Cynthia Mathews to run for fifth term: Three-time former mayor wants to keep working on economy, water supply

by J.M. Brown
Santa Cruz Sentinel 07/06/2012

SANTA CRUZ – Just two years after leaving the City Council due to term limits, three-time former mayor Cynthia Mathews eyes a return.

Mathews, 69, intends to run for a fifth term in the Nov. 6 contest, when she will compete against the current mayor and a cast of first-time candidates.

The nomination period officially opens July 16, but Mathews, Mayor Don Lane are several other candidates have already filed statements of intent with the city clerk.

Even after serving 16 years on the council, Mathews said she wants to run again because “there is an array of issues I feel strongly about and feel I have some experience that can be helpful.”

Indeed, there are few initiatives in Santa Cruz during the last three decades that don’t bear Mathews’ mark.

A member of the Vision Santa Cruz group that laid the groundwork for downtown recovery after the 1989 earthquake, Mathews also helped plan the city’s bicentennial, new Police Department and Tannery Arts Center. She was a key figure in developing the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center set to open at the end of July and has been involved in preserving the historic Cowell Lime Works at UC Santa Cruz.

After serving a combined 15 years on the Planning Commission and zoning board, Mathews joined the council in 1992 and won re-election in 1996. She served as mayor in 1997 before term limits forced her off in 2000.

After sitting out two years, she was elected again in 2002 and served as mayor in 2006, when she was re-elected at the top of the ballot. She served as mayor in 2009 before leaving the council again in 2010.

During the next four years, Mathews said she wants to continue focusing on the local economy, public safety and the city’s water supply.

In her last term, Mathews presided over the economic twists and turns that shaved millions off the city budget, leading to layoffs and reduced funding for Parks and Recreation. She said the council has been “moving in a good direction” in recent years with its renewed determination to improve the business climate.

“There has been a good working dynamic and it has reflected a change in the community and city’s historic values,” she said.

Bill Tysseling, executive director of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce, said the business community is happy about Mathews’ candidacy.

“She has been a supporter of downtown development and business,” Tysseling said. “She also has a strong background in infrastructure, and probably knows as much about transportation and water as anybody else in town.”

This past year, Mathews and former Mayor Mike Rotkin have been at the forefront of the debate over a proposed desalination plant. They formed the Sustainable Water Coalition to advocate the city’s continued pursuit of the project, which opponents decry as environmentally damaging and financially wasteful.

Mathews said she isn’t concerned about how her outspokenness on desalination may affect her campaign.

“My record is deep and diverse enough that people will just have to judge me on my whole record,” she said.

Mathews has been anything but disengaged in her two years off the council.

She serves as chair of the oversight board for the city’s former redevelopment agency, and sits on the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Advisory Council and Museum of Art and History’s board.

Before getting into politics, Mathews helped to found Planned Parenthood in Santa Cruz in the mid-1960s and worked there for several decades. She and husband Bill Mathews, an astrophysicist who retired from UC Santa Cruz, have two children and two grandchildren.

Other residents who intend to run are Transportation and Public Works Commissioner Richelle Noroyan, Special Parents Information Network executive director Cece Pinheiro, bicycling advocate Micah Posner and 2010 candidate Steve Pleich.