Six candidates are running for the San Benito County Board of Supervisors District 1 seat in the June 7 primary election. The winner will complete the term of Mark Medina, who resigned less than two years into his second term. Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Betsy Dirks to the seat on Oct. 28. Because it is considered the 2020-24 term, only District 1 residents who were in District 1 prior to redistricting are voting in this election. The seat, which covers North County, will be up for election again in 2024. 
 
Betsy Dirks, 44, was born and raised in Eureka. She graduated from high school in Castroville, then attended Gavilan College and CSU-Chico.
Dirks holds an associates degree in liberal studies from Gavilan College, a bachelor of arts in journalism from CSU-Chico and a minor in psychology. She also has a clear, single subject credential in English literature.
BenitoLink: Why are you running? 
Dirks: I ran in 2020 and have now been appointed to the position of supervisor for the last six months. I have showed up to represent this county and I will continue to show up. My husband and I moved to San Benito County 20 years ago and have expanded our family as the county has expanded. I have a strong desire to see the county thrive. I want to help create a place to inspire my children to raise their families here. I want my children to come back to Hollister after they get their education, to not only live, but work in the county. I want to continue the work that I have started as a sitting supervisor. We are making inroads regarding economic development, addressing broadband needs, addressing our housing issues in the county, and addressing the infrastructure. I also want to provide transparency between the county and the community by looking at the culture of the county. With my background in journalism, I am committed to continuing to develop authentic relationships and build trust and transparency with the constituents of San Benito County. We are all in it together.
What are the three most important issues to your district and how would you address them?
One issue would be our infrastructure, which includes roads, potholes and the intersection of Fallon and Fairview. In every district the roads are a concern. They are deteriorating and a lot of the phone calls I get are regarding issues surrounding the roads. As a county we are currently looking at a way to make sure that we have a significant amount of money to address the road situation. I recently provided a Google form and posted it to social media, calling on District 1 residents to respond and reply with the top three road and safety issues they saw in the district, or anywhere else in the county that they wanted to address. I’m making a commitment to get community involvement in all aspects of what I do as a county supervisor. The very first question I asked after I got appointed, was when are we going to get a signal at Fallon and Fairview. There was a two- to three-year timeline given. With the support of Supervisor Kollin Kosmicki, and essentially the rest of the board members, we were able to get that pushed up and it now has one of the highest priorities in the county regarding our roads. They are currently looking at safety and whether or not we should put a signal there or a roundabout. I have advocated and will continue to advocate for interests regarding District 1. We have other roads that have safety issues and I will endeavor to be an advocate to make our roads safer to drive on.
The second issue is the John Smith Landfill. There are constituents in my district that are worried about the expansion and have multiple concerns regarding all that that entails. I have met with the Don’t Dump on San Benito group to hear their concerns and questions. I also have spent time discussing the ins and outs of our agreement with county staff and Waste Solutions. In addition, I have coordinated five tours—every Wednesday through the month of March—that were open to all county residents who wanted to learn directly how the landfill runs and what the expansion entails. This allowed for those directly affected to get information and make informed decisions. We are currently waiting for the environmental impact report to come out. Once the report is published, I will propose that the county provide a meeting regarding the specifics of the EIR. We will also look at the cost and benefits for both the long and short term.
Another Issue that affects our district is the viability for businesses concerning their growth and prosperity while also attracting external opportunities. This is actually an issue for all the districts and the county as a whole. Currently, most of the county revenue is attributed to property tax, where we only get 11 cents on the dollar. We need to diversify our revenue streams and the most impactful way we can do that is through economic development. I have made strides in that direction, by voting for a tax share agreement with the city. I will continue to support avenues and ideas for economic development and for the growth of tourism in our county. We need additional revenue so that we can continue to provide services to all county residents and continue to address our road and infrastructure needs. 
Are there issues, besides those mentioned above, that you feel are important to your district that the public may not know about? 
I am committed to involving the community at all levels, whether it be participating in a committee or simply as giving feedback on a road survey. I am also looking forward to a communication officer coming on board so that we can provide consistent communication from the county office to all the constituents of San Benito County. 
 What’s more important for our county right now, building commercial space for revenue or preserving rural, agricultural land—and why?
We need to provide better infrastructure and services to our county residents, but we do not need to do it at the expense of preserving our rural, agricultural land. This county is growing and there is no doubt that the way we grow matters. Building commercial space to provide jobs in this county is important to the overall economic health of where we are. The jobs that commercial development would provide will allow people to work and live here, cutting down on the amount of people commuting in and out of the county on a daily basis. We do not need to have commercial space at the expense of rural and agricultural land. I am of the mindset that we can have both. We also have entities like the San Benito Land Trust, that ensure that we do have preservation of our agricultural land and our rural character. In addition, the zoning in our general plan protects our prime farmland. We have systems in place to maintain the rural character of our county. It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. We can do both, if we are responsible stewards of what we have been given. 
 What is the role of local government?
The role of local government is to provide systems and services that keep residents safe—both physically and mentally. We need to make sure that basic needs are met so that all of our county residents can have the opportunity for a high quality of life. We oversee public health, safety, infrastructure, planning—including parks, and the budget needs of the county to make sure the above areas are funded and operating at their highest capacities. 
 
Kim Hawk, 65, was born and raised in Hollister. She is a retired San Benito County employee where she worked for over 36 years. She served in the Welfare Department as an accounts clerk, the Auditor’s Office as an accounts payable clerk, and in the Clerk/Recorder’s Office. She also served as a clerk of the Board of Supervisors, in the Elections Office as the elections supervisor, the Public Works Department as its secretary, and back to the Elections Office as elections supervisor. Hawks graduated from San Benito High School and attended Gavilan College, earning a Business Certificate. She has not held public office before. 
 BenitoLink: Why are you running?
Hawk: I am running for Supervisor District 1 because I feel my experience working for the county will help me make better decisions. I have the knowledge of county government and how it works.
What are the three most important issues to your district and how would you address them?
One issue would be the roads that need major repairs. I am familiar with some of the funding used for road repair after working in the Public Works Department. The landfill is another issue that is a priority since we are in the process of trying to expand. The third important issue for me is safety. The county has grown significantly, and we don’t have the law enforcement to cover the entire county. We need to find the funding for this issue.
Are there issues, besides those mentioned above, that you feel are important to your district that the public may not know about?
Housing developments that are coming up. I am not against growth, but we need to proceed in a manner that we can keep up with the infrastructure. Our infrastructure is so far behind the developments, our sewer ponds, water and roads to name a few that we can’t keep up with.
The Strada Verde project is another issue that concerns people. I think we must look to the future and see what is best for the county. The revenue a project like this could bring to the county along with other businesses would be a benefit. The revenue could help with road repairs, parks and salaries for our safety personnel. The jobs would be here locally so people would not have to commute.
Transparency with the finances is another issue that is a concern. People want to know where the money is being spent. All everyone is told is the county doesn’t have the money and they want to raise our taxes. The businesses that we allow to come into the county could raise our tax base, so the taxpayer doesn’t have to keep paying higher taxes.
What’s more important for our county right now, building commercial space for revenue or preserving rural, agricultural land—and why?
It is important for this county to bring in businesses to increase our tax base. Houses are not increasing our tax base or helping our sales tax, because the people are driving out of Hollister to work and do their shopping. We can still preserve rural and agricultural land. This is an agricultural community, and a lot of people depend on the crops grown here. The businesses that bring revenue to the county can fund other projects in the county, such as road repairs and our parks. This county cannot survive on only houses. The taxpayers can’t keep paying more taxes to pay for band-aid fixes on our infrastructure.
What is the role of local government?
Our elected officials are in office to be the voice for the people in San Benito County and make decisions for the good of our community.
 
Sandra Patterson did not respond. 
 
Mark Starritt’s parents moved to Hollister after WWII where they successfully started multiple family businesses. His family moved to Gilroy during his freshman year in high school. Starritt, 72, and his brother started a construction business in San Benito County in 1973. He, his wife Patty and their three children moved back to Hollister from Gilroy in 1995. Starritt has a bachelor of arts in business administration. He has not held elected office before. 
 BenitoLink: Why are you running?
Starritt: SBC is a special place to me and I see it floundering. I have the skill and determination to try and turn this around for the good of our citizens. Although the population has grown considerably from my youth, I believe we can regain the great sense of community we once had. SBC is a great place to live and raise a family. We need to make it a great place to work,  not a great place to commute from.
What are the three most important issues to your district and how would you address them?
The roads are a mess, crime is on the rise and the homeless have found a new home. I realize that is a bit flippant because there are many issues facing our district. SBC never has and never will have enough money to do all that’s directed to do. The only way that is going to change is to focus on job creation to generate the revenue needed and prioritize our commitments.
Are there issues, besides those mentioned above, that you feel are important to your district that the public may not know about?  
It appears that there is a considerable shortage in school funding with many teachers being given pink slips.     
What’s more important for our county right now, building commercial space for revenue or preserving rural, agricultural land—and why?   
I’m a fan of agriculture. I think the question should be and the answer is, fewer homes and more industry. Industry will provide prosperity and jobs for our residents.
What is the role of local government?  
The short answer is get government out of the way. We need to be a job-friendly environment.
 
Dom Zanger, 26, was born and raised in San Benito County. He has a bachelor of arts in communications from UC-Santa Barbara and currently works as a carpenter. Zanger has not held elected office before. 
BenitoLink: Why are you running?
Zanger: I am running because I see the changes taking place that are steering our county in the wrong direction. These changes are so significant that the charming and unique farm community that I grew up in has been transformed into something entirely unrecognizable. I want my future children to have the opportunity that I had: to grow up in a community that they love.
What are the three most important issues to your district and how would you address them?
Residential development: Take action to limit and hinder the residential hyper-growth that we have been experiencing. In addition, holding developers to a higher standard and requiring that they carry their weight when it comes to community development.
Road quality: Fight for allocation of the funds that are already owed to us to repair our literally crumbling roads. In addition, I intend to look for new solutions for the ever-persisting problem of a budget that does not allow for even the most basic infrastructure upkeep.
Dump Expansion: Push back against the expansion of our landfill for the sake of the residents of District 1 as well as for the sake of the county at large.
Are there issues, besides those mentioned above, that you feel are important to your district that the public may not know about?
Crime: The rural areas of our county, which consist greatly in District 1 are very susceptible to rising crime rates. I will work in tandem with the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office to ensure a safer community.
Water: The drought we are currently experiencing is palpable to all of District 1, but particularly the many residents we have that are involved in agriculture. This is an area that of course needs immediate spotlighting but, arguably more important, this problem needs foresight and far off planning regarding items like the expansion of water basins.
 What’s more important for our county right now, building commercial space for revenue or preserving rural, agricultural land—and why?
Preserving rural, agricultural land is, at this time, more important than building commercial space for revenue. Our county is about more than maximizing revenue at all costs. It has a distinct culture and way of life, one worth preserving. If we as a county are not willing to work to preserve what makes us unique, we will soon cease to be unique, and more broadly our county will become unrecognizable to what it once was.
What is the role of local government?
The role of local government is ultimately to provide security for and improve the quality of life of the people for which it is responsible.
 
Elizabeth Zepeda Gonzalez is a lifelong resident of San Benito County, growing up in Hollister, where her family were migrant farm workers. She attended local public schools and her family still live in the area. She is currently a Trustee on the San Benito Board of Education. Zepeda Gonzalez, who declined to give her age, holds a bachelor of arts in social and behavioral science and currently works as a nonprofit administrator. She practiced immigration law under the Board of Immigration Appeals accreditation and has served farmworkers and the most vulnerable. Gonzalez serves as the Deputy State Director for LULAC.
BenitoLink: Why are you running?
Zepeda Gonzalez: Let’s be honest, regardless of your political leanings, the past few years have been extremely frustrating for many of us. I have felt that frustration and am the only candidate that has been elected to a county board, I currently serve as a trustee on the San Benito Board of Education. As an elected official I have the experience and I know how to work with outside agencies and become an agent of positive change for District 1. I am also serving as the deputy state director for the oldest civil rights organization in our nation.
 As a lifelong resident of San Benito County who attended our local public schools, I love the area and I am firmly attached to it because it is where my family still is, it is where we work, and the area is the most beautiful, I wouldn’t live anywhere else. I feel confident that I can provide a new voice and a new vision. A change we need and a voice we deserve.
What are the three most important issues to your district and how would you address them?
Water Shortage: As California continues into the third year of being in a drought, farmers in San Benito County are currently not receiving Blue Valve water and are under new water restrictions. The last time the San Benito County Water District received its full allocation of state water was in 2017. The water that’s imported and allocated for San Benito farmers comes from the San Luis Reservoir. Last year, the reservoir’s water levels hit historic lows and were informed that they will not be receiving any water from it for the remainder of this year. Due to Hernandez and Paicines Reservoirs being empty, for the first time, San Benito County Water District, knowing we would be having a minimal rainfall this year, advised the farmers for the first time in history 
they would be allowed to conserve last year’s allocations to this year. Only the City of Hollister and Sunnyslope Water District have access to Blue Valve. While there has been funding set aside in the state budget to address drought and water shortages, the immediate solution for our county is water conservation efforts must immediately go into effect.
Our roads: Fixing the conditions of our local roads. San Benito County has a pavement condition index (PCI)—which is used to determine the condition of roads—of 37, the worst in the state according to the latest figures from the California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment. The average PCI statewide is 65, which is in the “at risk” category. We are 37. Also, egress and ingress, getting in and out of town, needs to be expanded. It’s one of our biggest frustrations. Our county crews do a great job mobilizing during events and afterward getting roads back open as quickly as possible. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them. 
The landfill: The heavy out-of-county trucks coming in and out are causing severe damage to our roads. Engineers estimate that a fully loaded truck—a five-axle rig weighing 80,000 pounds, the interstate maximum—causes more damage to a highway than 5,000 cars. Some road planners say that the toll is even higher, that it would take close to 10,000 cars to equal the damage caused by one heavy truck. The landfill generates $1.8 million in revenue to the county, that is a drop in the bucket compared to the damage being caused to our roads. Also, I have to question why are “we the taxpayers” supplementing the operating cost of a business that is making millions in revenue? Add to that the new Amazon distribution center on San Felipe that also brings in trucks and the new planned distribution center on Technology Drive (with its 200 plus trucks a day) and, in my view, we have a recipe for disaster. 
 Are there issues, besides those mentioned above, that you feel are important to your district that the public may not know about?
The uncontrolled growth, lack of affordable housing and lack of infrastructure that has come with it. While most of the housing growth has been within the city of Hollister, the county is still impacted. I know housing insecurity, I’ve lived it. I love my county, but it has gotten to the point where lifelong residents cannot afford to buy or find affordable rental homes here. Santana Ranch is an example. The developer has failed to uphold its obligation to the county to provide affordable housing. Yet, it was allowed to continue to build. We must hold developers accountable and have them pay for their fair share.
The county has a severe employee retention issue. We have lost valuable employees, who are leaving in mass exodus, taking with them their institutional knowledge. We need to create and support an inclusive culture and invest in employee growth opportunities.
What’s more important for our county right now, building commercial space for revenue or preserving rural, agricultural land—and why?
This is a double-edged sword, as both are equally important. As a child of migrant farmworkers, I know firsthand the importance of our agriculture in the local and global landscape. The severe drought that we are facing has resulted in family farms being sold as farmers are unable to provide a living for their families. California has the world’s fifth-largest economy. Some of this is from our exports of agriculture, and I understand the importance of providing support to our local farmers. Our county is also the fastest growing in the state due to new housing. However, as a county if we want to expand our public safety services (including fire, police, mental health and new schools to accommodate the growth) we must have commercial space as we need the revenue to provide these services.
What is the role of local government?
Local county governments are governed by state law. As such local county authorities are multi-purpose bodies responsible for delivering a broad range of services in relation to roads; traffic; planning; housing; economic and community development; environment, recreation and amenity services; and fire services. State law also requires that county government also serves our unincorporated areas by providing such purely local government facilities and services as highways, police protection, building inspection, planning and zoning. Elected county officials oversee these services through approving the county budget. It’s important that those elected understand their roles in local government and are familiar with state requirements.
 
 
primary election 2022: san benito county board of supervisors district 1 – benitolink: san benito county news We need your help. Support local, nonprofit news! BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team is committed to this community and providing essential, accurate information to our fellow residents. It is expensive to produce local news and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s public service, nonprofit news.
Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College. She reports on science and the environment, arts and human interest pieces. Carmel has worked in the ecological and communication fields and is an avid creative writer and hiker. She has been reporting for BenitoLink since May, 2018 and covers Science and the Environment and Arts and Culture.
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