Three seats are up for grabs come November in the Ripon City Council race.
Incumbents Jake Parks, Mark Winchell and Leo Zuber will be challenged by Daniel deGraaf, Mario Gonzales and John Mangelos.
They were recently asked: If elected, what changes, if any, would be high on your list for making Ripon a better place?
“There are a few changes here and there that can be done like new stop lights and lights going into Mistlin Sports Park,” said Gonzales, who spent 16 years on the Modesto Police Department.
He was born and raised in Manteca but has proudly called Ripon his home for the past 11 years.
Gonzales, 45, retired about two years ago due to disability issues. He has a degree in Emergency Management Services from California State University, Long Beach.
As far as major changes, Gonzales is quite pleased with Ripon.
The same goes for Mangelos and others.
“I think Ripon is a wonderful community,” said the former owner of Barnwood Restaurant & Catering Co., a key business in town for 34 years.
Born and raised in Ripon, Mangelos, who has been an active member in the community for better part of three decades – he’s one of the founders of Main Street Days celebrating its 31st anniversary – he believes in preserving the values set forth in Ripon.
“We need to attract businesses that share those values,” Mangelos said.
Winchell, who was appointed to his post following the sudden passing of Elden ‘Red’ Nutt over two years ago, hails Ripon as a beautiful town, however, “many of the town’s streets need to repaired,” he said.
Winchell and his wife Darlene have been married for 39 years. They’ve lived in Ripon for the past 31 years.
He operates a wholesale business and spent six years on the Planning Commission prior to his provisional appointment.
“I would like to see more funds allotted from the city’s budget for yearly maintenance and repairs on roads and other infrastructure. When applicable we should apply for state grants that may help us out with these needed repairs,” said Winchell, who lived in different parts of the world (his father was a Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force).
In regards to growth, Winchell is concerned that new businesses and residential growth on the northside of Highway 99 could divide Ripon in half.
“I believe there is a need for improvement on both the Fourth Street overpass and the Fulton overpass to allow a safe passage for pedestrians, bicycles, joggers, etc. I feel it is important to keep Ripon a united community.”
For deGraff, Ripon has been a great place to live and raise a family. He’s employed as an engineer at a local firm that specializes in agricultural and civil projects.
“Unfortunately, the city has struggled with attracting new businesses to move here,” he said. “Among my top priorities is working to bring more businesses that create local jobs for our residents and also generate revenue for the city.
“I will work hard to rejuvenate our downtown and to make Ripon a hotspot for economic activity because promoting our city – attracting people to invest in our community is critical to making Ripon a better place.”
He was born and raised a fourth generation family farmer – deGraaf has a degree in Bio Resource and Agricultural Engineering from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
Zuber said communication is his top priority.
“High on my list is to improve communication between city government and the residents,” said the longtime educator and retired superintendent of Ripon Unified. “There are a lot of complicated and often confusing rules in place in many areas.
“Many times points of disagreement are the result of a lack of clarification about rules.”
Zuber pointed to a recent incident at the Mistlin Sports Park, where folks complained about having to pay to see their youngsters take part in a practice session only to find out later that the TPR Baseball event was being held that same evening.
“This could have been avoided if the City had done a better job of communication with the rules. City staff needs to develop processes to make sure users of the city facilities and participants in its activities understand the rules that govern these events and locations,” he added.
During his time on the council, Parks, who is a local product – he attended 2001 graduate of Ripon Christian High and has a degree in Business Marketing from Chico State and masters in International Affairs from the University of Central Florida – has seen tremendous stride in keeping Ripon a great place to live.
“If re-elected, I would continue to make economic development, funding public safety and supporting a balanced budget my priority,” said former business owner of Jakes: Coffee, Tea, and Sandwiches. “We have seen communities suffer when they disregard these key principles.
“They are no longer able to provide economic opportunities for their residents, a safe living environment or take care of government basic core functions.”
The son of Phil and Donna Parks added that he will continue to promote economic development, funding public safety and balancing the budget to “preserve the values that make Ripon a great community.”