Watsonville city manager
Watsonville’s new city manager, Rene Mendez (center), greets city council member Lowell Hurst (right), Pajaro Valley Unified School District Trustee Maria Orozco and others Wednesday at the Civic Plaza Building. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE—Dozens of City of Watsonville employees, Watsonville residents, community organizers, elected leaders and nonprofit chiefs cycled through the Community Room at the Civic Plaza to welcome new city manager Rene Mendez on Wednesday evening.

Mendez, who took over as the city’s chief executive on July 1, said that the informal event was a supplement to his ongoing efforts to meet people he will be working with for the foreseeable future.

“It’s going to take time for us to get to know each other, obviously, but I think this is a step in the right direction,” Mendez said.

Mendez spent the past 18 years as the city manager of Gonzales, the South Monterey County city of roughly 9,000 people. He said that over his first three weeks on the job most things that he had heard about Watsonville as an outsider has been largely confirmed.

“Some of the nonprofits and the groups that I’m meeting … their work comes from the heart,” Mendez said. “It’s validating my perception about what I heard about Watsonville … When I’m out meeting businesses or walking into a store, and I introduce myself, it’s all been somewhat easy.”

Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County CEO Erica Padilla-Chavez was among the people in attendance. Like Mendez, Padilla-Chavez has been busy catching up with her organization’s efforts after taking over as the food bank’s chief executive earlier this month.

Padilla-Chavez, previously the CEO of Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance, said she was excited about the possibility of working closely with Mendez to address the “health and well-being of the community.”

“I happen to know his work, so I know that’s a particular area of experience and expertise that he has,” she said. “I’m really excited about anchoring health and wellness into the policy platform for the city.”

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Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor of The Pajaronian for five years and three years as Managing Editor. He is a Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus.


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