Big Valley pastor announces his run for Modesto mayor

The senior pastor of Big Valley Grace Community Church — which is one of Modesto’s biggest churches — confirmed Monday that he is running for mayor in the November 2020 election.

“I love this town. I love the people of this town,” Rick Countryman said in a phone interview. “This is literally the right time to get involved. (If elected), I will use my energy, my passion and leadership to make Modesto a better place.”

Countryman, 58, declined to discuss his top issues or what he hopes to accomplish if elected. He said there will be plenty of time to talk about those things during the campaign. But he did say he gets tired of how Modesto ends up on the “bottom of lists of crummy towns” and wants to change that.

Like other cities in the San Joaquin Valley, Modesto faces many challenges, including providing basic services as its revenues do not grow as fast as its expenses.

With Countryman’s announcement, Mayor Ted Brandvold will have at least one challenger. Brandvold announced a few months ago he is seeking a second term. And Councilman Doug Ridenour is considering running for mayor.

Countryman said he has thought about running for mayor for about the past couple of elections but the time was not right. He said he now is at a stage in his life and Big Valley is in “healthy place” where running makes sense.

He said if elected, he would continue with Big Valley but his role may change as he takes on the demands of being mayor. Countryman said about 3,000 people attend Big Valley, which he said places it among the five largest churches in Modesto for attendance.

Countryman is a Modesto native and joined Big Valley 40 years ago. He has been a pastor with the church for 35 years, including the last 13 as senior pastor. Big Valley is an evangelical church, which means its followers believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God and are social conservatives.

Countryman said he understands a mayor who also is a pastor could tweak some people’s minds. And he said while he “believes in the lord and has a biblical view of the world that shapes his thinking,” he is running to be the mayor of all of the residents of a very diverse city.

“People are not electing a pastor of the city,” he said. “They want someone to be a leader of the city.”