Merced City Councilman Matthew Serratto told the Times this week he plans to run for mayor and has taken the first steps to launch a citywide campaign for the top post.
Residents will cast votes for new city leaders in the Presidential General Election set for Nov. 3.
Though there’s several months to go before City Council elections heat up, Serratto is the third candidate to announce a 2020 mayoral run, and the second in recent weeks.
He joins former City Councilman Michael Belluomini who declared his intentions earlier this month, and homeless advocate Monica Villa, who has been adamant about another attempt since she lost to Mayor Mike Murphy in 2018.
“More than anything I love the work,” Serratto said. “I love the city. I love the residents. I love our team at City Hall. It has been one of the great honors of my life to serve over the past few years. I want to step up, and do more. A lot of people have been encouraging me to do it. And I’ve been thinking about it for a while … I think it’s the right thing to do. I think I will do a good job.”
Serratto, 39, works as supervising deputy district attorney in Merced County’s D.A.’s Office. He was elected to the District 5 seat on the Merced City Council in 2016.
The candidate says he’s proud of the work that has taken place at City Hall over the past three years.
“I think we have done a lot on the Council to rebuild the city in many ways,” Serratto said. “Step by step, block by block, we have been reinvigorating our city. … We have been filling vacant storefronts and office buildings. We have been fixing miles and miles of roads. We have filled hundreds of thousands of pot holes. We rebuilt the bridges over M Street and G Street.
“Today we have a lot of economic development projects that we need to keep going and kick them up to the next level. We are seeing them downtown, at the Mall, around the Yosemite and G area, and Campus Parkway.
“The community has made strides in the fight against homelessness, and we have big plans that we need to implement.”
Serratto helped draft and champion an ethics ordinance for city leaders. He supported rules to enhance local preference for city contracts. And he has taken the lead on various committees, including one to explore improving downtown, one to create a major soccer facility/public park in southeast Merced, and one to restore the historic Laura Fountain in Applegate Park.
He started a neighborhood improvement project in the Loughborough area, and targeted specific areas for landscape and sidewalk work, as well as the creation of a new park.
“My hope is that this project turns into a model that we can take to different parts of the city,” Serratto said. “It would be a specific, targeted neighborhood improvement program which I think is a pretty cool idea.”
The candidate promises residents that they will begin seeing progress around the city that the Council has been working on over the past few years.
“We have a groundbreaking coming up for a major housing project at Yosemite Avenue and Lake Road. We have approved probably a dozen or so apartment complexes in other parts of the city, and more than 1,000 apartment units. We issued a record number of housing permits last year. The city is doing everything it can to respond to a tight housing market.”
Serratto said the demand for housing is going to play a big factor in how the city grows. Just this week the City Council convened a meeting on an annexation study that deals with a large stretch of land between the city’s northern limits and out around UC Merced. The mayoral hopeful was among those who stressed cautious, steady growth to the north, while keeping a goal to shore up existing real estate inside the city. He says he would like to see denser residential areas in parts of downtown, and touts projects like the new Tioga apartments set to open soon.
During Serratto’s term, the City Council has moved forward affordable housing projects, including the ones at Canal and 13th streets, and at Childs and B streets.
The councilman was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in November of 2018, and underwent chemotherapy treatments that December. Later, more than a dozen city leaders and employees shaved their heads to show support for Serratto’s fight with Stage 4 cancer. Fortunately the condition was treatable with modern medicine, and by summer the cancer could no longer be detected.
“I always figured I’d get through it,” Serratto said. “My mom and my grandma were cancer survivors. It’s something I have had to deal with in my family. … It also reinforces so many things. I know it’s cliche, but life is precious. It’s a gift. So you make the best of it. You work hard, and try to be a good person, and you cherish your family and friends.”
The candidate says being mayor is a big job, and he has some big shoes to fill, but he’s up to it.
“Mayor Murphy has done a fantastic job,” Serratto says. “He has brought a level of intelligence, a level of commitment, and a level of energy that’s pretty remarkable for what’s basically a volunteer position.”
Because of his decision to go for the mayor’s seat, Serratto will leave open the District 5 seat on the council, to be filled by somebody in November. Two other City Council seats will be up for grabs as well. There is a chance Merced will welcome a much different looking council body to start the new decade in 2021.
Serratto was named the Top Prosecutor of the Year for small and mid-size cities in California. He was also the lead prosecutor for Operation Scrapbook.
Serratto received his bachelor’s degree from UC Davis in 2002, and graduated with a law degree from UCLA.