MERCED — Incumbent Josh Pedrozo said the city has seen increased development in his time in office, and he wants to keep that ball rolling.
Everybody whos running will say, Jobs, jobs, jobs, the 30-year-old said. Theres nothing that we as a council can do to bring jobs in the city. What we can do is make an environment that is conducive for businesses.
He said developing Campus Parkway, the long-awaited expressway that will eventually connect Highway 99 to UC Merced, should be a focus of the city. Garnering the local, state and federal funds to complete the project are vital, he said.
The first stretch was completed in 2010. The completed corridor will see development, Pedrozo said, and produce jobs.
Thats where the Wal-Mart distribution centers going to be; thats where the business is thats going to lead to the UC, he said.
Pedrozo said Merceds economic standing has improved during his time on the council. He pointed to increasing development and zero layoffs in the past two years.
One of the things that Im very proud about is the fact that weve been able to take strides to have a sustainable budget going forward, he said. We were bleeding money, and we came in, in 2009, and we were able to stop that.
Pedrozo, who is completing his first term as a councilman, said he saw that the city was floundering before he started, but had potential, and he wanted to be part of its leadership.
I wanted to make sure I was at the table, making decisions, guiding the city forward, he said. Its something thats very important to me.
Before he took office, the Merced High School social studies teacher served as an intern for former Merced County Congressman Dennis Cardoza. He was born and raised in Merced on a dairy farm, but left long enough to finish his masters in public administration from Golden Gate University in San Francisco.
Pedrozo, who is the son of Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo, said he knew he would run for office at about age 10 when then-Congressman Gary Condit visited his fifth-grade class.
I knew that I wanted to get involved in government, he said, because government was something that was affecting peoples lives on a daily basis.
Other successes in Pedrozos time in office, he said, include the closure of the Black Rascal Creek and Santa Fe Drive homeless camp in 2010 and the councils decision to lower developer fees by more than half.
Pedrozo said he brought the idea forward to develop the citys entertainment district, which runs along Main Street. He said new ideas and strategies are the way the city will be able to develop without overspending.
Pedrozo said he is determined to make sure the city does not dip into its reserve just because we have it.
Im very passionate about making sure that our city does not become the next bankrupt city by overspending, or out-kicking our coverage, if you will, he said.
By 2020, the city is estimated to reach 100,000 people. UC Merced officials have a goal to hit 10,000 students by that year.
Pedrozo said tapping those graduates could help employ more of the population. With more than half of UC Merced students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math, the city must find a way keep them around, he said.
Pedrozo said negative stereotypes about Merced hinder its ability to attract developers.
Ive really tried in the last four years to change the narrative in Merced, he said. Im tired of people saying its a bad place to live.
Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.