Michele Gabriault-Acosta (Incumbent) Residence: Central Merced Family: Three daughters, four grand-children Number of Years Lived in Merced: Born and raised Party Registration: Democrat Biggest Funders: $500 from Julius Pekar, Executive Director of Merced County Chamber of Commerce; $500 from Donna Rodrigues, Owner of Coastal Nurseries, $500 from Iyad Naffa, Engineer Past Experience With Public Office: Elected to City Council in 2003, two years on the City Planning Commission Endorsements: Merced Police Officers Association, Merced Firefighters Association, Merced-Mariposa Central Labor Council, California Association of Realtors
A fifth-generation Mercedian whose mother and father both served as mayor, Gabriault-Acosta is Merced’s own version of a Kennedy - only without the scandals. With name recognition to spare, she coasted to victory in 2003, spending only about $1,000 to put out 125 yard signs. But Gabriault-Acosta’s roots in Merced’s history don’t mean she’s only interested in maintaining the status quo. Since the November 2005 election, Gabriault-Acosta has emerged as the council contrarian, voting “no” more times than any other council member. (She also holds the record for best attendance, missing only one meeting during her four-year term.)
Her no votes include going against developers who wanted to rezone a commercial site to residential and nixing developers who wanted a zoning change to build denser housing.
“If I don’t feel it’s for our community, I have no problem voting no for it,” said Gabriault-Acosta. “I treat the whole city like my home.” On development, she says she recognizes the need for smaller lot houses as a more affordable option for some families, but she’s not a big fan of them because they don’t leave enough room for kids to play in a yard. “I don’t want (kids) in the alleys playing, I don’t want them playing in the street,” she said.
She also nixed the idea of raising the council’s $20 monthly pay, saying that council members shouldn’t be motivated by money. “It’s not about the money to me,” said Gabriault-Acosta. “It’s about giving back. Even if we got no money at all, I would still run for office.” She says her top priorities for Merced haven’t changed since her run four years ago. Her focus remains on improving public safety, economic development — “we need jobs, jobs, jobs” — and infrastructure.
The most important thing voters should know about her, she says, is that Merced has been her family’s home for generations. “When I look at something (on the council), I look at it as how it would affect my own home,” said Gabriault-Acosta.