Monica Martinez headshot
Monica Martinez says, if elected, she will work to reestablish the housing taken out of commission during the CZU Lighting Complex Fire and recent winter storms. (Photo by Joop Rubens / Courtesy of Monica Martinez)

This morning, the head of Santa Cruz County’s largest health and human services nonprofit announced she is vying to replace Fifth District Supervisor Bruce McPherson on the Board of Supervisors, come next election.

Monica Martinez, 41, currently the CEO of Encompass Community Services, says the constituency—which includes Felton, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, Scotts Valley and part of Santa Cruz—would benefit if represented by a woman from SLV.

“I think it’s time that the Fifth District gets the resources that it deserves,” she said. “It’s overlooked.”

The Felton resident, who identifies as an LGBTQ+ person of color, chairs the Santa Cruz County Parks and Recreation Commission and is on Santa Cruz County Health Improvement Partnership’s executive committee.

But dislodging McPherson, who is currently serving his third term on the board, won’t be easy, should he decide to run again.

He was unopposed in the 2020 election, and is a frequent fixture at library and health facility openings.

McPherson was nominated to become California’s secretary of state by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in 2005, and helped establish Monterey Bay Community Power, after getting elected to Santa Cruz County’s administrative board.

But Martinez says it’s time for new leadership.

“I think our community is ready for a fresh voice,” she said. “I believe that diverse voices and diverse representation lead to better decision-making.”

Martinez is hoping to be the first woman on the political body since Ellen Pirie stepped down in 2012. Pirie, a lawyer, had represented the Second District where she lived (in the Aptos-La Selva Beach area) while pushing the Aptos Village Plan forward and advocating for the purchase of the Branch Rail Line.

The composition of the Board of Supervisors already looks quite different than it did just a few months back.

In November, Justin Cummings became the first Black man to ever serve on the board, beating out Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson by about 3% of the vote tally to take the reins of the Third District, which includes Bonny Doon and borders the Fifth District.

And Felipe Hernandez became Fourth District supervisor, garnering 1,483 more votes than Jimmy Dutra, and was installed in Greg Caput’s old South County seat.

Hernandez, a weightlifter and mid-century-modern furniture aficionado, previously served as the mayor of Watsonville and on the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees.

Martinez, who was the executive director nonprofit Housing Matters, says housing people—and helping people stay housed—is one of her political priority areas.

It’s an issue that really resonates in the North County, which has dealt with consecutive storm-damage blows this year and is still struggling to recover from 2020’s CZU Lighting Complex Fire.

“I think that the County should be doing more to help people who have lost their homes to the CZU fire or the winter storms,” she said. “We lost 911 homes during the CZU fire, and only 24 have been rebuilt. That’s not a success. I think we should be doing whatever it takes to rebuild and help people get home as soon as possible.”

Working to stabilize the housing stock in the San Lorenzo Valley, she adds, will allow firefighters and teachers to live right in the community where they work.

“What we’ve seen is the San Lorenzo Valley has been hit by these unprecedented disasters,” said Martinez. “And it feels really important that somebody who is experiencing these disasters first hand is advocating for this community to receive the public resources that they deserve to rebuild and recover.”

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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