Education veteran Steve Gomes said he'll run for Merced County superintendent of schools in the county's June 8 election.
Gomes, now the superintendent for the Planada School District, has worked in education for 37 years. He will run against Susan Coston, the county assistant superintendent of special education.
County schools chief Lee Andersen will retire this year, a position he's held since 2002.
A Merced County native, Gomes has held several positions in education in various schools.
For 23 years, Gomes worked as a teacher for the Merced Union High School District. After his teaching years, Gomes worked as a vice principal of Golden Valley and Hilmar high schools until becoming the Planada Elementary School District superintendent.
Henry Escobar, superintendent of the Livingston Union High School District, said he's worked closely with both candidates, but he felt Gomes was the most qualified candidate in terms of his experience.
"I respect both candidates," Escobar said. "Steve has an advantage as a former teacher, principal and school superintendent. He's in the trenches, so he understands what it takes to run a school district."
With his years of experience in Planada, Gomes said he developed the type of innovative thinking needed to get the county through these woefully underfunded times.
Under his guidance, the Planada Elementary School District has remained fiscally solvent.
"The Planada School District has increased performance -- and we've done that without layoffs," Gomes said.
Reno Martinelli, a special education teacher at Cesar Chavez Middle School, said he felt confident that Gomes would succeed if elected as the county superintendent of schools.
"He's done well with personnel," Martinelli said. "He's done a good job keeping our district solvent."
As the first in his family to graduate from college, Gomes said his goal for all students in Merced County is to be able to choose among options when it comes to their future.
"I was the first person (in my family) to graduate from college," he said. "I want people in Merced County to have the same opportunity."
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209)385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.