Monterey voters elect gay mayor, out Latina sheriff

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday November 15, 2022
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Tyller Williamson, left, is Monterey's first out and first Black mayor. Tina Nieto is Monterey County's first lesbian and Latina sheriff. Photos: Courtesy the campaigns
Tyller Williamson, left, is Monterey's first out and first Black mayor. Tina Nieto is Monterey County's first lesbian and Latina sheriff. Photos: Courtesy the campaigns

In Monterey County voters elected as their first lesbian and first Latina sheriff Tina Nieto, who will also serve as the county coroner, in the November 8 general election. Meanwhile, in the coastal tourist mecca of Monterey, City Councilmember Tyller Williamson has become his city's first gay and first Black mayor.

Currently the police chief of the seaside city Marina, Nieto is a 33-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. Once sworn into office, she will be the first out LGBTQ Latina sheriff in California.

As Nieto noted on her Twitter handle, she is "Sheriff Elect of Monterey County in California, serving a population 439,035 and an area covering 3771 square miles."

"I pray to be a good leader — not to win, but to really do the work for the men and women of the Sheriff's Office, and help lead us to become the best Sheriff's Office in the state, if not the nation," Nieto said at her election night party, as the Monterey County Weekly reported.

Across the country there are currently four out sheriffs listed on a map of LGBTQ electeds maintained by the LGBTQ Victory Fund — lesbians Kristin Graziano in South Carolina's Charleston County and Charmaine McGuffey in Ohio's Hamilton County; and gay men Dustin Heuerman in Illinois' Champaign County and Dave Hutchinson in Minnesota's Hennepin County. After a controversial first term Hutchinson will depart at the end of the year, while Heuerman was reelected last Tuesday to a second term.

New mayor

Four years ago Williamson became the first known LGBTQ Monterey city councilperson. He was also the first Black council member in the city's history and, at 31 years of age, the youngest.

Rather than seek a second council term, he opted to seek election as mayor of the global tourist destination along California's Central Coast. Mayor Clyde Roberson, who was born in Oakland, decided not to seek a fifth consecutive term.

Williamson, with 54.72% of the vote, defeated Councilmember Dan Albert Jr., whose father had served as mayor in the 1980s and 1990s. The elder Albert served alongside Roberson, who was a city councilmember for 16 years and supported the younger Albert to succeed him as mayor.

Elected citywide to a two-year term, the mayor works closely with Monterey's city manager and the other four members of the City Council. Albert conceded the race on November 12 and called Williamson that morning to congratulate him.

"It's an incredible honor and look forward to getting to work," Williamson, whose inauguration will be December 6, told the Bay Area Reporter in a texted reply November 13.

Speaking by phone November 15, Williamson told the B.A.R. he has received "a lot of love and support" since being declared the incoming mayor. "A lot of people are super enthusiastic and excited."

Raised by a mom serving in the Navy, Williamson lived in different cities across the globe as a child. He first moved to the Monterey area in 2010 for a job with the Naval Postgraduate School and graduated from Cal State Monterey Bay in 2013. He went on to earn a master's of business administration from the naval school and briefly lived in San Francisco's LGBTQ Castro district while working on President Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign.

As in the Bay Area, housing is a major issue for the Monterey Peninsula and impacts many of the people who work in the local tourist industry and struggle to afford to live near their jobs. Monterey has seen its new housing requirement from the state go from 650 units to nearly 3,700 units, a target that Williamson is committed to meeting as mayor.

"It has been a healthy debate over the last several months, though the message I've been hearing loud and clear from residents is seen in the results of this election — we need to move Monterey forward," he wrote in a Facebook post last Saturday after declaring victory in the race. "I'm eager to work with the new council on the many issues facing our city, but for now want to thank my friends, family, colleagues, volunteers, and this beautiful community that we live in for supporting my campaign."

In the nearby city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, gay City Councilmember Jeff Baron easily won a second term with 33.85% of the vote, according to the unofficial returns. The married former Silicon Valley resident was elected four years ago as his city's first LGBTQ councilperson.

John Uy, a professor at the U.S. military's Presidio of Monterey, won election to a seat on the City of Del Rey Oaks City Council.

"It will be a true honor and a privilege to serve you and your families as a Del Rel Oaks Councilmember for the next four years," Uy, who is a gay immigrant, wrote in a Facebook post about his victory.

In Santa Cruz County, transgender Cabrillo Community College Board of Trustees member Adam Spickler can finally claim to be the first transgender man elected to public office in California. Four years ago he was appointed to the college board in lieu of an election, since no one else ran for his Area II seat, making him the first transgender man to hold public office in the Golden State.

This year, Spickler easily vanquished challenger Bob Kittle, the head coach the past 11 years of the college's baseball team. He received close to 80% of the vote to clinch a second four-year term.

"My opponent was not running a campaign in the same way I was. He was not spending money and not really doing any campaigning or get out the vote efforts that I could see," Spickler told the B.A.R. by phone November 14. "He is a well known baseball coach at both the high school and college level. I don't think he felt he needed to run on more than his reputation."

Spickler noted that all three incumbents on the college board won reelection last week. It was a sign of voters' confidence in the district's leadership, he added, which voted 6-1 Monday night to start a process to change the name of the college from that of a Spanish colonizer.

"I think the voters here in Santa Cruz County looked at the way our college faced difficulties with not only the COVID pandemic but the fires in Santa Cruz County, and how we stepped up. We ended up losing students to both of those horrible crises," said Spickler, who works for the county human relations department.

In the contest for the District 4 seat on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, gay candidate Jimmy Dutra fell short. He is in second place with 42% of the vote.

A member of the Watsonville City Council, Dutra lost his first bid for the seat in 2018. The county board has yet to have an out LGBTQ member serve on it.

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