Giuriato Is Ready
Longtime Salinas activist has spent 25 years preparing this run for mayor.
Thursday, September 7, 2006
If Salinas voters going to the polls Nov. 7 were to cast their vote for mayor based on experience in government and governing bodies alone, Maria Giuriato would easily emerge the winner. Planting herself into the minds of voters will be the tricky part.
Giuriato’s opponent, Dennis Donohue, is everywhere. His signs are ubiquitous, and every yard sign and most every billboard has a sketch of Donohue’s face. Giuriato’s photos may be harder to find, but she’s not. It’s keeping up with her that’s tough.
Labor Day weekend alone, she darted between her son’s multiple baseball games, walked precincts, and made umpteen meetings and phone calls. That was just one weekend. It’s a life she’s used to and has been juggling for years.
“I’m not tired, I’m driven,” she says in rapid-fire speech. “And just when I think I’m finally getting tired walking door to door, someone will invite me in for coffee.”
She’s the tireless advocate, the same woman who stood on the corner of Alisal Street and Sanborn Road in front of Alisal High School 20-plus years ago selling tamales and burritos to raise money to get a cafeteria built at the East Salinas school. “By the time Christmas came, I couldn’t bear to look at another tamale,” she laughs.
It was just one stop in over a quarter century of getting involved, hands-on, in the community.
By age 12, Giuriato was volunteering for California Rural Legal Assistance. They hired her when she was just 14. That was 34 years ago, and she’s been nonstop since then, serving on the Commission on the Status of Women, the Salinas Parks and Recreation Commission, the Joint Gang Task Force, Monterey County Housing Alliance, Salinas’ Affordable Housing Committee, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, and the Board of Supervisors Legislative Committee, to name a few.
Currently, Giuriato is the community relations director for Monterey County Social Services and was elected to the Salinas City Council in 2002, where she still serves.
“I know Salinas. I am Salinas. I was born here, raised here,” she says.
Giuriato doesn’t mince words and is quick to call Donohue, president of European Vegetable Specialties, on the carpet to answer to his considerably shorter, but nonetheless respectable, résumé.
“Where’s he been all these years?” she asks rhetorically. “In the past 16 months, while he was running the Chamber of Commerce, Salinas lost seven companies and 2,000 jobs,” she says, referring to closures at Smucker’s, Schilling and Ready Pac. “Where’s he been?”
If Giuriato sounds ready for a fight, it’s because she is. “I’m not part of the old guard,” she says. “Yes, I’ve been part of the same council, but I’m not in the mayor’s core group. I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind and adopt my own thoughts and ideas, and vote the way of my own mind.”
“I want to bring Salinas a renewed spirit of hope, not just more of the same. You can’t do that unless you work in partnership with the community and county, state and national officials. I’ve done that for years,” she says.
Giuriato has secured impressive party-line-blind support locally and nationally: The unions who typically line up behind Democratic candidates—United Farm Workers, Teamsters and Service Employees International Union—have endorsed her. Republican State Senators Jeff Denham and Abel Maldonado gave her the nod, as did Democratic State Sen. Jackie Speir. Sheriff Mike Kanalakis and Dr. Max Cuevas, CEO of Clinica de Salud, are both endorsers.
“Most of us worked shoulder to shoulder,” she says. “But supporters aside, the bottom line is this: Salinas needs real and immediate change. Dennis is not ready for this job. Salinas is in crisis. There’s just no time for a mayor who needs on-the-job training.”