WATSONVILLE — Daniel Dodge Jr. has clinched the Trustee Area 4 seat on the Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees, ending the 28-year run of incumbent Willie Yahiro and drastically reshaping the board.
The results came late Tuesday afternoon after Santa Cruz County Clerk Gail Pellerin posted the final results from the Nov. 6 election.
While preliminary counts in the days following the election put Yahiro slightly in the lead, Dodge crawled ahead steadily, ending the race with just 50 votes separating them.
The contest between Yahiro and his 36-year-old challenger was the closest of all the races in the election, which showed no other significant changes when the final results were posted.
Dodge attributed his success in part to the support he received from the teachers. He also thanked his network of friends and family.
“I didn’t do it alone,” he said.
Dodge said he has been speaking with current board members to prepare himself for the role.
He said he will tap into his experience as a Watsonville Parks and Recreation commissioner, as well as a Measure L Bond Citizens Oversight Committee member. Dodge also served on the Santa Cruz County Housing Advisory Commission.
Dodge’s win made the November election a trifecta for the Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers and the local chapter of the California School Employees Association, both of which endorsed Dodge.
They also supported Jennifer Schacher, who beat 12-year incumbent Leslie De Rose with nearly 68 percent of the vote.
Jennifer Holm, the unions’ other choice, trounced opponent Bill Beecher with more than 72 percent of the vote.
Yahiro has served on the board of trustees since he was elected in 1990. The 1959 Watsonville High School graduate runs his Watsonville-based business, Yahiro Insurance.
He has helped guide the district through recession, bankruptcy and a subsequent takeover by California state regulators.
He saw the creation of 15 new schools and the passage in 2012 of Measure L, a $150 million bond that has allowed the district to embark on a series of maintenance, construction and upgrade projects.
The three new members will be sworn in during the annual organizational meeting on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the PVUSD district office boardroom at 292 Green Valley Road in Watsonville. For information, visit www.pvusd.net.
The Watsonville City Council will also take on a different look when two new members are sworn in Tuesday along with two incumbents.
Francisco Estrada will become the city’s next mayor after he defeated Jenny Sarmiento in the District 4 race by 246 votes.
Ari Parker gained 50 percent of the vote in the three-person District 7 race that included Lupe Rivas and Steve Trujillo.
Incumbent Rebecca Garcia came out on top over Casey Clark by a wide margin, netting 67 percent of the vote. Fellow incumbent Lowell Hurst ran unopposed in District 3.
Watsonville’s Measure O, which raises the transient occupancy tax on the city’s hotels by one percent, passed with three-quarters of the vote.
According to Pellerin, 121,700 people cast their ballots on Nov. 6, a record for a non-presidential election. That number is more than 76 percent of the registered voters in the county, which is also a record, Pellerin said.
The previous record was set in 1982 with 70.8 percent, Pellerin added.
Thanks to a new California law that allows voters to register and vote after the deadline, a total of 2,078 people registered and voted on election day. In addition, 96,405 people voted by mail, Pellerin said.
In successfully counting the ballots, Pellerin tipped her hat to election staff and more than 1,000 poll workers who staffed 147 voting precincts throughout the county.
“It is a monumental task, and it could not be done without the Elections Department’s full-time, part-time and Election Day poll workers, the assistance and support from other county departments, our City Clerks in Santa Cruz, Capitola, and Scotts Valley, and our Watsonville City Clerk and her staff who provided early voting during the 29 days before the election,” Pellerin stated in a press release. “Each of these individuals is passionate about our democratic process and committed to providing accessible, accurate and transparent elections. Together they are an amazing elections team, and I am extremely grateful for their service.”