Photo courtesy of Caroline Bañuelos
The Oak Leaf is proud to endorse Caroline Bañuelos and incumbent Mariana Martinez for Santa Rosa Junior College’s Board of Trustees, with Kerry Rego a very close third. They are among five candidates running in the 3-4-5 district that covers the Santa Rosa area. Voters will elect two of the candidates on Nov. 3.
Newcomer Bañuelos would bring a history of non-profit knowledge and social justice sensibilities to the seat, with four years on the Santa Rosa Planning Commission, six years on the board of Social Advocates for Youth and experience as chair of the CALLE commission, also known as the Andy Lopez task force.
Bañuelos currently serves as board vice president of KBBF, co-chair of Cinco de Mayo in Roseland and co-founder of the Sonoma County Latino Democratic Club.
As a trustee, Bañuelos said she would focus on recruiting diverse faculty, assessing the role of SRJC campus police and creating equity for SRJC’s Southwest Center.
A former SRJC student herself, Bañuelos is sensitive both to issues that matter to students, like the frustrations of online learning and the high price of housing, and executive issues, like raising enrollment and integrity in the Board of Trustees.
Sitting trustee Martinez is a first-generation college graduate who earned a doctoral degree in education policy. Her focus has been and remains creating equity for students, whom she calls “the college’s primary constituents,” and ensuring everyone receives the support they need.
From establishing a $15 minimum wage on campus, to working to meet the health and services needs of students, to expanding the school’s focus on sustainability, Martinez has proven she has students’ backs, which is more important than ever during crises like the state’s recent fires and the ongoing pandemic.
Martinez believes the budget is best used when SRJC students can focus on attending the school without financial stress impeding them. She wants to plan for the eventuality of more fires, increase racial representation and dialogue, and address both enrollment and the Southwest Center.
Kerry Rego, a small business owner and SRJC educator who’s taught K-12, community college and university courses, would bring financial savvy to the seat. While Martinez and Bañuelos secure The Oak Leaf’s endorsement, Rego is still very deserving of your vote, and adds needed skills and experience to the board. Rego would be the first SRJC educator on the board and the only current Black trustee.
Rego said she would use marketing connections to support school programs like Shone Farm, which she thinks could benefit from being run more like a business.
Incumbent trustee Don Edgar does not earn The Oak Leaf’s endorsement. Edgar has a history of falling asleep in board meetings, which he’s attributed to medical issues and medication. His law license is also currently suspended over his mishandling of $56,000 in client funds. Although Edgar has sat on the board since 2008, there’s more to governance than experience.
A fifth candidate, Sarichon Rex Toeung, failed to appear at two Oak Leaf endorsement hearings and did not publish any information in the voting guide.
As Bañuelos said during her endorsement hearing, “Community college is the gateway to a better life,” and The Oak Leaf believes the two candidates who can open the gateway widest are Martinez and Bañuelos.