John Zaragoza finished one job and started another Tuesday as he went from Ventura County Supervisor to Oxnard mayor in a matter of hours.
After fellow supervisors said good-bye to him at Board of Supervisors meeting, Zaragoza was sworn in as Oxnard’s third Latino mayor at the last Oxnard city council meeting of the year.
Zaragoza was figuratively handed the gavel over Zoom – meetings are taking place by teleconference because of the COVID-19 emergency – after another round of farewells for departing Oxnard officials.
City Treasurer Philip Molina had to be phoned at home to remotely swear in Zaragoza after residents and city officials spent two and a half hours wishing well to Tim Flynn and Carmen Ramirez.
Re-elected councilmembers took office: Oscar Madrigal, Vianey Lopez and Bryan MacDonald. Rose Chaparro is the new city clerk and Molina was re-elected treasurer. The council voted to make MacDonald the Mayor Pro Tem, filling in when Zaragoza is absent.
The council will have to decide whether to hold a special election to replace Ramirez or appoint someone to finish her term, which ends in 2022.
Flynn is the outgoing mayor and Ramirez is taking Zaragoza’s place as 5th District Supervisor, representing Oxnard and surrounding neighborhoods.
Zaragoza immediately set one of his priorities, addressing longstanding complaints about the general shabbiness of Oxnard streets.
As the meeting continued past midnight, the council addressed the issue of vendors without permits, voting to bring the matter up again at a later meeting.
Urging residents to take more pride in their neighborhoods by sweeping sidewalks and cleaning alleys, Zaragoza’s opening comments echoed those he made to VIDA Newspaper, in an earlier phone interview.
“One of the things I’m looking at is cleaning up the city as much as we can,” Zaragoza said. “Weeds and so forth.”
Zaragoza also singled out the city’s budget and improving infrastructure as goals, “replenish resources, then look at our parks, work with youth.”
The new mayor said he wants to find funding for the Performing Arts Center and Carnegie Museum. The PAC and the museum have been threatened by the city’s budget crisis.
“Another thing I think’s really important is training programs to increase the standard of living,” Zaragoza said.
Accomplishing those goals will require developing a strategic plan with the city council, said Zaragoza.
“Probably about a four to five year plan, go from Point A to Point B,” Zaragoza said, nothing that money raised by the sales tax voters approved in November will be critical.
Zaragoza observed another referendum passed in November, which blocks the city from using sales tax money for anything but street repairs, is a possible obstacle to getting things done.
Money raised by a previous sales tax, Measure O, must be used to complete street repairs before the city can use money raised by the new sales tax, Measure E, for anything else.
“I don’t think that’s wise because that money for the next 10 years,” Zaragoza said.
Earlier at the Board of Supervisors meeting, Zaragoza was given a farewell presentation spotlighting his 12 years of service to the County of Ventura and its residents.
The video presentation featured photos of Zaragoza and retiring Chief of Police Scott Whitney, with schoolchildren and labor leaders; and with public officials at groundbreaking ceremonies and dinners.
As the supervisors passed a resolution recognizing Zaragoza’s community service, Board Chair Kelly Long noted there is such “a huge list of all the reasons that we put on the resolution, we can’t read them all.”
The board voted unanimously to name the county’s Nyeland Acres community center – which Zaragoza spearheaded — the County of Ventura John C. Zaragoza Nyeland Acres Community Center and Park.
Zaragoza was a county supervisor from 2008 to this year, when he was term-limited out. Prior to that he was an Oxnard city council member from 1996 to 2004.
After defeating longtime supervisor John Flynn, he set a precedent as the second Latino supervisor in county history. The first was Adolfo Camarillo, who was a supervisor from 1906-14.
Likewise he is only the third Hispanic mayor of Oxnard. The first two were Salvator Sanchez Jr., mayor from 1970-71, and Manuel Lopez, from 1992-2004.