I am entering my 37th year as a resident of San Benito County, which by many metrics is a long time, but by local standards I am just a “whippersnapper.” Many families can trace their heritage back seven or eight generations—having received land in Spanish land grants, having worked the same soil, or grazed the same land for nearly 200 years. As more and more people move here I think it is important that longtime San Benito County residents try to share that “culture” with them.
San Benito County, if you look on a map, is truly an island between the much more liberal coastal counties and the much more conservative valley counties. You can enter the county via the Pacheco Pass, via Highway 25, via Highway 156, or the long drive up from Coalinga through South County. As we learn during wet years, we can be cut off, and literally become an island.
This is the beauty and part of the “uniqueness” of the county. With the exception of people going to the Pinnacles or Hollister Hills, the vast majority of people who come here live here. Politically, we are one of the most balanced counties in the state, we vote about 55 to 45 in most elections. We have one hospital, one high school, one movie theater, and the Target store is probably the most common gathering point of people in the county.
We are not like Gilroy, or Salinas. Not being on the freeway and, in fact, being 12 miles off the freeway is a huge factor in the quality of life here. Even with all the new construction it’s still a very tight knit county. Far and away the vast majority of people get along with each other despite having different philosophies of life. We depend on each other, and as we recently saw on TV each night, neighbors looked after their neighbors.
There are a huge number of adults who volunteer their time to coach youth sports, to lead scout troops, to be part of local clubs and organizations, to be part of city and county governments, and in general make life here great! Local doctors, business owners, first responders, veterans and veterans organization leaders, school teachers, service industry workers all make this a great place to live, learn and raise a family.
The San Benito County Fair is a “throwback” to old time county fairs. They still have pie cooking and eating contests, animals are raised, there is a carnival midway, quilting area and many other “old time” fair activities. In short, our way of life is unique in the modern world, and especially in California.
This is one of the reasons I am so against the building of a second high school. The high school (I am sorry I will not refer to it as Hollister High school), is a big part of the glue that
holds the county together. As more and more people move here from other areas I sincerely hope that our leaders remember that “One size definitely does not fit all.” What works in San Jose, Gilroy, Monterey, etc. may not work in San Benito County.
As a resident, it’s my opinion that we should fight to keep our county unique, and not try to become like neighboring counties.