WATSONVILLE—When Vanessa Quiroz-Carter returned home from college after earning her master’s at Cal State East Bay, she saw that Watsonville had undergone some serious changes.
“Which was really exciting,” she said.
But she also noticed a lot of stagnation.
“Which was disappointing,” she added.
If elected into Watsonville City Council in November, Quiroz-Carter plans to break some of that stagnation. The college communication professor is running against incumbent Aurelio Gonzalez in District 2.
Gonzalez, first voted into office in 2018, has pulled papers to seek reelection and said he hopes to continue to serve the community for the next four years.
“I hope we can continue the progress we’ve made and stay focused on our goals,” he said.
Quiroz-Carter has never held a public office or served on a commission or board, but she said she has worked closely with a handful of local nonprofits and organizations, including the Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County and Revolunas.
Despite her inexperience, she said that she had to run for office to make sure District 2 constituents are being properly represented. A recent decision from the Watsonville City Council to slash funding for the Parks and Community Services and the Public Works & Utilities departments because of mass revenue loss as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic sparked her interest in politics, she said.
“This is a year for new candidates,” she said. “This is a really different time and it’s a time for change.”
Gonzalez in his first term in office spearheaded the city’s decision to bring the Senior Center under its umbrella, and he also helped expand the “Music in the Plaza” summer concert series with a performance featuring the Santa Cruz Symphony and folklórico group Esperanza Del Valle.
He also struck a $384,000 deal between Santa Cruz METRO and Community Bridges to help purchase electric vehicles and a charging station for its Lift Line program, which provides daily transportation for the area’s older adults.
He has held a seat on the board of the Regional Transportation Commission and CAB, serving as the city’s point man for both organizations.
If re-elected, Gonzalez said he wants to continue bridging the gap between community members and the resources available to them, bring exposure to the community’s artists and to push for the completion of the Downtown Specific Plan, which will serve as a blueprint for the future of downtown by setting guidelines for housing, parking, economic development and the look and layout of streets and public spaces, among other things.
He also wants to advocate for Watsonville as the county continues to determine the future of transportation around, to and from the Pajaro Valley with the rail trail project and the construction of highway auxiliary lanes.
“These are items that I might not see in my lifetime but they’re things that I want to move forward,” said Gonzalez, a longtime Watsonville resident who graduated from Watsonville High School and attended Cabrillo College before serving in the Army National Guard for 12 years.
Quiroz-Carter first attended Cabrillo College and then transferred to UC Berkeley where she studied English literature. She finished up her education at Cal State East Bay in 2018, earning a degree in communication.
Former Watsonville Mayor Eduardo Montesino on July 17 pulled papers to run in District 1, which is currently represented by Councilman Felipe Hernandez, who will be termed out in November.
Richard Valdez pulled papers to run in District 6 against former City Councilman Jimmy Dutra. The winner of that seat will be Mayor in 2021.
Councilwoman Trina Coffman-Gomez currently represents District 6 but will be termed out in November.
Montesino and Valdez did not return an email asking for comment by press time.
For information on the candidates of the filling process click here.