Pajaro Valley Health Care District candidates Joe Gallagher, Marcus Pimentel remain in the lead

Watsonville Community Hospital.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Retired physician Joe Gallagher remained in the lead on Wednesday for one of two open seats on the board, with 41.61% of the vote. Marcus Pimentel had earned 31.36% of votes counted. Fellow board incumbent Jasmine Notanee Nájera trailed with 26.26%.

Election 2022: Santa Cruz County

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As of Wednesday, with 7,815 votes counted, Marcus Pimentel and Joe Gallagher were leading the race for the two open seats on the Pajaro Valley Health Care District board.

Gallagher took an early lead with 41.61% of the vote, while Pimentel got 31.36% and fellow board incumbent Jasmine Notanee Nájera trailed with 26.26%.

The health care district boundary has 42,286 voters in Santa Cruz County and 4,443 voters in Monterey County. It was not clear amid the early count how many of those registered voters cast ballots.

The newly formed Pajaro Valley Health Care District now owns and operates the Watsonville Community Hospital. The hospital declared bankruptcy in December, pushing a coalition of local governments and health organizations to form a nonprofit to raise and purchase it with the goal of returning the hospital to public ownership.

The Pajaro Valley Health Care District was formed through emergency legislation in February and therefore without time to hold elections for its board of directors. The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors appointed its first five members to serve in the meantime.

So, for the first time, Pajaro Valley residents voted to decide who will run the Watsonville Community Hospital by selecting two members this election cycle. The three other seats will have elections in two years.

Pimentel is the budget manager for Santa Cruz County and lives in Monterey County. He’s also a board member of Salud Para La Gente — a local health care provider.

A Watsonville resident, Nájera was just appointed CEO of the Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance. She previously worked as a licensed clinical social worker for the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency.

Gallagher is a retired physician who lives in Watsonville. He was on the Watsonville Community Hospital’s medical staff from 1986 to the end of 2019.


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