Quick Take:

Jimmy Dutra says the Pajaro Valley has been overlooked for too long. It’s time for a strong, community-centered voice on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, he writes. He argues that his experience and success as mayor of Watsonville and his connection to the community make him the right candidate.

I remember the moment I knew I wanted to be in public service.

I might not have known the name for it, but I knew I liked making things happen. I was in sixth grade at E.A. Hall Middle School in Watsonville. It was time for class elections, and I decided to run for treasurer. From campaigning to giving a speech, the process was exciting and filled with opportunity.

I can clearly remember how I felt to be a leader. The joy of serving others and the satisfaction of accomplishing good for my peers filled me with purpose.

Decades later, after six years on the Watsonville City Council and serving as Watsonville’s mayor, I still feel the same calling to serve my community. I still feel the same joy.

I am a third-generation Portuguese/Latino son of the Pajaro Valley. I attended local schools, played Little League baseball and YMCA basketball, attended the Penny Club, participated in school activities and government, and to this day I remain a solid part of our community.

I am the first in my family to obtain my college degree. My parents were farmers until the death of my father in 2016. I earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Santa Clara University and a master’s in executive leadership from the University of Southern California. My parents instilled in me the value of education. My dad used to say, “In life you can have everything taken away from you, but no one can take away your education.”

I have worked to live these words, both by educating myself and working as an educator.

Today, I am a middle school lead teacher with the Pajaro Valley Unified School District’s afterschool program. I believe all students deserve the opportunity to receive an education.

Knowing I regularly give back to our youth in a positive and meaningful manner is gratifying. Coming back to school after COVID-19 closures has brought challenges. Our youth have lost almost two school years of uninterrupted education and socialization. I see their struggles firsthand.

As an educator and president of Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance, I have ensured mental health services are available to those who need it. I knew students needed teachers present, so I returned to school as soon as I was allowed. I see a return to normal coming, but the toll on teachers and students remains. It’s taken a lot of dedication and hard work to get where we are today, and everyone deserves credit and recognition.

As a visionary, I am always looking and planning. I am hopeful for a future when equity is seen as imperative and necessary in all of our communities. For years, many of us in the Pajaro Valley feel we get overlooked when supervisors determine funding and resource distribution.

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This is one of the biggest reasons I am running for District 4 Supervisor. We need a voice that will represent us on major issues like: homelessness, mental health services, infrastructure, building a stronger economy, addressing our housing shortage, protecting our agriculture and wetlands, and ensuring our youth and community has functioning broadband and social programs.

We need a fresh voice. Someone who will take us from always being the “have nots,” to a place where we receive equitable resources and funding. Our infrastructure and roads matter, funding for our community partners is necessary, affordable housing must be seen as more than a South County issue, and we need to make sure our community remains safe and healthy through policies that put people first.

As mayor of Watsonville in 2020, I helped bring vaccines to South County when supplies were limited. I advocated on behalf of our farm workers, seniors and essential workers, insisting they receive the vaccine first because they were the most vulnerable.

Under my leadership, the community raised thousands of dollars to bring back holiday lighting to Main Street. This helped lift everyone’s mood and bring joy during a time so many of us needed it. I also helped secure millions of state and federal dollars to revitalize Ramsay Park, build a new nature center and upgrade our city plaza.

I am unafraid to voice my opinion and stand up for my beliefs. I stood up and fought when a developer wanted to build housing off Ohlone Parkway, a site that has contaminated soil.

That’s the kind of leadership our community needs. This is the type of leadership I will bring.

My promise is that I will continue to listen and be a strong voice for every single person in the Pajaro Valley. I care deeply for our community and am confident together we will continue moving south county forward.

A vote for me will bring you proven, compassionate and results-driven leadership.

Jimmy Dutra is the two-time mayor of Watsonville and the lead teacher for the Pajaro Valley Unified School District’s afterschool program. He worked on various political campaigns after college and in 2010, he opened a pumpkin patch, Jimmy’s Pumpkins, on East Lake Avenue in Watsonville. Jimmy was known for working with local schools and teachers and for donating a portion of his proceeds and pumpkins. Find his campaign site at JimmyDutra.com