Fresno County District 4 Supervisor Buddy Mendes has two challengers, Daniel Parra and Jose Ramirez. If one candidate wins more than 50% of the votes on June 7, he will take the seat. Otherwise,we’ll see the top two vote-getters again in November.
About the district
District 4 includes much of the smaller, predominantly agricultural communities of central and southern Fresno County, including Sanger, Malaga, Fowler, Selma, Kingsburg, Reedley, Parlier, Orange Cove, Del Rey, Caruthers, Raisin City, Riverdale, Laton, Lanare, Huron and Coalinga.
About the candidates
Buddy Mendes has served on the Board of Supervisors since 2015. Mendes served 20-plus years on a variety of boards and committees, including the Riverdale Unified School District’s Board of Trustees, Southwest Transportation Agency, and the Riverdale Public Utility District. He is a member of the West Island Cotton Growers, the Riverdale Chamber of Commerce and the Lions Club. Supervisor Mendes also served on the 2011 Redistricting Task Force for Fresno County. Mendes has owned and operated his family farming business since 1991.
Daniel T. Parra is a Fowler City Council member and a computer systems analyst for military contractor Northrop Grumman at the Lemoore Naval Air Station. Parra ran against Mendes in 2014 and received about 38% of the total votes. He is the Fresno County representative for the South San Joaquin Valley District of the League of California Cities and is a member of the Transportation Committee of the League of California Cities. Parra has served on the Fowler Planning Commission, and is a regional representative of California’s Latino Caucus.
Jose Ramirez served as a city manager in Orange Cove, Firebaugh and Livingston; he spent nearly 20 years in the three city manager roles. Ramirez founded Community Development Inc., a nonprofit community development and real estate consultant firm, and is a member of the Fresno Latino Rotary Club.
Who is funding the candidates’ campaigns?
Mostly agricultural business interests lead the way in donations for Mendes, Ramirez, and Parra. Mendes has the fundraising lead, with nearly $370,000 raised. Click and zoom through the interactive chart below to learn more about the donations.
On the issues
Click the buttons to learn what candidate Ramirez had to say about the issues. (Buddy Mendes and Daniel Parra did not respond to multiple requests to fill out the survey.)
What are your top three priorities for your community and why? How would you work to achieve those priorities?
* Housing affordability and homelessness.
* Poverty and economic development.
* Municipal and other services like affordable drinking water and internet access
My approach to working on issues during my nearly 20 years as a rural city manager has been to work collaboratively with everyone, regardless of party affiliation. I will take that same approach to the Board of Supervisors and work with all of my colleagues on the board, as well as local and regional representatives, as well as our state and federal representatives. I believe we need all hands on deck, including foundations and the private sector.
I work well with everyone. I am polite but persistent, and I like to see things brought to a conclusion, so that our residents will have housing they can afford, jobs that a family can live on, and access to essential services like internet and clean water to drink. I believe in building bridges that allow conversations to go both ways, so that voices such as those I seek to represent may be heard.
What do you think is the county’s role in keeping Fresno County affordable? What ideas and policy solutions would you bring to the table toward that goal?
Fresno County, like the Central Valley as a whole, is more affordable than many other parts of the State, but it also has one of the highest levels of poverty. I want us to be affordable, by improving the wages and working conditions of low-wage employees. The county needs to redouble its efforts in the area of economic development and job training. We will not be successful by racing to the bottom and being the cheapest.
We should also look at the salaries of county employees so they don’t need public assistance programs to survive. Some County departments, particularly the Department of Social Services, experience significant staff turnover. When workers leave for better pay and working conditions, the county incurs recruitment and training costs and loses valuable experience.
Following the Grand Jury report in 2020 that criticized the lack of coordination and oversight in Fresno’s homelessness response, what should the county do to better coordinate homelessness response in the region?
The county has a history of doing things by itself, without coordinating resources with other entities like the City of Fresno. The county sometimes acts like city residents are not county residents. Homelessness, like air pollution, poverty and crime, does not stop at the city limits. Since funds are scarce, it only makes sense to pool resources to maximize the impact on these issues. I believe in working with everyone to make a significant dent on problems like crime, poverty and homelessness. Coordination and sharing resources has always been my approach to setting public policy.
The AG recently criticized Fresno County’s General Plan for concentrating industrial uses in historically marginalized communities. Do you support expanding industrial uses in neighborhoods like Calwa or Malaga, or other disinvested communities, and if yes, how should local air quality impacts be addressed?
I agree with the Attorney General’s criticisms of Fresno County’s proposed General Plan revision. The proposed expansion of industrial uses in already significantly impacted areas like Calwa and Malaga needs to be carefully evaluated, especially the potential air quality impacts. We do need to diversify our economy and attract good-paying jobs, but our priority should not be to worsen the health of already vulnerable residents. Other available locations should be considered and evaluated also.
Do you think the county should encourage new town growth (like Friant Ranch) or push housing towards places where infrastructure and communities already exist?
The County should encourage and direct both housing and economic growth towards cities. The County should negotiate new revenue-sharing agreements to provide financial incentives that direct growth to already urbanized areas. The infrastructure is already there (water, sewer, roads) and it would help strengthen and revitalize the urban core of these cities. Short-term and long-term planning is essential for this to work, and it will provide a framework for sustainability and prosperity
The board of supervisors recently rejected a grant to study the impacts of climate change in Fresno County; and, has supported ongoing oil drilling across the county. What are your thoughts on these recent decisions? What is the county’s responsibility to mitigate the effects of climate change?
The county went in the wrong direction when the supervisors rejected the state grant to study the impacts of climate change on vulnerable county populations. The communities in question are disenfranchised and have no one else to turn to. Their health and welfare matter. Climate Change is real and we must partner with trusted institutions to study its adverse effects and find effective mitigations.
I would have voted to approve this state grant, and I would have aggressively lobbied my colleagues on the board to do the same. We cannot pretend climate change is not happening, and we need to start preparing now. The Board of Supervisors was playing politics when it supported new oil drilling in western Fresno County. I believe we should keep politics out of climate change discussions and focus on practical ways to lessen the effects, especially on the most vulnerable.
Do you think the county should subsidize employers if they bring new jobs? What types of subsidies are appropriate, or are not appropriate?
I am a big supporter of economic development and job creation. The county must have the right tools in its toolbox to help retain and expand existing businesses and recruit new businesses, especially those that create job opportunities that provide fair wages.
Subsidies for job creation and economic development can be useful tools if used properly. I would carefully evaluate the costs and benefits though, because, all-too-often, the benefits are exaggerated in the beginning and never evaluated afterwards to measure their true effectiveness. I would insist any subsidies be thoroughly evaluated and that benefits outweigh the costs. If properly negotiated, however, the economic activity these new jobs will create ensures the subsidies can be recaptured in a short time frame. And, state and federal agencies provide economic incentives for every job created.
I believe there are opportunities to expand or relocate business growth in Fresno County. We have the land, the people and the location that businesses want already. The County should focus our efforts on having readily available land and a well-prepared workforce by working with school districts, and the Workforce Investment Board.
What do you think the county should do to improve wages for workers?
Many county employees experienced significant wage reductions after the recent recession. This caused low morale as well as difficulty retaining experienced employees and attracting new employees. The county should conduct a classification and salary survey and work towards improving the wages and benefits of county employees.
What projects do you think should be prioritized for state and federal infrastructure dollars? How can local workers and communities benefit?
Where possible, I will give a preference to local firms that hire local workers. We will use state and federal infrastructure funds to invest in areas, ranging from community water and sewer systems in unincorporated rural communities to maintaining our roads, rails and bridges in safe condition. I also favor extending high-speed internet to underserved rural areas. These funds should also be considered to alleviate our bad air quality by encouraging the use of less polluting vehicles. I also favor soliciting input from our rural communities as to the projects they believe are most needed. I would also coordinate with other local governments (cities, schools and special districts) to look at ways to stretch our dollars by pooling resources.
What should the county do to improve job, services, and health care accessibility for those who do not have access to a reliable vehicle? Where would you like to see more transportation dollars spent, and why?
Rural public transit services need to be re-imagined and expanded. I would re-work the proposed extension of Measure C to include more funding for rural transit and rural roads. In the past, a great deal of funding and effort has been focused on extending our highway system, and now is the time to invest in our rural road system and rural public transit, so that the roads are safer, and the transit services are more consistent and reliable (e.g. runs more frequently and to more places). The county can also provide more decentralized “one-stop” centers strategically distributed in the county so that people do not have to travel so far in order to access needed county services, whether it is job training or health services. I would also encourage the location of medical clinics, pharmacies and banking services closer to rural populations, as many folks have to travel out of town just to cash a check or fill a prescription.
Within the next year, what should the county’s role be in reducing the impacts of rising gas prices on people?
The county should encourage the use of electric vehicles, like what is being done in the City of Huron, and aggressively pursue all available funding from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and CARB to provide incentives to trade-in older gas powered vehicles for electric vehicles. The county should not pursue new petroleum extraction because this would not lower gas prices for Fresno residents and would worsen our already serious air pollution problems.
The county can also improve and expand its rural transit services, so that public transportation services are more readily available to rural residents, eliminating the need for private vehicle usage. I would also support using part of the State’s projected surplus to provide temporary relief from recent gas price increases to those most in need.
What should the county’s role be in making sure rural communities do not lose access to safe drinking water and keeping water affordable during the drought?
Affordable and safe drinking water is already scarce in some rural communities and many residential wells are failing. Our drought will exacerbate the problem. The County can encourage the consolidation of smaller community water systems, which would allow for needed improvements and greater economies of scale. The County should aggressively pursue all available state and federal funding for needed improvements and work with our state and federal representatives to secure needed funding. Emergency assistance should be provided by the County whenever necessary, working with non-profit organizations like Self-Help Enterprises. Other options could include encouraging the reuse of recycled water, capturing storm water runoff to replenish our underground aquifers, and cleaning contaminated groundwater supplies. Building drought resilience is a long-term effort.
How should the county work with growers who are adjusting to SGMA implementation?
Depletion of the underground water table is a serious issue for the Central Valley. The current level of groundwater pumping is simply not sustainable, as witnessed by significant land subsidence which has caused significant damage to local roads and canals. There will be significant changes to land use and disruptions to our local economy to bring us into compliance with SGMA, and farmers, as well as farmworkers, will be adversely affected along with our local economies. The County can encourage alternative uses such as solar farms, conservation easements, and groundwater recharge. Property taxes on the affected parcels will likely need to be reassessed, and the impacts on the level of social services will need to be re-evaluated. Job training will be necessary for those suffering a loss of employment.