UPDATE: Perfecto Munoz's endorsement of Withrow is as a private citizen and not through his role as executive director of the West Modesto Community Collaborative. The story now reflects this.
Terry Withrow faces two challengers as he seeks a third term on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors in the June 5 primary: Salida advocate Katherine Borges and Modesto Councilman Tony Madrigal.
Withrow represents District 3, which covers west and northwest Modesto, Salida and Wood Colony. The two candidates with the most votes advance to the November election unless one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.
Withrow, 58, is a certified public accountant and farmer and has been a strong proponent of protecting farmland as well as the local water supply from the state's proposal to take more of it.
He said one of the primary reasons he is running is to continue his work on Focus on Prevention, which he started with former county CEO Stan Risen. The community-based initiative launched three years ago to find solutions to homelessness.
That has included opening an outreach and engagement center whose staff works with the homeless and a project to open a shelter that would take couples and pets as well as a day center that would provide services.
Focus on Prevention has secured $2.5 million from the state and $1 million from the Stanislaus Community Foundation for the shelter and day center.
Withrow said a lot of the work has been on building better relationships among service providers to ensure the effort to help the homeless is more efficient and effective. He said this work is not splashy and does not result in immediate results but will lead to lasting successes.
He has picked up a slew of endorsements, including from the Modesto City Firefighters Association, his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, Wood Colony farmer and former Modesto Irrigation District Director Jake Wenger and Perfecto Munoz, who is the executive director of the West Modesto Community Collaborative.
Borges, 49, is a county planning commissioner and director of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy and gives speeches across the nation and in other countries on using DNA to trace your ancestry. She founded the Salida Chamber of Commerce and served as chairwoman of the Salida Municipal Advisory Council.
Borges praised Withrow for starting Focus on Prevention, but said there still are no homeless services in Salida and the rest of District 3.
"I think I can do a better job running District 3 than politicians can," Borges said. "I listen to people and listen to their issues. I don't plan on being a politician but a public servant."
She advocates for Salida's incorporation and was a strong opponent of Modesto in 2013 and 2014 as it decided to keep Salida and Wood Colony in its growth plans. That was one of most contentious issues the city has faced in recent memory, with hundreds of people turning out at City Council meetings in opposition.
Madrigal was part of the council majorities that voted to keep the two communities in the city's growth plans, despite the vocal and large opposition. But he changed his position in August. He has said he switched because "unlike many politicians, I listen."
Madrigal, 44, was elected to his second and final council term in November.
" ... I am running to bring a new voice to the county Board of Supervisors for the people of our district," he said in a statement. "We need a county supervisor that truly understands and has lived the real experiences and struggles of District 3. The American dream should still be within reach, and if elected, I commit to fighting every day to serve our communities."
He represents downtown and south and west Modesto on the City Council. Madrigal has the most political experience, having served eight years on the Santa Cruz City Council before moving back to Stanislaus County several years ago.
But a campaign mailer sent to District 3 voters makes no mention of Madrigal's more than dozen years as a councilman but instead asks whether elected officials care about the community and then touts Madrigal's experience as a community leader.
The mailer was sent by a United Domestic Workers of America political action committee and states it was not authorized by the candidate or a committee controlled by the candidate.
Madrgial said he brings a different perspective because he grew up in a farmworker family and is a renter, though he has an economics degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
His jobs while on the council have included substitute teacher, legislative aide for a state assemblyman and field representative for a union. He said he now is establishing a political consulting business and works for a cousin who is a farm labor contractor.
The Board of Supervisors is a nonpartisan office but partisan politics can play a role. Withrow and Borges are Republicans, and Madrigal is a Democrat.
Madrigal and Borges differ with Withrow over the project to realign and improve Highway 132 between Dakota Avenue and Highway 99 by removing it from Maze Boulevard and putting it on a new route.
Proponents say this will relieve congestion and improve safety along Maze, and the realigned Highway 132 will provide a better transportation corridor. After many years of planning and discussion, construction is expected to start in June 2019.
The project will incorporate three stockpiles of dirt contaminated with heavy metals that are along the new alignment. The dirt will be used and encapsulated as part of the project. But some residents worry about the dirt.
Madrigal favors the project but wants another review of the stockpiles. "I think it is worth taking another look to have a proper cleanup with the least impact on people and groundwater," he said.
Borges wants the soil hauled away, which officials have said would add $20 million to the project's cost. She claims there are higher rates of cancer near the contaminated dirt. She also wants Maze Boulevard improved instead of the new alignment because 32 homes and 11 businesses will be lost to the new route, as well as some farmland.
Withrow asked where Madrigal and Borges were over the many years this project was being discussed, planned and decisions were being made. He said the state came up with a plan regarding what to do with the contaminated dirt after years of study.
The state monitors the groundwater under the stockpiles. California Department of Toxic Substances Control spokesman Russ Edmondson said the "cumulative hazard from all the chemicals detected in groundwater, assuming the potential use of groundwater as a tap water source, was determined to be insignificant in the human health risk assessment."
Edmondson said there is little potential for the chemicals in the stockpiles to get into the groundwater, and the risk will be even less when the contaminated dirt is used as part of the new Highway 132 alignment.