Jennifer “Jen” Cruz, of Clovis announced her candidacy for the Fresno County Board of Supervisors (BOS) District 5 seat on Jan. 4. She has more than 20 years of experience managing businesses and nonprofit programs.
She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Fresno State and a master’s degree in human services. She is the mother of two children and is home to a handful of rescue cats and dogs.
She is currently the LGBTQ+ resource manager for the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission and is running against Nathan Magsig, the incumbent supervisor for District 5.
Magsig is well known for what some consider his extreme views and divisive actions as a supervisor. He consistently votes with the other two “conservatives” on the BOS, Buddy Mendez and Steve Brandau, to implement bad policy and reject good policy.
Recently, this “gang of three” voted to establish a committee to ban certain books in public libraries. Cruz led the struggle against this backward and divisive attempt, organizing community members to attend BOS meetings to speak up and protest. At one meeting, she passionately told Magsig that she would run against him in the primary election on March 5. She has followed through.
Magsig, Mendes and Brandau are the majority of the BOS and control what happens in Fresno County. They refuse to raise wages for Fresno County social workers to competitive levels. As a result, a huge shortage of social workers has caused public services to suffer significantly.
They won’t approve wage increases for IHSS (In-Home Supportive Services) workers, who are so underpaid they can barely survive.
In 2022, they turned down state funding for a study on the impact of climate change in the Central Valley, an irresponsible and ignorant decision.
Recently, under Magsig’s leadership, the three approved a lawsuit against the state to challenge the renaming of S— Valley to Yokuts Valley by state and federal agencies. The derogatory slur word was removed from more than 650 places in the United States on an order by Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, a Navajo and the first Indigenous person to be appointed to the position.
Thousands of taxpayer dollars have been spent on this frivolous lawsuit, which was recently dismissed by a state judge. The three are considering filing an appeal, wasting more taxpayer dollars, and have placed Measure B (which would amend Fresno County’s charter to affirm the county’s right to change the name of geographic features and place names within its jurisdiction) on the March ballot.
Their argument for Measure B touts it as “local control,” but it appears to be a blatant attempt to keep the S— name, only one of three words to be permanently banned by the federal government, the others being the “N” word and the “J” word (a derogatory term for Japanese Americans).
Cruz has a long history of organizing for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized communities. She spoke to her excited supporters at the Clovis Library on Jan. 4. What follows are excerpts from her statements at the press conference:
- “For people that don’t know me, I’m not a career politician. I am the manager of a nonprofit who’s proven over the last four years [how] to build collaborative partnerships that have made Fresno a better place for marginalized communities. People have a choice in District 5 when they vote on March 5.”
- “I want to start with what the signs say, a voice for the people. I have had the opportunity to sit in board meetings in Fresno County and [other counties], and the only place where I see limited [total] public comment to 20 or 30 minutes is at the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.
“It’s unacceptable that we have these tax-funded seats for these representatives that are supposed to be there for us. They don’t listen even when people take time off work to come out and they’re lined up by the dozens down the hall and we get 20 minutes to talk, so that’s the first thing.
“Second is fiscal responsibility for a $4.8 billion budget that passed with very little public input on what was going to happen with that money. I also read a few articles about $68 million of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) money still sitting, not being utilized for things like essential workers, Wi-Fi and broadband in rural areas [of the county].”
- “I see IHSS workers asking for a living wage. They’re marching around all year long asking for a living wage. They’re saving the county millions so that people don’t have to go into skilled nursing facilities, and yet they were getting 30 minutes tops [at the BOS meetings because that was the time limit on their topic].”
- “We have an opportunity in District 5. There are 123,000 registered voters. I know it leans conservative, but I think that the incumbent overestimates how far right they lean.
“When I was attending Clovis Unified School Board meetings and even the Clovis City Council meetings, people were 90% with us as far as the community book bans and other things of that nature.”
Cruz says that her history of collaboration with nonprofits, in particular, LGBTQ+ and housing rights nonprofits, will enable her to “solve problems that nobody else can, or wants, to solve. I think the fact that I’ve been in those spaces definitely helps as we move forward and start looking for solutions.”
Many issues, from opposition to same-sex marriage, book censorship, flag policy, filing frivolous lawsuits and more bad policy, championed by Magsig have been opposed by Cruz.
Cruz says that her “campaign aims to emphasize the voice of the people; Magsig…has not been representative of the general public’s opinion.”
There’s no doubt that many people in District 5 want to see a change. The results of this race could be decided by turnout.