Modesto City Councilman Dave Lopez will run for a seat on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors next year.
His announcement Thursday sets up a contest with Supervisor Dick Monteith, who plans to run for a third four-year term. Lopez said he wants to be a strong voice for Modesto on the county governing board.
"Through my time on local boards, community service groups and the City Council, I have been able to advocate for the community I love," Lopez said in a written statement. "Together we can rebuild our county and make it the crown jewel of California."
The two-term councilman said the county has lacked approachable leadership, and he wants to bring common-sense solutions and a fighting spirit to its government.
Lopez, 46, was elected to the council in the last citywide election in 2007 before Modesto switched to district elections. He was re-elected in 2011 to serve a central Modesto council district. He hopes to represent county District 4, which includes Modesto neighborhoods between Tully Road and Roselle Avenue. The district stretches from the airport neighborhood in the south to Del Rio in the north. If elected, Lopez would leave the City Council with a year left on his term.
Monteith, 81, said Thursday he had expected competition. The former state senator was elected to the county board in 2006 and defended the seat against challenges from former Modesto Councilman Balvino Irizarry and former Mayor Carmen Sabatino in 2010.
"(Lopez) had indicated he was going to run," Monteith said. "It will be interesting. People will have a choice."
The councilman is known for Partners in Paint, volunteer cleanups and Council-in-the-Park activities geared to make city officials more accessible to residents.
Last year, Lopez pushed for enforcement of code violations at the Modesto Inn on Needham Avenue, resulting in major upgrades to the eyesore and a name change to the Knights Inn.
"When I get calls and emails from citizens, I know it's time to get into it," Lopez said. "I like being the councilman that can address a neighborhood problem, and want to do that as a supervisor."
He said farming will remain the county's dominant industry but it should not hinder the growth of other industries that create jobs. The county seat needs to step up as an economic force and job center, he said.
In its report last June, the Stanislaus County civil grand jury criticized Lopez, who blew the whistle about how the Stanislaus Community Assistance Project spent more than $8 million in funds through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program overseen by the city. It said he should have taken his concerns to Modesto's former mayor and council members before talking with The Bee.
Lopez is an account executive for Don Francisco Cheese. He fell short in four elections between 1999 and 2005 before becoming the second Latino ever elected to the Modesto council.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at (209) 578-2321.