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2 New Central Unified Trustees is a Given. Will Voters Make it 3 in November?



Photo Illustration with ballot box and Central Unified logo
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The woman who helped spearhead an unsuccessful campaign to oust Fresno Unified trustee Terry Slatic and a man who ran a slate of reform candidates for the Central Unified board six years ago are asking voters in Central Unified’s Area 6 to elect them on Nov. 3.

Stacy Williams, who previously worked for a Stockton nonprofit, and businessman Richard Martinez are two of the four candidates in the race to replace Terry Cox, who decided not to seek re-election. The other candidates are almond farmer Jeremy Mehling and Sandra Flores, a community outreach manager.

Four of the seven seats on the Central Unified board are up for election on Nov. 3. Three are for full four-year terms, and the fourth is a special election to fill out the unexpired term of former trustee Richard Atkins, who resigned after he posted an insensitive comment on Facebook that sparked public outrage and condemnation.

Area  6

Williams, Martinez, and Flores did not respond to repeated requests for information from GV Wire about their campaigns and whether they support Measure D, the $120 million bond measure that’s also on the November ballot.

Richard Martinez

Of the four, Martinez appears to have the most experience in seeking election, although so far he has not been successful in finding it. He lost to Cox in the 2016 Area 6 election in 2016, was unsuccessful in his bid for the Fresno County Board of Education Area 1 seat in 2018, and lost in the Central Unified Area 2 election in 1998.

Martinez engineered the election of the so-called “Four Horsemen” to the Central board in 2014, a slate of candidates depicted as Wild West cowboys whose mission was to improve the district.

Last month Martinez was notified of a complaint to the California Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that he did not report more than $8,000 in nonmonetary contributions made to his campaign by the Central Unified Teachers Association PAC and reported by the PAC in its political finance reports. In addition to not reporting the donation, Martinez had pledged to raise and spend less than $2,000 on his campaign by filing a Form 470 that year, the complaint alleged.

Martinez, founder and CEO of Super Mex International, LLC, is married to the union’s president, Judee G. Martinez.

The complaint about the 2016 campaign was made by one of Williams’ campaign volunteers, Emily Cameron, who contributed website graphics.

Stacy Williams

Sandra Flores

In campaign finance reports for the upcoming election, Martinez has once again filed Form 470, pledging to neither raise nor spend more than $2,000 on his campaign.

Martinez told GV Wire℠ on Monday that he would comment on the FPPC investigation after it concludes. He said he now plans to raise and spend more than $2,000 in his current campaign.

Meanwhile, Williams reports raising $2,382 and Flores reports raising $1,075 through Sept. 19, according to campaign finance documents.

Jeremy Mehling

Jeremy Mehling

Mehling’s campaign reported $14,511 in contributions, primarily from fellow farmers, and includes a self-loan of $5,811.

Mehling, 40, said he is running because he is a husband, father, and Central Unified resident of 40 years. His daughter is the third generation of his family to attend Central Unified. “I believe in a strong community, and with my background and devotion to Central Unified I know I’m the best candidate for the seat,” he said.

Mehling said his top issues are fiscal responsibility; helping students become career ready, not just college ready; engaging the community’s support and involvement; child safety; and innovation/technology.

As for Measure D, the district’s $120 million bond measure, Mehling said at this point he plans to vote against it, even though he’s in favor of adding the aquatics center and performing arts center to the new high school campus. The bond measure would pay for those facilities as well as build a new elementary school and improve existing schools. But with the uncertainty of the economy and COVID-19, now is not the right time to ask voters to increase their property taxes, he said.

Area 6 is in the southwest portion of the district.

Area 3

Phillip Cervantes

Incumbent Phillip Cervantes, who works for a medical and dental supply distributor, is facing challenger Corbin Gunstream for election to the Area 3 seat that Cervantes won for the first time in the 2016 election. Cervantes did not respond to repeated queries from GV Wire about his stand on issues, including Measure D, and why he is seeking re-election.

Corbin Gunstream

Gunstream, 37, chief financial officer of Engineered Industrial Products, is the father of two Central Unified elementary school students. He said he supports Measure D because the investment in the school district will pay off not only with better education and extracurricular opportunities for generations of students, but also in higher home values for residents.

He said his top issues for the district are the safety and wellbeing of students, teachers and the community and meeting the “enormous” technology challenges. He praised the district’s tech department and teachers for making the necessary adjustments so that education can continue during COVID-19 school closures.

With the completion and opening next fall of Justin Garza High School at Grantland and Ashlan avenues, the district will have some important decisions to make concerning boundary lines, athletics, visual and performing arts, and Gunstream said he wants to participate in those decisions.

Area 3 is in the northwest portion of the district and stretches from the San Joaquin River on both sides of Highway 99 southwest to California Avenue.

Area 4

Two candidates are running to fill the seat that became vacant when trustee Richard Atkins, who came under fire after posting on Facebook that critics of the U.S. should “go back to your country,” abruptly resigned during a special meeting in June that had been called to address the issue.

Shawn Brooks

Shawn Brooks, who lost to Atkins in the 2018 election, and Bret Rush are seeking election to fill the remainder of Atkins’ term, which ends in 2022.

Brooks, 54, is an account clerk for the California Department of Rehabilitation. She said she supports Measure D because it will fund new school construction and renovations and create local construction jobs.

Brooks said she is running because she is the parent of a Central West student and has a vested interest in school success. Her top issues are ensuring students and teachers are healthy and safe when they return to classrooms; promoting a positive relationship with schools and parents; and working to improve students’ academic achievements.

Bret Rush

Rush, 62, is chief of staff for Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig. He said he opposes Measure D because “this is not the year to ask home owners to pay more in property taxes.”

Rush said he is running so he can help Central Unified students get the best education possible, and that requires hiring the best teachers and providing them incentives to remain at the district for their career. One of the most important issues, he said, “is not forgetting the 3 Rs. Reading writing & arithmetic. These are the fundamentals of education.”

Brooks has reported zero donations thus far, while Rush filed a Form 470 signaling he will keep his campaign donations and costs under $2,000.

Area 4 is in the southeast portion of the district.

Area 5

Incumbent Richard Solis is unopposed in the election. Area 5 is the east-central portion of the district and includes the district headquarters and Central High East.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email