Trio vie for District 4 seat

All three District 4 candidates laugh as Tracie Cone playfully jabs John Hodges after Hodges gave his closing statement during Tuesday night's candidate forum.

District 4 covers much of rural San Benito County
District 4 spreads from Ridgemark to New Idria, with a large
part of its district in the rural southern region of San Benito
County. The district supervisor has to balance the needs of its
urban population with that of its rural constituents, which include
ranchers and residents who live in remote areas. The state of local
roads, access to emergency services and the maintenance of
agricultural lands as the urban area spreads are all issues brought
up by candidates for District 4.
District 4 covers much of rural San Benito County

District 4 spreads from Ridgemark to New Idria, with a large part of its district in the rural southern region of San Benito County. The district supervisor has to balance the needs of its urban population with that of its rural constituents, which include ranchers and residents who live in remote areas. The state of local roads, access to emergency services and the maintenance of agricultural lands as the urban area spreads are all issues brought up by candidates for District 4.

Editor’s Note: Due to a death in the family this week, candidate Tracie Cone was not able to respond to all questions posed by The Pinnacle.

Tracie L. Cone, a rancher and former publisher of the Pinnacle Newspaper, has been actively involved as a volunteer in San Benito since she moved to the county 10 years ago. She wants to focus the county on tourism as the economic future rather than big developments. She supports managed growth, a balanced budget and open communication between leaders and the public. “Restoring openness and honesty to county government so that citizens have faith that their leaders are acting for them…” is one of Cone’s top priorities.

John Hodges, current county clerk/auditor/recorder, has a long history in San Benito County – his family dates back five generations. “My family has a deep-rooted history in this County of which I am very proud,” he said. Hodges believes the rural and agricultural heritage of the county needs to be maintained and that infrastructure concerns need to be addressed before future developments can be considered. He has a bleak view of the county if it continues on its current course, with low quality drinking water and continued sewage problems.

Incumbent Reb Monaco chaired the board in 2005. He labels himself as a supporter of “smart growth” and believes each development should be considered based on its assets and liabilities within the county. Unlike the other candidates, he supports votes of no confidence by the Board of Supervisors against other elected officials. “When the public has addressed its representatives with concerns about a public official, I believe that a vote of no confidence is a viable way for the supervisors to express their concerns about another elected official,” Monaco said.

The candidates answered key questions about San Benito County and District 3 for the Pinnacle.

Tracie L. Cone

Years of residence in San Benito: 10

Experience: Cone has volunteered extensively in the community, with the Community Pantry, United Way, the Hollister Gang Task Force and the Wildlife Center while running a successful business in the county.

Reason for running: The county is at a crossroads in terms of development and she feels the majority of the board is in favor of major development projects. She wants to see development that will maintain farmland and parks for future generations.

Issues unique to the district: Emergency services are a concern in the rural parts of the district, as is the need to maintain open spaces while rewarding landowners who preserve vistas and wildlife habitat.

Top issues facing San Benito: Managing growth so that the county benefits from it, funding law enforcement to fight gangs while working on prevention efforts, and restoring trust in local leaders are the main issues facing the county as a whole.

View on DMB’s Rancho San Benito and Del Webb projects: The projects need to be reviewed for their environmental impact on the floodplain and for economic impact, though both projects fail to meet the current county General Plan requirements.

Growth stance: She does not support leapfrog developments or those within the airport flight path. She supports managed growth in which mitigations exceed impacts.

View on economic development, specifically tourism: With the mission, wineries and rare condors, the county could bring in upscale tourists with disposable income to spend. Cone sees tourism is the best and fastest chance for economic recovery.

Example of compromise: See editor’s note above.

View of votes of no confidence: See editor’s note above.

Roadways: See editor’s note above.

The county in 2025: If she is elected, Cone envisions a county that will have preserved its open spaces and agricultural heritage, while growing outward from Hollister. The downtown will be filled with retail, restaurants and nightlife, while organic farms fill the rural areas.

John R. Hodges

Years of residence in San Benito: Life-Long resident

Family: Married with five grown children and nine grandchildren, Hodges’ family dates back 138 years in San Benito.

Experience: He started his political career in 1961, as county assessor. He has served on the school board, city council and as mayor. He currently serves as county clerk/auditor/recorder, an office he was first elected to in 1982.

Reason for running: With a long family history and a pride in the county, Hodges said he wants to maintain the clean air, water and safe environment for his grandchildren.

Issues unique to the district: Public safety, fiscal policy and poor infrastructure are important to District 4.

Top issues facing San Benito: Responsible management of the budget, a general plan that will protect the environment and rural lifestyles, and public safety are the most important issues in the county.

View on DMB’s Rancho San Benito and Del Webb projects: Major developments such as these could cost the county money in the future for infrastructure such as public safety, water resources, roads, parks and sewers.

Growth stance: A general plan needs to be developed that will address current infrastructure needs before new development takes place. Infrastructure should keep pace with future development.

View on economic development, specifically tourism: The county should recognize and develop already existing tourist attractions as a source for sales tax revenues.

Example of compromise: Working with federal, state and local officials giving different input, Hodges was able to negotiate in his public official roles.

View of votes of no confidence: The board of supervisors should not conduct votes of no confidence on other elected officials.

Roadways: The County should tap federal and state funding to maintain local roadways such as Highway 25, Nash Road and Hospital Road.

The county in 2025: A bleak view for the county, Hodges envisions infrastructure problems, increased gang problems and no public libraries if the county maintains its current course.

Reb Monaco

Years of residence in San Benito: 38

Experience: An incumbent, Monaco served as the Board chair in 2005. He prides himself on being available to his constituents and his consensus-building skills.

Reason for running: Continuing his work on balancing the budget, managing growth and assuring community safety, transportation needs and economic development.

Issues unique to the district: The closing gap between urbanization and agricultural traditions is a major issue in District 4, as the county tries to balance urban pressures with the viability of agriculture.

Top issues facing San Benito: Balancing the budget, working on viable economic development and maintaining the health and safety of its citizens are the top issues facing San Benito County.

View on DMB’s Rancho San Benito and Del Webb projects: Monaco has reserved his judgment on the developments until he can review the specific assets and liabilities of the project when it is presented to the Board

Growth stance: A “smart growth” proponent, he supports developments that have mixed land use, compact building design, a range of housing opportunities that maintain open space, critical habitat and integrate with the existing community.

View on economic development, specifically tourism: Tourism is one component of a vital economy, but it has to be balanced with safety and traffic concerns around the destinations while minimizing the impact on existing residential or agricultural areas.

Example of compromise: As chair of the board, Monaco helped the board reach consensus on the budget, a local casino proposal and staffing issues.

View of votes of no confidence: If the public brings a concern about an elected official to the board, a vote of no confidence is a viable way for the supervisors to express their concerns.

Roadways: Supervisors need to focus on getting more money to deal with county roads.

The county in 2025: Monaco sees the future of San Benito as a community with a proud sense of identity, a strong economy that is safe for all residents.

District 4 at-a-glance

· Type of race: Non-partisan county race

· Boundaries: South County, Southeast Hollister, Tres Pinos, Ridgemark, Paicines, Bitterwater, New Idria.

· Term of office: 4 years

· Number of constituents: approximately 11,000

· Salary: $43,451.91 annually

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