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Ripon hopefuls talk about water, big boxes
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Six candidates are vying for three seats on the Ripon City Council in the Nov. 8 election.

Incumbents Jake Parks, Leo Zuber, and Mark Winchell currently occupy those posts, with Daniel deGraaf, Mario Gonzales, and John Mangelos as the challengers.

Each was recently asked a series of questions by the Bulletin.

Here’s how they responded:

Question: Has Ripon done enough in its water conservation measure efforts?

John Mangelos

Answer: “I feel that the steps that the city has taken with the updated water meters along with the watering limitations are addressing the water conservation problems.  I would like to make citizens more aware of the systems that the city has put in place to allow homeowners to monitor their own water usage. I think this is a powerful system that is underutilized.”


Daniel deGraaf

Answer: “Ripon has worked hard as a community to reduce our water use.  With the installation of water meters at every residence and the ability to check water usage online we as a community are now able to see where we are able to reduce our usage even more.  With the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Ripon must do more to expand its conservation and water acquisition efforts.  Continuing conservation and acquiring an alternate source of safe drinking water will be a priority for me as your city councilman.”


Jake Parks

Answer: “Ripon has done quite a lot in attempts to improve its water conservation through installing water meters before the state mandate, reducing watering days, reducing the cities’ water usage, and having all new developments implement “grey water systems”.  The next phase in water conservation that the city needs to move towards is partnering with local universities and start-up companies.  By partnering with these institutions and companies we can pioneer new methods and philosophies in water conservation.  This will be particularly important for Riponities as we rely on well water, and technology advancements allow us to better use wells.  Cities can’t rely on just conserving water, or the State of California to increase it water storage capacity.  It will be upon cities and regions to partner together in creating regional water storage agreements to help insure their water systems going into the future. “   


Mark Winchell

Answer: “Although California has relaxed our reductions, I voted with the other council members to keep our goal of water savings at 30 percent per month. So we are certainly one of the leading cities in water conservation in the surrounding area. Our residents have excelled at reaching our 30 percent reduction goal in this past year. I support the state’s mandate of water meters because this encourages our continued goal. All new home construction is required to have drought-tolerant landscaping. If the severe drought continues into a sixth year, more water conservation measures will need to be implemented, but we will be ready.


Leo Zuber

Answer: “Ripon’s residents are doing a good job of conserving water but those efforts need to continue. A recent report on our conservation efforts stated that despite those conservation efforts the water level in city wells has gone down one foot per year. So despite all of our efforts, the water level is now 3 feet lower than it was in 2013. A new State policy says that local water users should not use more water than can be replenished over the winter. Ripon is part of a regional group studying our ground water to determine just what is affecting the supply and then develop processes to make sure that supply is available over time. In the meantime, residents need to continue to conserve so we can minimize the loss of water.”


Mario Gonzales

Answer: “I think Ripon is doing what the state wants in regards to conserving water – However we could do more.”

Question: Should Ripon look to lure big-box businesses like Target or even Wal-Mart?



Answer: “Ripon’s future economic success is going to be dependent upon finding and attracting businesses that can match the personality and culture of the town.  While a big box store (i.e. Target or Wal-Mart) would be great additions to the City’s sales tax base, the big box stores are more geared towards bigger cities such as Modesto or Manteca.”



Answer: “I think our city should look to lure small businesses as opposed to big-box businesses.  While I can appreciate the convenience of a big-box store I don’t feel they add to the value of our community in the way that smaller family business do. I think you have to look no further than across the street from City Hall with Schemper’s Ace Hardware, a business that has been a vital part of our community for decades, offering products to our community and employing untold numbers of Ripon residents through the years.”



Answer: “Our area has three Wal-Mart’s and three Target stores within six to 10 miles. I believe big-box stores of this size needs to be located in larger cities that have the population and city resources to support them. Placing big-box stores in small cities like Ripon simply puts a strain on a small city’s infrastructure (i.e. police, fire, public works). As Ripon’s representative to the San Joaquin’s Partnership (a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing new businesses to the San Joaquin County), I am always inquiring to see if and when new businesses will be a good fit for Ripon. At this time, retail tax dollars would benefit the city’s revenue the most. Examples of desired businesses would be a Whole Foods grocery store, a car dealership, or a sporting goods store. These are a few examples of businesses that would complement the town’s existing merchants, not subtract from them, and help our town develop in a positive manner.”



Answer: “There is no reason to lure Target or Wal-Mart. There are probably more pros than cons in trying to lure those big-box businesses. I think the businesses in the city are doing a great job.”



Answer: “Ripon needs to create an environment that is attractive to all kinds of commercial development. Competitive development fees need to be in place. Buildable sites with accessible utilities and adequate roads need to be available. Appropriate zoning needs to be in place. And, city government needs to have a clear picture of the type of community the residents want. With all of that in place, there will be commercial developers who will take a look at Ripon and express interest and even a desire to establish a business here. As long as that business does not negatively impact the vision of what is supposed to be over time, it would be appropriate to work with the developer to see if the business would ‘fit’ in the community. And all of this needs to be done openly so residents have a chance to provide input into that commercial development. The important thing is that commercial development must be balanced between providing goods, services and jobs for the community while paying their fair share in taxes to help fund the ongoing services and desired improvement provided by the city.



Answer: “No, I believe Ripon should be working hard to attract new business but I believe we need to bring small businesses that will attract people from our neighboring communities to come and invest in our city.  I do not believe that bringing in big-box stores is a good idea as it will make it harder for our local small businesses to survive.”  


The candidates

Mangelos was born and raised in Ripon and has been active member of the community for the past 36 years.

At 25, he opened the Barnwood Restaurant, which was a vital part of Ripon for 34 years.

Mangelos is also a member of Ripon Rotary and with the funding of the international service organization was able to work on various projects around town.

He spearheaded the formation of the Ripon Historical Society, preserving and recognizing local history – included was the  First Reform Church built in 1917 church and converting the building once endangered of facing the wrecking ball into the Veterans Museum.

Mangelos takes pride as being first person from Ripon to serve on the San Joaquin County Historical Museum and being one of the founders of “Main Street Days” some 31 years ago.

He also had a hand in Ripon Historical Museum – Clarence Smit also helped make this possible (the museum was named in his honor) – Barnwood Arms, the Main Street Improvement Project & Heritage Brick Program, the downtown farmers market, and the memorial that serves as remembrance of local police officers who died in the line of duty, to name a few.

Gonzales has an A.A. from San Joaquin Delta Community College and B.S. degree from California State University Long Beach in Emergency Management Services.

He was born and raised in Manteca and has lived in Ripon for the last 11 years. He spent 16 years with the Modesto Police Department, retiring in 2013 on disability issues.

Born and raised as a fourth generation family farmer, deGraaf learned the value of hard work at an early age.

He has a degree in Bio Resource and Agriculture Engineering from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and is employed as an engineer at a local firm that specializes in agricultural and civil projects.

As an engineer, deGraaf believes this helps make him a pragmatic decision-maker, especially when it comes to working with private and municipal clients in improving the infrastructure.

Parks is finishing his first term. He’s the son of Phil and Donna – she served on the Ripon Unified school board for eight years – who were the longtime owners of Park’s Chevrolet in Ripon. From his folks, Jake Parks learned what it took to succeed in business while being a community-minded at an early age.

He’s a 2001 graduate of Ripon Christian High and served on the Ripon Chamber of Commerce board.

Parks has a degree in Business Marketing from California State University, Chico and a master’s degree in International Affairs from the University of Central Florida.

He’s the former owner of Jake’s: Coffee, Tea & Sandwiches.

Zuber is also completing his first term, the retired superintendent of the Ripon Unified School District put in 39 years working for the local school system

He’s called Ripon home since 1985 and is active in Ripon Lions Club along with several other endeavors in town.

Zuber was born and raised in Turlock. He has degree in U.S. History from the University of California, Davis and Administrative Services credentials from California State University, Sacramento.

He taught five years, starting at Groveland and then moving to Senior Elementary School in Tracy, where he was vice principal.

In 1979, Zuber became principal at Ripon Elementary School followed by Weston Elementary School. He was Director of District Services prior to becoming became the RUSD superintendent, from 1993 through 2008.

Winchell served six years on the Ripon Planning Commission before being appointed to the Council in January 2015. He filled the seat that was once occupied by Elden ‘Red’ Nutt, who was re-elected in November 2014 but died suddenly a few weeks later.

Winchell has lived in Ripon for 31 years. He’s a successful self-employed owner in the wholesale business.

He also traveled the world growing up. His father was a chief master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. As a result of that, Winchell graduated high school from Clark Air Base in the Philippines and later attended Merced Community College and CSU, Stanislaus.