider, the first such batch since it was forced to discontinue the product during Prohibition.
Some decisions made in 2018 could come to fruition in 2019. At long last, Pajaro Valley High School’s athletic field project was approved, and may see the shovels hit the ground within the next year.
Perhaps the largest buzz-generator in 2018 was the announcement that Staff of Life would move into the East Lake Village Shopping Center, filling the spot left vacant by Super Max. Staff of Life is expected to open sometime in 2019.
In this week’s edition, the Register-Pajaronian compiled some of the major stories of 2018. It is not a comprehensive list, but rather, it is meant to highlight what happened in the surprising year that was 2018.