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Meet the candidates: Sheriff-coroner

Two law enforcement veterans on the ballot

Running for the office of San Benito County Sheriff-Coroner are incumbent Eric Taylor, who was appointed to the office by the board of supervisors following Darren Thompson’s retirement in 2021; and Juan Guevara.

Guevara has more than 10 years of experience in Bay Area and South Valley police departments, including Hollister. He graduated from the police academy as class president and earned the Dr. Susan Oliviera Leadership Award. Guevara has a bachelor’s degree in communications and is currently pursuing a master’s in public administration. He is the “proud son of an immigrant single mother,” and he and his wife grew up in San Benito County. Both are alumni of San Benito High School. Guevara has spent his spare time volunteering at the Community Food Bank. 

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors appointed Eric Taylor to the office of sheriff-coroner in 2021, after former sheriff Darren Thompson announced his retirement. Taylor was the Oakland Athletics Stadium Operations Manager at age 23, and became a Watsonville Police Officer in 2000 at age 25. He joined the local sheriff’s office as a deputy in 2014. Throughout his law enforcement career, Taylor has been a Police Officer, Field Training Officer, Corporal, Detective, Patrol Sergeant, Detective Sergeant, Operations Captain, Administrative Captain, Bureau Commander and, now, the sheriff-coroner.

Juan Guevara

Why are you running for San Benito County Sheriff?

I decided to run for San Benito County Sheriff because I have a vision of law enforcement as a proactive institution that is involved with the community, while also addressing the underlying causes of crime. In order to create a safer community, we need a new approach that goes beyond simply responding to calls. I have spent 10 years working as a law enforcement professional in three different police departments. As San Benito County Sheriff, I could guide our county in the right direction. 

Juan Guevara

What do you think are the most pressing crime and public safety concerns in San Benito County, and how would you address these?

The most pressing public safety concern in San Benito County is the consistent increase in violent crime. In fact, crime has been rising nationwide. 

As San Benito County Sheriff, I would prioritize working with the community to prevent violent crime and address the underlying causes. In addition to more deputies on patrol, we also need stronger partnerships with our neighboring agencies, and further support for our Probation Department, to enhance rehabilitation efforts. It is clear that law enforcement is an investment in our quality of life.

How would you address homelessness and the increasing concerns about problems that come with it?

Homelessness is such a complicated issue. Our local homeless population will continue to increase if we don’t address the underlying causes, such as: mental illness, drug dependency, the lack of affordable housing and the rising cost of living. 

The collective effort of all stakeholder agencies is needed to prevent and address homelessness. As a step in the right direction, as San Benito County Sheriff, I would support the creation of a Homelessness Response Team. Similar initiatives have proven to be an effective tool for curbing homelessness.

Any ideas for any new programs, personnel or enforcement strategies over the next four years if you are elected?

If elected, I would address the urgent recruiting and retention issues within the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office. 

In addition, the Sheriff’s Office does not have a single female deputy in its patrol division, or any female patrol supervisors. I plan to address this issue with the swiftness that it deserves and demands. I would also work to improve the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office ability to produce more successful prosecutions of violent criminals, in order to keep our community safe. 

Eric Taylor

Why are you running to retain your appointed sheriff’s seat? 

I have created a culture of accountability and have brought structure to this office. I have also made community policing paramount. The responsibilities of the sheriff are far more than mere oversight of patrol. I am not only the sheriff, but I am also the coroner and marshall. I provide court security and run a jail. That takes a person with experience and the right heart for the job. I am the most qualified candidate to retain this seat and I am hopeful the voters study their options and make an informed decision. 

San Benito County Sheriff Eric Taylor

What do you think are the most pressing crime and public safety concerns in San Benito County, and how would you address these? 

The rising violent crime attributed to gang activity needs to worry our community. I am heavily involved in and believe in intervention and prevention. Those things must be balanced with an aggressive pursuit of justice. I have the courage to police this community proactively while being involved in programs that help offenders get back on track and be successful. It is a balanced approach that I have over two decades of success in. I have united our partners to solve these challenges together. 

How would you address homelessness and the increasing concerns about problems that come with it? 

The court decision in Martin v. Boise is a hindrance to all of us. I have been the conduit to implement a strategy that includes the business community, county administration, county service providers, community-based organizations and our office. We are working together to eradicate the issues that surround homelessness with a 360-degree approach. The criminalization of homelessness has been deemed unconstitutional. It is time for our partners to step up and help. I will hold them accountable. 

Any ideas for any new programs, personnel or enforcement strategies over the next four years if you are elected? 

I have already implemented the responsibility-area program, Agua con la Chota (farmworker outreach), Adelante (youth mentorship), and we are working on a new juvenile diversion program. I have leaned on the Board of Supervisors to allocate more staff to my office for better coverage. I have assigned a deputy sheriff to San Juan Bautista after a decade-long absence. 

I am in a position for this community to see what I am doing and have done, not merely speculate what I “would do.” Transparency, community engagement and accountability have been realized. I will continue to make this office even better.