The youngest member of the Watsonville City Council is the city's new mayor while a veteran member will be mayor pro tempore.
, a bus driver representing District 4, was unopposed and was unanimously elected as mayor Tuesday evening. Oscar Rios, who represents District 2, also was unopposed and a unanimous selection.
"What a great team we're going to have this going-around," City Councilor Lowell Hurst said.
Outgoing Mayor Daniel Dodge noted that it's fitting for the 36-year-old Montesino to lead Watsonville, .
"This is a tremendous accomplishment for someone like me," Montesino said.
Montesino is an immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico, who came to the U.S. at age 8 and grew up in Santa Cruz's Beach Flats neighborhood, then a rough area with gang, drug and violence problems similar to the issues Watsonville faces. He became a citizen five years ago and was elected to city council last November.
"I wanted to have a better Watsonville," Montesino said. "I wanted Watsonville to be proud of itself."
Three community members spoke in favor of Montesino, including former City Councilor Antonio Rivas. Joseph Eaton said he’s been impressed with Montesino during his time on the council.
"This community of Watsonville, people of Watsonville know Eduardo," said Rhea De Hart, who lives in Montesino's district. "I really think it’s great he’s been nominated.”
Hurst also was appointed as a candidate for mayor by City Councilor Nancy Bilicich, but Hurst threw his support to Montesino and asked Bilicich to withdraw her nomination.
"That’s not something that I’m prepared to do at this time … but thank you very much for the confidence," Hurst said.
Rios was the sole nominee for vice mayor. The experienced leader has been mayor four times during his 15 years of service to the community. This will be his seventh tenure as mayor pro tem.
"We have to continue to have hope that life is going to be better, that our community is going to be better," he said.
Rios came to Watsonville from San Francisco to help cannery workers during strikes in the mid-1980s. His family remained in the city and still asks him when he’ll return.
“I love Watsonville,” he said.
Moments before his selection as mayor, Montesino presented outgoing Dodge with a gavel honoring his year as the city's leader.
“This man has been a friend to me now for more than a year. He’s shown me the ways of politics and mentored me," said Montesino, who joked that Dodge is old enough to be his father.
He thanked Dodge for guiding him during his journey into politics.
"I came from being a bus driver and a father of kids wanting to make a difference," said Montesino, who joined the council two years ago.
Dodge thanked Montesino and the friends in the audience for their support.
“I’m really honored to have this gavel," Dodge said. "It represents my life for the past year.”
City Councilor Emilio Martinez was not present at the meeting.