The public got a chance to see a trio of new faces, and the return of a familiar one, accepting their elected roles on the San Benito County Board of Supervisors as they took an oath of office so they can serve their community in the coming years.
The three new supervisors Kollin Kosmicki in District 2, Bob Tiffany in District 4 and Bea Gonzales-Ramirez in District 5 were sworn in by Judge Steven Sanders on Jan. 4 at City Hall in Hollister. Incumbent Supervisor Mark Medina in District 1, who was reelected in the March primary election, was also in attendance.
“This is an exciting time, always, every year after an election, the first of the year,” Sanders said. “It’s a renewal of our local democracy. I’m really excited and really appreciative to be here and be a part of that.”
Sanders mentioned that the new group should have plenty of assistance from current supervisors Medina and Peter Hernandez, who was not at Monday morning’s ceremony.
Sanders said there’s a new, fresh set of eyes as Tiffany, Kosmicki and Gonzales-Ramirez come onboard, but they have experience and a wealth of wisdom.
“Although you may be new to the board of supervisors, you’re not new to the community,” he said.
Kosmicki said it was a special moment for him, especially because he was able to have his wife and son attend the ceremony.
“It was a great day, it was a great morning but I’m honestly focused on hitting the ground running,” he said. “There’s going to be a learning curve for anybody and I just want to shorten that learning curve as much as possible for myself.”
Kosmicki, founder of the San Benito Live online news outlet, was a journalist who has reported on local government. He said he was selling his website to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest and to remove himself from any distractions with people who might have issues of him still owning it.
Kosmicki, who is also a former editor of the Free Lance, went into his campaign by promoting “smart growth” within the county, including limits on single-family market rate housing growth.
“We don’t have the transportation infrastructure to handle our current pace of growth,” he said. “We already have close to 3,000 homes just in the county that are approved. Somewhere around 6,000 homes countywide that are approved and are coming, so at a certain point we have to pump the brakes on all these housing approvals.”
Kosmicki said he’ll propose a 1 percent annual cap on single-family market rate housing for the unincorporated area in the county. He mentioned that rural counties in particular are not meant to grow like urban areas.
“Counties are not meant to grow the way San Benito County has been growing over the last couple of decades,” he said.
He was also opposed to the Measure N Strada Verde project, which was heavily rejected by voters in the Nov. 3 local election. Instead, he would like to see more affordable housing and more homes for the farm working families in the near future.
But the pressing issue for him right now is helping the community get through the pandemic as safely as possible.
“We have to do more when it comes to Covid-19 and locally how we’re dealing with it,” he said. “For me, especially with those huge surges in cases, hospitalizations, ICU numbers and deaths that we’ve seen since early November, we’ve allowed this to go on far too long without stepping in and putting in stronger policies.”
Tiffany also believes that navigating through the coronavirus pandemic is a top priority not just for him but for the entire board of supervisors. He mentioned that they need to endure the outbreak as safely as possible, while also looking for a balance to support existing small businesses.
“The priority has to be the health of our citizens,” he said. “I see that as the Day One priority for the county.”
Tiffany has yet to take his seat at a supervisor’s board meeting, making him still uncertain how things will pan out in the end. But he will be part of next week’s assembly where they’ll discuss a new item regarding a Covid-19 enforcement ordinance.
He said there will likely be some direction depending how the discussion goes as far as putting something in place.
Tiffany said there’s plenty of other things to tackle as he settles in but he emphasized that he’d like to attract new businesses as soon as they’re in a position to do so.
“And the jobs and the sales tax revenues that they will bring to our community,” he said. “That’s a high priority and that’s something that I hope we can start addressing this year, as well.”