Election Roundup: More tumult in store in Riverbank

August 7, 2009 

If Riverbank residents are fed up with the disharmony that has split their city, they're in for a long campaign season.

The race for mayor will pit two rivals against each other, with Vice Mayor Dave White facing off against former Councilwoman Virginia Madueño on Nov. 3.

But voters also have a chance to bring fresh leadership to the council, which has been without a mayor since David I. White resigned in May.

Former Riverbank Unified School District board member Mark Ensley is running, as is Larry King, who owns a hearing aid business in Oakdale.

Also running are former Riverbank Councilman Paul Gutierrez, and Richard O'Brien, the uncle of county supervisor and former Riverbank Mayor Bill O'Brien.

Richard O'Brien manages the O'Brien's Market on Roseburg Road in Modesto. Gutierrez is retired from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The race for mayor likely will intensify Riverbank's heated political atmosphere. The city has been in near constant upheaval since the November 2008 election, when Madueño lost the mayor's seat to Chris Crifasi. He resigned two months later.

The council appointed David I. White to take Crifasi's place. David I. White resigned in May. (David I. White is not related to Vice Mayor Dave White.)

Dave White and his grandson, Councilman Jesse James White, are the targets of a recall attempt.

Elsewhere, votes will have the chance to fill a wide range of posts, from school board to irrigation district seats:

Ceres school district

Voters in the Ceres Unified School District will select school board members by district for the first time.

The district, like the city of Modesto, was sued by the Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. Rather than fight the lawsuit, Ceres officials changed from citywide to district elections.

Four seats are up this year, one an at-large position. Incumbent Mike Welsh is running unopposed; incumbent Betty Sue Davis is being challenged by Brian Kline; incumbent Teresa Guerrero will face Valli Wigt, a retired teacher; and incumbent Edgar Romo is running against Lourdes Perez, a businesswoman and program coordinator.

Irrigation districts

The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, which share power and water supply from the Tuolumne River, each will have contested seats in November.

Incumbent Mike Serpa and challenger Glen Wild are running in MID's Division 2. It covers central Modesto.

MID incumbent Tom Van Groningen faces a challenge from Richard Harriman in Division 3, mainly in northeast Modesto.

Incumbent Paul Warda will be opposed by Calvin "Ted" Donham and Brad Johnson in Division 4, which includes Salida and northwest Modesto.

In TID, incumbent Charles Fernandes is unopposed in Division 2, which is mainly in Ceres, east of Highway 99.

Joe Alamo and Keith Silva are vying in Division 3, including west Ceres and areas to the southwest. Incumbent Michael Berryhill did not file for re-election.

Incumbent Randy Fiorini withdrew his candidacy in Division 5, from south Turlock to north Merced County, leaving the race to Ron Macedo and Pamela Sweeten.

The campaign could be more lively than usual for MID, which is in the middle of a three-phase electricity rate hike this year. The board also is wrestling with how to pay for incentives for solar power under a state mandate for renewable energy.

Both districts are dealing with a third year of drought.

Turlock school board

In the Turlock Unified School District, the top three vote-getters will be awarded seats. Running against incumbents Timm LaVelle, Tami Muniz and Felica Renshaw are farmer-dairyman Josh Bernard, business owner Lori Crivelli and fieldman Bob Weaver.

Bee staff writers John Holland, Leslie Albrecht and Patty Guerra contributed to this report.

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