MERCED — The mayor and several City Council members are facing re-election this November.
Mayor Stan Thurston's first two-year term will be up, and he has at least two potential challengers.
Councilman Noah Lor, with two years left on his term, has announced he's running for mayor. And political upstart Josh Franco has thrown his hat in the ring.
"I think I have the age, knowledge and experience to make the best mayor of all the candidates," said Thurston, a 68-year-old retired attorney who co-owns Gemini Flight Support.
Lor, 49, works as a clinician with Merced County Mental Health and is a part-time professor at Merced College.
"I'm very approachable," he said. "I listen to people. I'm very outgoing, easy to talk to. I'm the best person to lead as mayor."
Franco is a UC Merced doctorate student in political science. He worked for Congressman John Garamendi as a policy analyst for a number of years in California and Washington.
"It's time for my generation to step up and serve the community in an elected office," said the 27-year-old. "The city has weathered the recession, and it's looking to the future."
The candidates stressed the need for jobs and industry, as well as working with UC Merced to bring in economic growth.
Two of the candidates said raising morale would be a top priority
It will be difficult to ease the cynicism, Franco said. "But I think as people see my generation use the public process to raise up the community it will be unique."
Lor said: "A lot of people are very sad, depressed. It's important that we have business improve in Merced, and the quality of life improve in Merced. That's important to me."
Thurston pointed to his efforts to start up town hall meetings, promising to continue to actively engage the public.
"I feel like I've contributed a lot to an open, transparent and accountable government," he said. "And I want to keep doing that."
Councilman Josh Pedrozo, 30, said he's running for re-election this fall.
The Merced High School social studies teacher said he hopes to continue to contribute to balancing the city's budget.
"When I assumed office four years ago we were going through the worst financial situation the city has seen in some time," he said. "Continuing to work out our financial mess is a goal. We've been able to balance our budget without fund reserves."
Councilwoman Mary-Michal Rawling's term will expire in the fall. She hasn't signaled whether she plans to run again.
Councilman Bill Blake has said he will not seek re-election. However, he's not ruling out future campaigns.
Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.