State - INACTIVE

6 throw hats in ring for Hughson recall

HUGHSON — For the six people running to replace three embattled city councilmen in a recall election, it's about getting back to business.

"I think that we need to really go back and take a look at what the pressing issues are in our city," said Jill Ferreira Silva. "We've been distracted for a while."

Silva and five others filed by the deadline Thursday to run in an Aug. 24 Hughson City Council recall election.

The recall targets Thom Crowder, Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley; the Stanislaus County civil grand jury found they violated a state law that governs public meetings by conspiring to fire former City Manager Joe Donabed.

The grand jury also found that Crowder, who owns Hughson Ambulance, tried to use his influence as a city councilman to get a job with another ambulance company.

Since then, council meetings have been marked by accusations thrown between the three and Mayor Ramon Bawanan and Councilman Matt Beekman. Employees have lined up on both sides, with some saying that Crowder, Humphreys and Manley were only trying to clean up a hostile work environment at City Hall.

Residents have spoken out at meetings, which have been held in the city's community center for months to accommodate large crowds. Some defended the targeted councilmen; others waved signs and chastised them, demanding they resign.

Voters will be asked two questions regarding each man: whether he should be recalled from office and who should replace him. So, while most City Council elections in Hughson are citywide, this one pits candidates for specific seats:

Seeking Crowder's seat are George Carr and Miguel Oseguera

Seeking Humphreys' seat are Gary Houx and Jeramy Young

Seeking Manley's seat are Silva and Billie Gonzales

Crowder did not return a call for comment.

Second race could be needed If Crowder is unseated, Carr or Oseguera potentially will face another election in November, when the seat expires. The other two terms expire in 2012.

Carr, 52, also is a technical analyst for AT&T. He is the chairman of Citizens for Better City Government, which launched the recall effort, and a seven-year Parks and Recreation Commission member.

"I guess I was just up to a challenge," said Carr, a 20-year resident of the city. "We need to get back to city business and get away from the bickering on all sides."

Failure to communicate

For Oseguera, 27, running for a council seat is nothing new; in 2009, he applied to fill a seat that ultimately went to Crowder.

"Before anything ... we need to fix the problem with communication at City Hall," he said. "It looks like a civil war."

Oseguera, who is a volunteer firefighter and works at a Modesto pharmacy, said he'd start by getting all the city employees together to work through their differences and return the focus to city business.

Houx said he wants to be part of a city structure that moves in a positive direction.

"What we've got to get back to is that you can have differences of opinion but work together," he said.

The 60-year-old facilities manager for MedicAlert said he is a strong decision-maker and wants to use those skills to help his hometown.

Young, a 38-year-old Modesto police sergeant, said his first priority will be to "find a city manager that's qualified to lead the city. We have a lot of financial issues; there's a lot of work to be done."

Young, a Hughson High graduate who has lived in the city for nine years after leaving town for a job, said he's not intimidated by the challenges. "I've been in law enforcement for 18 years," he said.

Silva, 46, also has a law enforcement background: She is the assistant chief probation officer for Stanislaus County

"I guess I finally made my mind up after I received a lot of encouragement from different people," she said. "I decided I need to step up to the plate to help our city get through this turmoil."

The fourth-generation resident of Hughson said the council needs to deal with water and sewer systems in need of upgrades and sustaining serv-ices in the face of declining revenue.

"We also need to take a look at our general plan," she said. "Are we on track with the priorities that have already been set for the city?"

Gonzales, 43, married into Hughson — his wife is a longtime resident, although he only recently moved there. He unsuccessfully ran for Ripon City Council in 2008.

"I really want to promote a teamwork type of atmosphere for the city," said Gonzales, who was laid off from his job selling security equipment in October. "Right now, I don't believe there is one."

What about city's issues?

He said that with all of the politics in Hughson recently, city business suffers. He referred to a remark Beekman made at a recent meeting that nobody's talked about the city's $15 million water treatment plant, now under construction.

"I'm not a supporter of Beekman in any way," Gonzales said. "But he's right. It just kind of goes back to everybody having their own agenda."

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.

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