GONZALES — Outgoing Mayor Maria Orozco was recognized at the Jan. 4 Gonzales City Council meeting for her many years of service to the city.
Numerous area officials joined in through virtual means to wish her well and make proclamations about her leadership.
“You’re a really committed public servant who believes in representing the community and not shying away from tough issues,” said California State Sen. Anna Caballero. “You were able to get things done that were very difficult. It’s not an easy job moving things and making things happen, and you’re one of those individuals.”
Caballero said she uses Gonzales as an example of what small towns can accomplish, and credited Orozco’s leadership with helping to make that possible, including internet access for the residents, increased local medical services, getting youth involvement in a youth council and expanding the industrial area.
“The City of Gonzales is tremendously lucky to have you as a resident and also as a leader guiding this city,” Caballero said. “The accomplishments of your community are incredible.”
State Assemblymember Robert Rivas spoke highly of Orozco’s lifetime of service.
“What I’ve always admired about Mayor Orozco is her service to her city and our region spans so much longer than her 19 years of time in elected office,” Rivas said. “She has spent a lifetime serving our community to make a better place for everyone to live. … You have proven small cities can do something to tackle our most pressing issues.”
Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez added, “Right now, as we battle with Covid-19 throughout the county, Gonzales has already set a template for what we can achieve even before the pandemic was here,” he said. “The steps that you took as a community to help address the challenges within your community are now shining through as examples for the rest of the state. That’s due to your leadership and the leadership of this council.”
Orozco, who lost her re-election bid in November to newcomer Jose Rios, thanked the residents of Gonzales as well as other leaders for their help in organizing community efforts. She said such partnerships and relationships were important to the success of the community.
She mentioned the struggles with Covid-19 and the losses of people from Gonzales due to the pandemic, including one man who showed up regularly to the food bank events.
“The numbers are high,” Orozco said. “These are not just individuals, these are families who live in overcrowded living conditions. So when mom gets Covid, dad gets Covid, grandma gets Covid, and all the kids get Covid. It is so sad to see that happening.”
Orozco said one of her concerns was getting assistance to those in need as well as finding ways to give a voice to those who felt they could not be involved in making a difference.
“I will continue to work,” she said. “I am not retiring from being involved and engaged and trying to serve my community. I will continue to be working with these different agencies.”
Orozco has begun serving on the board for Catholic Charities and will aim to bring more services to South Monterey County.