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Mark Joseph (current headshot)

Mark Joseph

Mark Joseph has lived nearly 25 years in American Canyon, most of which he spent helping run the city in various capacities. But he’s not ready to retire just yet, and is seeking a third term on the City Council in November.

In 2010, when he won his first election, “I was the challenger,” said Joseph, 63, inside Starbucks last week. “And now, it’s my job to defend what the city has done, and what it plans on doing, which I’m happy to do because I think now we’re on a very good track.”

Joseph’s background is uncommon for councilmembers. He spent nearly a decade as American Canyon’s city manager, a non-elected administrative post that oversees a municipality’s day-to-day operations and long-term planning, and that serves at the pleasure of the City Council.

He was forced to resign as city manager in 2005, following a no confidence vote by a City Council embroiled in controversies, including the decision to bring Walmart into town.

Wanting to still play a role in American Canyon’s development, Joseph ran for a seat on the council in 2010 and won, all while finishing his career with Suisun City as their financial services manager before retiring.

In 2014, he won a second term after no one filed to challenge him or the other incumbent, Belia Ramos, who was up for election.

This year, he has three residents challenging him along with incumbent David Oro, setting up a five-way race for two available seats.

“As much as I don’t want competition,” Joseph said, “it is a good thing that the community is engaged enough” for some of them to want to run for office.

So far the race has been friendly, he said, following private forums for the candidates organized by the local Democratic Party Central Committee and the American Canyon Mom’s Club.

“It’s amazing how collegial and cordial we all are, which is a neat thing in and of itself because it could be really ugly,” he said.

Joseph is running a third time to finish what he started in 2010. He cited four major, ongoing issues for American Canyon: Water, traffic, economic development, and community engagement.

For two of them — water and community engagement — there’s been pretty good progress, he said. The city has a more secure water supply following the drought that left American Canyon scrambling after the state dramatically reduced its allotments from the delta. Water conservation and recycling have helped on the demand side.

The city is doing a better job of communicating with residents on projects, events and other things worth sharing, he said.

But economic development and traffic are trickier, if not linked together, according to Joseph.

“Economic development is almost conditioned on dealing with traffic,” he said, because when he mentions building more houses or retail businesses, the response from folks is: What about the traffic?

Joseph’s answer to this concern is “there’s a plan” for south county traffic congestion, particularly in American Canyon. The city needs to do a better job of getting that message out there, he said.

The plan involves extending Devlin Road to Green Island Road so motorists have an alternative to Highway 29 on the west side. To the east the city wants to extend Newell Drive north so it hooks up with the highway.

The Newell extension is challenging because of its high cost. Joseph said it could require upwards of $50 million to build the road and an overcrossing for the railroad tracks it must cross.

American Canyon needs economic development, such as the Watson Ranch project, to afford Newell, he said.

“You have to work with developers to make that happen” and alleviate traffic congestion, Joseph said. “The alternative is (A) it never happens, or (B) we talk to voters about a bond issue and add to your taxes.”

The City Council is expected to vote on Watson Ranch in October — just weeks before the Nov. 6 General Election.

Joseph has been the council’s biggest booster of the ambitious project that would bring more than 1,200 new homes and a large town center. “As I like to joke, I have been supporting Watson Ranch longer than the developer has,” he said with a laugh.

He admits the timing of the vote is not ideal from a political survival perspective. Politicians tend to avoid making decisions on potentially controversial subjects in an election year, let alone right before voting starts.

“Conventional wisdom says it is incredibly risky [to vote on Watson Ranch],” he said. “You would never do this. So the conservative side of me is saying, ‘Boy, this is bad timing.’”

But Joseph and the rest of the council have taken on other high-risk topics this year. In the spring, they voted to raise water rates. On Tuesday, they adopted a new ordinance that will bring cannabis businesses to American Canyon for the first time.

“It will motivate people,” he said. “If they think we did a terrible job, we will get immediate feedback” on Election Day.

“Ultimately, it’s politically risky, but the right thing to do,” said Joseph. “And if I pay a price, I pay a price. My goal is to do what I think is best for the community.”

Joseph will hold a fundraiser on Sept. 6 at Mi Zacatecas Restaurant, featuring state Sen. Bill Dodd. His endorsements include Dodd, Congressman Mike Thompson, County Supervisors Belia Ramos and Ryan Gregory, Councilmembers Oro and Mariam Aboudamous, and many others.

For more information on his campaign, visit www.electmarkjoseph.com.

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American Canyon Eagle editor

Noel Brinkerhoff has been editor of the American Canyon Eagle since 2014. Prior to that he covered state politics in Sacramento for the California Journal.