During election season, the race for city clerk doesn’t attract as much public interest as the races of mayor and city council.
In fact, five-term incumbent Oxnard City Clerk Daniel Martinez ran unopposed in the last two elections.
But the political climate is different this time around.
Martinez is facing two formidable opponents, both of whom know their way around the city clerk’s office and both of whom feel Oxnard desperately needs a changing of the guard.
Considering that the bulk of a city clerk’s responsibilities consists of maintaining city records and making them available to the public, candidate Larry Stein said Martinez has only been doing the bare minimum of his job duties.
“I would like to provide more information to the public than is currently being provided,” said Stein, an accountant and city council watchdog who has been filing public record requests for the past 15 years.
Stein pointed out that reports from committees like the airport authority, utilities task force committee and the fiscal policy task force that include City Council members are not regularly disseminated to the public, which is something he would do if elected. Stein also said that staff reports are only printed in English, and that he would look into printing them also in Spanish, considering that about 30 percent of the Oxnard population isn’t comfortable with English.
Candidate Jose Torres, 26, spent six months this past year interning in the city clerk’s office, processing records requests and composing and posting City Council agendas, among other things. Torres, an Oxnard native and UCSB graduate, said his hands-on experience, youth and fresh perspective will provide Oxnard residents with the government service they deserve.
“I’m concerned about this position being managed by the same management for 20 years,” said Torres. “It’s gotten stagnant, but we need progress and to move on. It’s nothing against him (Martinez). We just need new, fresh ideas.”
The Oxnard city clerk receives a six-figure salary, with Martinez earning a total compensation package of $172,453, according to public records. While campaigning, Torres said the majority of residents he spoke with had no idea what the city clerk position entails, nor had they ever seen Martinez.
“Elected officials need to be more visible,” said Torres. “We got to put ourselves out there in public and let it be known that we’re there to serve them because it’s a service, not a career.” Torres suggested that putting term limits on the city clerk position would help nourish progressive ideas.
Both Torres and Stein mentioned the scrutiny that current elected officials face in the wake of the Ventura County District Attorney’s investigation into the city’s misuse of public funds. But Martinez said the investigation highlighted showed how well the city clerk’s office is performing.
“The investigation shows how well the city clerk’s office works because they took a lot of records and we still function well,” said Martinez.
During the past two decades, Martinez said, he has been able to monitor and adjust to the changing technology and demands of the job, something he always looks forward to.
“Over 20 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes in our office, especially in computers and agendas online,” he said. “I’m ready to keep serving the public and making this office the best it can be.”