WATSONVILLE — Ari Parker garnered more than 52 percent of the vote in the three-person race for the District 7 seat on the Watsonville City Council.
As of Wednesday, Parker received 561 votes. Lupe Rivas and Steve Trujillo were second and third, respectively, separated by only four votes.
“I am really humbled that a clear majority of voters have expressed their confidence in me, and I eagerly look forward to serving all the people of Watsonville over the next four years,” Parker said. “I sincerely want to thank the people who came out, supported me, and encouraged me throughout this process. Thank you, Watsonville, for your vote of confidence.”
Parker is a teacher at Bradley Elementary School in Corralitos, a position she has held for 23 years. She currently serves on the Santa Cruz County Women’s Commission, Independence Square Board (a disabled and senior housing complex), and sits as vice chair of the Measure G Revenue Measure Oversight Committee, among other boards.
Over her career with the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, Rivas has served as classroom teacher, a support staff teacher, a bilingual program coordinator, a master teacher, a principal and a parent educator. Now retired, she still serves as a substitute teacher in the school district.
Trujillo, who retired after a 36-year teaching career, has served on the Santa Cruz City Schools Board of Trustees and the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County. He currently sits on the Watsonville Personnel Commission.
In District 5, incumbent Rebecca Garcia has a large lead over challenger Casey Clark, with 64.89 percent of the vote.
Garcia, who will be heading to her second term on the council, said housing affordability, safety and homelessness are her top priorities for the next four years.
“My re-election is an indication that my constituents are satisfied with my advocacy for them at the district level and in the city,” she said. “I plan to continue listening to the voices of those who have often felt voiceless.”
Garcia, a 1965 Watsonville High School graduate who later earned a master’s degree in education administration from San Jose State University, served as a teacher at what was then known as Rolling Hills Junior High and Watsonville High School. She eventually worked her way up to assistant principal at the high school and later principal at Rolling Hills Middle School.
She ended a 20-year tenure on the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees in January 2012.
Clark, who has been active with the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds Foundation and Sons and Daughters of Italy, currently manages a facility for adults with special needs.
Francisco Estrada leads Jenny Sarmiento by 103 votes in the District 4 race.
The seat will become mayor in 2019, thanks to 2014’s voter-approved Measure I, which rotates the mayor yearly by district.
“I’m humbled and overwhelmed with emotions by all the support I’ve received so far,” Estrada said Wednesday. “I want to thank my community for getting out there to vote yesterday. It really inspired me.”
Estrada, an adjunct history instructor at Hartnell College, serves as grants officer for the Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust.
He expressed his gratitude for his family, friends and others who helped him in what he called a “non-traditional campaign.”
“I want people to know that love for your community is a powerful and inspirational motivator,” he said. “I’m grateful to Ms. Sarmiento for running a respectful and clean campaign. She’s a remarkable person, and regardless of the outcome, I wish her the best.”
Sarmiento, who currently serves on the Watsonville Planning Commission, is active in the human services realm, and recently retired as CEO of Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance.
Current Watsonville Mayor Lowell Hurst ran unopposed in District 3, and will return to the council for a fifth term in a career that has spanned off and on for more than 20 years. Twenty-six write-in votes have so far been counted.