Mayor John Lazar said Monday that he will not seek a third term in November.
Lazar, who had said two weeks ago that he planned to run, told The Bee that he since has decided to devote more time to his family and real estate business.
The announcement leaves Gary Soiseth, an almond grower and public policy adviser, as the only declared candidate in the race. Lazar said the challenge, announced last week, did not play a role in his decision.
Lazar, 55, has been mayor since 2006 and was a City Council member for 14 years before that. He is among the longest-serving elected officials in Stanislaus County. “I love Turlock and will always support our city, but for a few years, I need to spend less time on city issues and more on family,” he said in an email.
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Soiseth said last week that he was not targeting Lazar in the campaign, and he praised the incumbent upon hearing Monday’s news. “I wish him well and congratulate him on his two decades-plus of service to the city,” Soiseth said.
City Manager Roy Wasden noted Lazar’s work on industrial and retail development, water, streets and other efforts. “He’s one of the finest leaders I’ve ever worked with,” Wasden said. “His understanding is deep. He’s just kind and thoughtful.”
Lazar was born in Turlock and graduated from California State University, Stanislaus. Early in his career, he served on the staffs of three former Democratic lawmakers: Rep. Tony Coelho of Merced and state Assemblymen Gary Condit of Ceres and Jack O’Connell of Santa Barbara.
Lazar and his wife, Nellie, work as a team for Century 21 M&M and Associates, a large real estate firm with a branch office in Turlock. They have three sons.
The mayor said he was proud of the recent opening of the Blue Diamond Growers almond processing plant on the city’s west side, the rebuilt Carnegie Arts Center and the adjacent Turlock Public Safety Center. He said he would focus in his final eight months on improving city streets, planning for regional water needs and a possible shift to district council elections.
“Its been one of my highest honors to serve as Turlock mayor,” Lazar said. “For 22 years, I have worked hard to make our city a better place. My eight years as mayor will be cherished.”
Lazar said he might seek public office at some point in the future, but he has no immediate plans. He also said he is not ready to endorse a candidate in the mayoral election.
Soiseth, 29, is a water and energy policy adviser to the Modesto Irrigation District. He previously advised farmers in Afghanistan, working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Army to build up that nation’s economy.
For the election calendar for the Nov. 4 gubernatorial general election, go to http://stanvote.com/pdf/election-calendar/gubernatorial-nov2014.pdf.