Part of the task for Merced County Supervisor Lloyd Pareira is that there are eight distinct rural communities in the district he represents — District 4 — including the unincorporated areas of Snelling, Winton, Ballico, Cressey, Delhi, Stevinson, Hilmar, and the small town of Gustine. And that doesn’t include lesser known communities such as Irwin. There’s even a new portion, thanks to redistricting, that includes parts of the Bellevue Ranch area in north Merced.
“I have a lot of communities to pay attention to,” Pareira says. “You have all these tight-knit communities — each of them filled with wonderful people who care about their quality of life.”
It’s actually this district — a stretch of country where Pareira grew up and created childhood memories — that today defines the 61-year-old leader and how he works to create positive change throughout the county.
He tells the story of playing in Winton Park as a kid. There was always Little League, and Pop Warner football going on. And the park was so big, a sprawling expanse, just as it is today. It was impressive in its own way.
But Winton Park was carved out a long time ago, and over time, it began to deteriorate and fall into disrepair. The grass wasn’t grass anymore. There were just clumps of weeds. The facilities were broken down. It didn’t look welcoming.
When Pareira was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2016, the county didn’t have a grant writer in the CEO’s Office with a sole mission to go after competitive state and federal grants that utilize dedicated funding for community improvements such as public parks. Pareira was one of the leaders who lobbied to bring a top management analyst on board.
Meanwhile, Pareira was also meeting and having conversations with Winton community members who were already planning a new vision for the park. They had ideas and designs.
Then the county hired Patti Dossetti, and things started to fall in place. Actually, Dossetti was able to secure funding for an impressive new community park in Planada first. The park in Winton wasn’t included in the first round, so to speak.
However, in characteristic style, as his colleagues would attest, Pareira was patient and persistent on his end. “Sometimes when you are not successful the first time, you just have to stay at it.” And sure enough, when the governor and Caltrans came through again with the $1.2 billion Clean California initiative, the Winton Park project was prepared and ready to go.
This past December, officials as well as community members celebrated the groundbreaking of a $3.7 million Winton Park renovation project that will include a new playground, picnic tables, trees, enhanced baseball field and basketball court, and student-created art.
The park renovation is a win thanks to many contributors, but Supervisor Pareira says it’s an example of how he is working within the local government network to get things done for residents.
Pareira is running for re-election to a third term in the board’s District 4 seat. He faces two challengers in the March 5 Primary Election: Dennis Brazil, a former mayor of Gustine who also ran for State Senate in 2018; and Jim Soria, a former mayor of Livingston, who also ran for sheriff in 2014. If no candidate can garner 50 percent, plus one of the vote, a runoff will be held in the November election.
“Over the last six or seven years, I think I’ve made some really good progress,” Pareira says. “I’m excited now. If I’m fortunate enough to win again, and serve another term, I think we can do a lot more. “
The candidate says the county has paved more roads in District 4 over the last seven years than in the previous 22 years — thanks to funding from Measure V, SB-1 and the American Rescue Plan Act. Pareira says a majority of roads are in poor condition across the county’s rural region, but the trick is to find the roads that are most used and give them priority. Along with keeping Public Works abreast of residents’ concerns.
Supervisor Pariera is also optimistic about the community of Delhi, where infrastructure is improving, and things like a new community center are being planned. The town has attracted the attention of housing developers toward a 300-acre master plan complete with a neighborhood park, new fire state and land set aside for a school. There is also a plan for a 48-unit affordable housing apartment complex, and a new retail project that includes a gas station, mini-mart, and restaurant.
Before Pareria got on board, the county wasn’t doing as much as they are now with regard to confronting this region’s homeless population.
“I knew that most of the people who are homeless have behavioral health issues, and that number tends to be around 75 to 85 percent. I utilized that information with my colleagues and urged them to engage in the issue. Take it on. The county has a very big department dedicated to Behavioral Health. Sometimes people are willing to let something happen, but sometimes they don’t have the passion to get involved and make it happen — so I was that guy for the board. My colleagues were very supportive. I was named to serve on the Continuum of Care board for six years. They had been struggling to be effective in the past, but what was normal was no longer acceptable. This region needed a collaborative applicant that was effective. Bringing in our Human Services Agency was a game changer because they are used to working with all the government and nonprofit agencies that fund the fight to end homelessness. All of a sudden, we were getting more money coming into Merced County because they knew how to go after it. They got the Navigation Center in Merced up and running. They hired New Directions as a coordinator for housing services and community resources. We started working with the Rescue Mission which staffs and operates the Navigation Center. It just took a few people to roll up their sleeves.”
When Pareira was first elected, he knew the permitting process was difficult for small business people and investors. “If you turn in a permit application to the county it should be evaluated within 30 days,” Pareira says. “The day I took office, I asked for a list of permits that were over 30 days without being evaluated, and the number was 82 percent. Staff was already working on fixing the situation, but it had my attention. By the end of April of that year, the number was down to 37 percent. By the end of summer, it was virtually zero. Today if you go to the County Administration building, you will see that we have merged planning and permits into one office — a one-stop shop that makes things easier.”
Pareira also points to serving on the Castle Commerce Center ad-hoc committee, and his work with Supervisor Daron McDaniel to bring investment to the former Air Force base. “We worked really hard to accommodate two autonomous vehicle tracks — one by Waymo, and another by TRC. We now have 200 acres of vehicle testing. They contract with the county, bringing in $33,000 to $46,000 a month, and they also rent the space out to other companies who want to test. … We have a contract with Patriot Rail for a rail yard. There’s 100 acres so far with room to expand. They are working right now to put in new track for an intermodal transport station. We also applied for and received $49.6 million from the state to support this rail district with roads, sewer, water and other infrastructure. We will have some 800,000 square feet of warehouse space to allow companies to operate on site and ship their products all over the country and the world. We want to see our local agriculture products — almonds, cheese, wine, vegetables — gain access to other markets. And as more freight comes in we hope to open up Castle Airport to cargo freight.”
Pareira is endorsed by Gustine’s mayor and three of its City Council members, as well as Gustine’s police chief and fire chief. Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke also supports Pareira, as does his colleagues, Supervisors Daron McDaniel, Josh Pedrozo and Scott Silveira.
During this campaign season, Pareira said one of the most interesting questions came during a forum organized by the NAACP of Merced County. He was asked: “How will your biases preclude you from achieving what you have planned for your Board of Supervisors?
Pareira’s response: “I believe we are all inherently biased, that’s just human nature. What I will say is one of my biases is: I’m for people. I want people to succeed. I want people to have fulfilled lives. I think with that as my base, it doesn’t preclude me from being successful on the Board of Supervisors.”
Says Pareira to the Times: “I have worked really hard to make improvements, not only in my district, but the county as a whole. I think the members of the Board of Supervisors work well together and we accomplish a lot of goals that other counties are not able to accomplish because they don’t work as well together. I’m very accessible. I put my personal cell phone number on the county website. I only ask that people don’t call before 6 a.m or after 10 p.m. — unless it’s an emergency.”
Pareira has lived on his family’s 500-acre farm near the Merced River nearly his whole life. He earned his bachelor’s degree from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, in dairy science. Pareira owned his own dairy in Turlock after college before taking over his family’s farm in Merced. He has also served as a trustee on the Merced River school board, the Merced County Farm Bureau, Yosemite Church, and as a delegate for Western United Dairymen. Pareira has been married to his wife, Babette, for more than 23 years. They have four children.