Local Election

Former member of Merced City Council will challenge for county supervisor seat

A former member of the Merced City Council who is also the son of a one-time Merced County supervisor plans to run for the District 2 supervisor seat.

Josh Pedrozo said he’ll challenge first-term Supervisor Lee Lor for the district that primarily covers the city of Merced north of Highway 99.

The 36-year-old challenger says he’s seen a deterioration in communication between the county and the city of Merced’s officials and he’ll look to strengthen that as the city approaches major projects set to transform the town.

“I feel that a really good relationship was built between the city and the county, and I feel like that relationship has deteriorated a little bit,” he said. “I want to make sure we build that back up.”

“I just feel that there has been some gaps in communication and some stuff that’s going on within the city and within the county,” he said. “Specifically in regards to some rail issues, some transportation projects and some of those other areas.”

Lor recently announced on Facebook she intends to run for re-election.

Lor, 37, worked as the executive director of the Merced County Education Fund before winning a seat as a supervisor in 2016. She is the first Hmong American woman to hold an elected position in the Central Valley and the second in California as a whole.

“The city and the county have not traditionally had a good relationship,” she said. “For him to say that is misrepresenting what’s happening in Merced County.”

Lor put together a 10-month project to get residents involved in how to spend money from the supervisor’s discretionary fund. The board did away with the discretionary funds, but Lor still has some banked. She counted the People’s Budget effort as one of her successes.

Former Merced City Councilmember Josh Pedrozo announces on Monday, March 4, 2019, his plan to run for the Merced County Supervisover seat in District 2. Thaddeus Miller tmiller@mercedsunstar.com

Beyond transportation projects, the city’s greatest challenge is facing down homelessness, Pedrozo said. “I believe the biggest challenge we see in District 2 is, much like we see in the rest of the county and the city, is the homelessness,” he said. “Coming up with a solution to work with the community partners to figure out some solution to get people off the streets.”

A survey conducted by the city two years ago showed homelessness as the top priority, city staffers have said. Homelessness and housing were also highlighted recently by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Merced Mayor Mike Murphy.

Merced Police Chief Chris Goodwin has said the police department’s most common call relates to transients.

Lor said she has been at the front of the county’s effort to end homelessness, including supporting a new position that works directly with the Continuum of Care, a group of homeless advocates and service providers. When United Way stepped away from being the group’s collaborative applicant — the agency that communicates with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — she said she had a plan.

“I was the one who championed the county being the collaborative applicant. What I proposed to staff was as part of the capacity building that the county be the collaborative applicant for one to three years,” she said. “In that process you bring on two nonprofit organizations that would work along with the county on that transition. So when the county steps back, the county has two nonprofits to choose from.”

Among her other accomplishments in her first two years in office, Lor pointed to the planned Kids Discovery Station, a museum aimed at young children that she is working to open with a UC Merced professor. “We found a semi-permanent home,” she said. “If everything goes as planned, it will open this fall.”

The son of former District 1 Supervisor John Pedrozo, the younger Pedrozo served two terms on the Merced City Council until terming out last year. He ran an unsuccessful race for the mayor’s seat in 2016, losing out to Murphy.

Pedrozo, who teaches at Merced High, touted successes the city saw while he was on the City Council dais. He made the announcement at the corner of Campus Parkway and Childs Avenue overlooking a section of the $30 million road expansion to connect UC Merced and Highway 99.

“I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish while on the Merced City Council,” he said. “Things like funding for the Campus Parkway extension, something we stand before today. Something that myself and a lot of people took lots of time and effort to make this a reality.”

The project is funded by the Senate Bill 1 gas tax bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and championed by State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, and Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, officials said. Pedrozo has long spoken about the importance of the project even calling it his top priority during his 2013 run for re-election to the City Council.

The primary election is March 3, 2020.

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Reporter Thaddeus Miller has covered cities in the central San Joaquin Valley since 2010, writing about everything from breaking news to government and police accountability. A native of Fresno, he joined The Fresno Bee in 2019 after time in Merced and Los Banos.