Felipe Martinez is one of four candidates vying to win the District 5 seat on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, and he believes he’s able to bring a breath of fresh air to the area.
Martinez, 57, is an insurance agent and owns Felipe Martinez Insurance Solutions in Porterville. In addition, Martinez is a member of the Latino Water Coalition and is currently chairman of Porterville’s Step Up Committee, an offshoot of Tulare County’s Step Up anti-gang initiative; he also served on the Porterville City Council.
His experiences helping others through his business and in public service, he says, gives him an edge over incumbent Mike Ennis, who has been accused of being distant to his constituents’ needs and concerns by his three opposing candidates, Martinez included.
He says he’ll handle things differently and make himself more available to the constituents in his district.
“If you go on the [Board of Supervisors] webpage, it says you can see your supervisor any time you want – in Visalia,” Martinez said. “I would be more apt to look at an office in Porterville and would be here at least once a week.”
To staff the office, Martinez said he would work with Porterville College to pick a Political Science student and open an internship for them, providing them an opportunity to receive work experience through scheduling appointments with constituents and assisting him in reaching out to the community.
“[Not] being able to communicate with your supervisor, that’s the number one complaint that I’ve gotten,” Martinez said. “In my line of work and what I do for a living, I meet with people at all times. I am a people person. I am a businessman that deals with people.”
Through his work in the Porterville City Council and experience in working with Tulare County through the Step Up program, he says that the key to collaboration between the county and city – a working relationship that has been strained as of late – is to remember that each side should have its constituents’ interests at heart, and to set other issues aside.
“We need to be able to work out the details and – in other words – we have to have really thick skin and a short memory,” he said.
His other major concern is water, with a two-pronged approach: getting potable water to disadvantaged communities in his district and finding ways to cope with California’s drought.
“The bond that will be coming up – and hopefully the state can decide on one of the bonds – will be looking at above-ground storage that will be captured when there is an excess amount to release when we need it,” he said. “Conserve and re-use some of the water out for us to capture and re-use. We can have the cities themselves capture more water.”
His top priority, however, is ensuring that the people of District 5 are adequately represented on the Board of Supervisors, and that their concerns are being conveyed.
“The first thing that people want to do is to be heard. Your concerns on any particular date at this particular moment may be the biggest concerns in your life,” Martinez said.
“You want your elected officials to listen to you, because to you it means life or death, to you it means being able to keep your house – it means a lot of things.”