San Juan Bautista Mayor Jim West was found dead in his vehicle at his Graniterock workplace on San Juan Highway Thursday, Dec. 6, at approximately 11:30am, according to city and county authorities.
West was nearing the end of his first term as mayor. He had not sought re-election.
San Juan Bautista Councilmember John Freeman sent out the following press release Thursday afternoon:
“The City of San Juan Bautista was very saddened today to learn of the passing of its mayor and beloved resident, the Honorable Jim West.
“Mayor West was a long-time resident of San Benito County and recently made San Juan Bautista his home, where he turned his attention and tireless, never-ending spirit of community involvement to helping the citizens of the Mission City and the local community.
“Jim was also the passionate representative of Graniterock, a company he emphatically believed in, loved and epitomized wherever he went.
“Jim leaves behind many great friends, colleagues and associates in our community, and his presence will be greatly missed.
“The City of San Juan Bautista wishes to extend its most heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends. You will be missed, Mr. Mayor.”
San Benito County Sheriff’s deputies were called to West’s workplace, Graniterock, 2391 San Juan Highway, on Thursday morning, Dec. 6, by an employee who reported West’s death. The cause of death was not immediately determined, and will be released pending results of an autopsy.
West had been a fixture in San Benito County for nearly two decades. He not only served as the mayor. He was also elected to the San Benito County Health Care District, was appointed to the County Parks and Recreation Commission and was on the board of directors for the United Way.
“Jim touched hearts and lives in our county. His generosity and commitment to put his community first will not be forgotten and is an inspiration to us all. We send our love and prayers to Jim’s family during this difficult time,” said the Sheriff’s Department in a statement.
The death is not a criminal case and was not work-related, according to a statement from Captain Eric Taylor.
West did not seek reelection for a second term on the San Juan Bautista City Council in November’s election.
The San Juan Bautista City Council canceled a special meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday in light of West’s death.
Anthony Botelho, chair of the San Benito County Board of Supervisors, on Oct. 7, released the following statement on behalf of the board:
“On behalf of the Board of Supervisors of San Benito County, I would like to extend my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the Honorable Jim West, Mayor of San Juan Bautista.
“Mayor West was the consummate public servant who loved his city and the people he served. His dedication and leadership was an inspiration to others, including myself.
“Throughout his long and distinguished history of public service, Mayor West served on various committees that have resulted in positive change for not only the City of San Juan Bautista, but the county as a whole. Some of his contributions to the community included serving on the Fire Protection Advisory Committee, Intergovernmental Committee, the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), and numerous other community charitable organizations.
Jim West was a valuable employee of Graniterock where he developed partnerships with the county and the community for many worthwhile causes. His dedication to better the lives of the community will be sorely missed.
The County of San Benito joins the City of San Juan Bautista, Graniterock, and all of those who knew and loved Mayor Jim West in this difficult time of mourning and remembrance.