Candidates bring business approach to county board race

This sign was in front of the old courthouse in June 2014.

Two candidates looking to succeed Supervisor Margie Barrios on the county board representing District 1 both bring a business-like approach to their candidacies.
Mark Medina and Mark Starritt are facing off for the job on the June ballot. Since there are two candidates, voters in that district will choose the winner on the primary ballot in less than two months as opposed to waiting until November’s general election. District 1 is made up of northeast Hollister and north county areas.
The two businessmen both grew up in the county, and each brings vast experience from the private sector.
In listing off his top needs, Starritt said he wants to provide more resources to public safety departments.
“Salinas didn’t happen overnight,” he said in an interview with the Free Lance. “We could follow that if we’re not careful.”
Medina said among his focuses, he would look to work with local media to regularly inform the public. In general, he wants to bring more businesses to the community, he said. Specifically, he would want to be notified anytime a local commercial or real estate interest has a lead.
“I want to be notified so I can open up to them and say, ‘These are the people you need to talk to.’” said Medina, who also noted how he’s worked in various states, in an interview with the Free Lance.
Starritt also stressed how the county needs to attract new businesses. As someone who does a lot of business north of town, he understands that commuting isn’t ideal for people.
“People don’t want to commute. They really don’t,” Starritt said.
Both candidates talked about the balance of growth as it relates to residential, commercial and industrial development.
“Unfortunately, right now, we don’t have that balance,” Medina said.
He said he would push for a plan to fast track commercial and industrial proposals, ahead of residential projects, which could create a certain number of jobs.
“That’s what I want to be able to do,” Medina said. “I want to be able to fast track to attract other businesses.”
Starritt said he understands things “from the other side of the counter” as a longtime businessman and he would support local business-friendly legislation.
“We’ve proven we can do the housing thing in San Benito County,” Starritt said. “We need to get businesses.”
One business sector garnering much debate among local officials has been tourism. Government entities such as Hollister and San Benito County have donated funds toward chamber of commerce efforts to boost tourism here.
Medina said with tourism, the local culture has to think more about providing good customer service to visitors.
“But we need more tourism also,” he said. “We need to attract people to set up tourist spots.”
Both pointed to the wineries, Pinnacles and Mission San Juan Bautista as assets from which to benefit.
“We’ve got some great things going for us with the tremendous wine industry here,” Starritt said. “A lot of people come down here to cycle. With the current condition of the roads, they’re taking their lives in their hands.”
Starritt and Medina both said they supported the half-cent sales tax measure on the June ballot to fund roads projects. Starritt said if elected, he would support funding continued road maintenance even if the economy goes sour.
“You can’t ignore a situation,” he said. “It does not go away. It only gets worse.”
Medina said he liked the idea that the measure requires specifying how the money will be spent.
“The residents will know exactly where the money’s going,” he said.
In recent months, supervisors have been discussing how to spend tax dollars on future homeless shelter and library facilities.
Medina said the homeless site is “a hard one for me.”
“The only thing I would look at with a homeless shelter is making sure it’s in an area where it’s less populated and it’s not representing San Benito County in a way where it’s going to keep businesses from coming here.”
With the library, Medina said it’s needed but that the county also needs to share the cost with other entities such as the City of Hollister and schools.
Starritt said he thinks the targeted site on San Felipe Road works for a shelter or else another location could be adapted.
“It’s our responsibility as a caring society to take care of the problems we see here,” he said.
He supports working toward a new library, but doesn’t think the county needs to go overboard “like the courthouse.”
Candidate Bios
Name: Mark Medina
Age: 46
Family: Married with one child
Occupation: Businessman
Name: Mark Starritt
Age: 66
Family: Married with three children
Occupation: General building contractor/commercial pilot instructor

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