Meet the candidates for Mayor of Hollister

Two including incumbent vie for seat at helm of city council

With the Nov. 8 election rapidly approaching, this newspaper is committed to helping the voters of Hollister become as informed as possible about the candidates and issues in local races. 

In the City of Hollister, voters will elect their mayor and two city council members—in Districts 2 and 3. The Nov. 8 ballot also features choices for three San Juan Bautista city council seats; a runoff for the San Benito County Supervisor District 1 seat; numerous seats on local boards of education; U.S. Representative for the 18th District; and State Assemblymember for the 29th District. 

Running for Hollister City Council District 2 are incumbent Rolan Resendiz, Celeste Toledo-Bocanegra, Hani Mayzouni and Sergio Montenez. Running in District 3 are incumbent Dolores Morales and Rosalinda Sanchez. 

Visit the city’s online district map and locator at https://tinyurl.com/43ab32ny to determine what Hollister City Council district you live in. 

On the ballot for three seats on the San Juan Bautista council are Jose Aranda, Edwin J. Sabathia, Jackie Morris-Lopez, Steve Harris and Leslie Q. Jordan. 

There are also nine local measures on ballots throughout San Benito County, though not every voter will see all of them because some are applicable only within specific jurisdiction boundary lines. All county voters will vote on Measures P (term limits), Q (rezoning of certain types of land) and R (health and safety construction buffer). 

Voters in Hollister will vote on Measures S (term limits for city officials), T and U (both related to bringing back the Fourth of July motorcycle rally). Voters registered in San Juan Bautista will cast their ballots on Measure V (appointive city treasurer) and W (appointive city clerk). Finally, those who live within the Coalinga-Huron Joint Unified School District will vote on Measure X, which seeks $39.2 million in bonds for school projects and upgrades. 

Over the coming weeks, the Free Lance will present question-and-answer articles with candidates in select local and regional races. All candidates in each race were presented with the same questions, and their answers will appear exactly as written by the candidate (edited for space and clarity). 

San Benito County election officials will begin sending out mail-in ballots to all voters on Oct. 10. To register to vote, or to find any local information about the Nov. 8 election, visit the county election office’s website at sbcvote.us

This week, we start off with Q&As with both candidates for Mayor of Hollister: Mia Casey and incumbent Ignacio Velazquez. Next week’s edition will feature similar interviews with candidates for local city councils. 

Mia Casey

Casey has 35 years of experience in the public, private and nonprofit sectors, including 18 years in the legal field “developing expertise managing staff and doing contract review,” she said. She has also served 10 years in the president’s office of a community college, for which she managed programs and budgets, provided legal coordination and served as Sustainability Coordinator. 

Mia Casey

She currently leads a nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen the local economy. Casey also describes herself as a “wife, mother and grandmother,” and the daughter of an Italian immigrant. She has a degree from Sonoma State in Liberal Studies, with a focus on sustainability. 

Why are you running for Mayor of Hollister?
I’m running for Mayor because sometimes you must step up and be the change. I want to improve our quality of life and continue the work I began in our community—building up our economy, bringing revenue and livable wage jobs. 

To move forward, we must shift gears and focus on fixing infrastructure and roads; the rhetoric about slowing housing growth for the past 10 years has done nothing to stop homebuilding or improve Hollister. I will work to create a business-friendly community, fill vacant storefronts and attract new industry that funds important things like infrastructure, support programs and emergency services.


What do you feel should be the mayor’s role on the Hollister City Council, where all five members have an equal vote on the decisions that come before them?

The Mayor chairs the council meetings, and as such sets the tone. All councilmembers and the general public who attend should be welcome and treated with respect. Every councilmember should have an equal vote and opportunity to express their views. 

The Mayor should work with the council to build consensus rather than create division, to avoid gridlock and get things accomplished for our city. The Mayor represents Hollister out in public and at intergovernmental activities and his/her demeanor and behavior must be professional and representative of Hollister, not focused on the Mayor’s personal views.

What do you think are the top two to three issues for the City of Hollister, and as mayor how would you address these issues?
Nearly everyone I have spoken with puts roads, traffic and infrastructure at the top of their concerns, and I agree wholeheartedly with them. We must prioritize and focus efforts to restore our infrastructure and road repairs. 

The downtown is seeing a rebirth with our new Community Foundation building, and new mixed-use building under construction. We need to capitalize on this spark and revitalize our downtown. Safety is also very important to residents. 

The recent San Benito County Grand Jury Report identified several key areas, including our police department being understaffed and underfunded. We must prioritize funding of emergency services.

Hollister is poised to entice substantial growth in both population and commercial development over the coming years, and for the foreseeable future. What is your position on how to manage this growth, and what kinds of growth/construction should be prioritized in Hollister?

It’s important to carefully manage growth. State law requires approval of a certain amount of housing, but we can focus on small infill developments and mixed-used projects that won’t strain our infrastructure. Affordable housing is a top priority. 

New commercial development must make sense for Hollister. For example, we are uniquely positioned for the agriculture/tech industry. New business should bring good paying jobs; our recent job gains have not brought livable wages. 

I believe in the promise of Hollister, and will work hard to enhance the economy, make our community safe, and support efforts to make our city the best place to live!

Ignacio Velazquez

Velazquez is running for his sixth consecutive term as Hollister’s mayor. He and his wife of 19 years, Elizabeth, have two teenagers who attend Hollister High School. 

Ignacio Velazquez

Velazquez has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Cal State Hayward, and a Bachelor’s in Global Studies from Cal State Monterey Bay. He has also been a business owner in Hollister for 35 years. 

His “absolute favorite activity” is spending time with his family on their annual summer road trips across the U.S., he said. Their goal is to visit all 50 states. 

Why are you running for re-election as Mayor of Hollister? 

I believe Hollister is a beautiful place to live and I want to make sure we don’t fall back to the old pattern of just building thousands of houses, which I believe was destroying our community. Over the past few years, so many great things have been happening in Hollister. Retail sales in the city have increased by over $100 million and we have been able to add over 500 new jobs to our community. 

Over the next few years, we expect to see retail sales increase by over $300 million and we also expect to add another 1,000 jobs locally. We have also been able to invest over $30 million in road and infrastructure improvements that will be taking place over the next few years. 

As Mayor, I was also able to keep pushing for the widening of Highway 25, which for too long was ignored and placed on the backburner by former elected officials. The Highway 25 project will cost well over $300 million to complete and without constant communication with Caltrans, this project could easily fall behind schedule and take decades more to complete.

What do you feel should be the mayor’s role on the Hollister City Council, where all five members have an equal vote on the decisions that come before them?

I’ve always felt that the Mayor’s role is to listen to the public and chart the city’s course based on what the community would like to have in their city rather than follow the direction of developers and special interest groups. 

The Mayor should be allowed to work closely with the city manager and staff to accomplish the vision of the community. Many members of the public are surprised to find out that, as Mayor, I am not allowed to attend staff meetings or work directly with different department heads to make sure projects are being completed. The public is even more surprised to find out that the Mayor doesn’t even have an office at City Hall and is not a full-time employee.

What do you think are the top two to three issues for the City of Hollister, and as mayor how would you address these issues? 

Without a question the biggest issues facing our community are excessive residential growth, traffic and infrastructure issues. For many years, I have been warning about the consequences of out-of-control residential growth and the negative impacts that come with it, but I was still outvoted 4-1 over and over again by the previous city council. 

The good news is that currently the majority of the city council believes that our focus should remain on building a more balanced city with more local jobs and activities for our community, rather than just building thousands of houses. We have created over 500 new jobs in the last few years, which allows more of our residents to spend more quality time with their family rather than spending hours stuck in traffic. 

Our focus on retail, commercial and industrial growth within the city has led to increased revenues, which has allowed us to invest over $30 million into infrastructure projects to improve our city, such as street repairs, park upgrades and new water and sewer lines.

Hollister is poised to entice substantial growth in both population and commercial development over the coming years, and for the foreseeable future. What is your position on how to manage this growth, and what kinds of growth/construction should be prioritized in Hollister?

As a community, we cannot keep falling for the same tricks by developers and special interest groups that sway the community with false promises of pots of gold. We should not have to learn the same lessons that were experienced 20 years ago during the last housing boom/bust cycle. 

Losing precious farmland to build thousands of houses is the worst type of planning that a community can make. Our goal should not be to make a few people rich at the cost of an entire community. Our goal should be to implement smart growth and smart planning principles. We should never accept sprawl and leapfrog developments. We should focus on our existing community by improving the quality of life for those residents that are already living here. Life is about balance, and so are communities. 

By shifting focus away from endless track houses we are now seeing more retail and commercial projects that have a positive impact on our city. In the next few months, we will be seeing the grand openings of retail stores such as Ross, TJ Maxx, Ulta, Boot Barn, Famous Footwear and also a new hotel, Holiday Inn Express. As I mentioned earlier, we expect to see retail sales rise by over $300 million in the next few years and an additional 1,000 jobs available for our residents. I will continue to push back on residential developers and special interests groups that continually mislead our community with false promises of pots of gold.