Former Fifth District Supervisor Josie Gonzales Running For County Assessor

Former Fifth District Supervisor Josie Gonzales will seek election as county assessor in the special election to be held in November 2024.
Gonzales vied unsuccessfully against four others in the summer and fall of 2022 for appointment as assessor/recorder/county clerk, shortly after the death of Assessor Bob Dutton.
Dutton, despite recognizing that he was deathbound as a consequence of the end-stage prostate cancer he was suffering from, had filed for reelection as assessor/clerk/recorder in the 2022 election cycle, warding off all competitors by virtue of his incumbency and sizable political war chest. He was thus reelected without opposition in the June 2022 Primary election, but died seven weeks later, more than five months before he was due to be sworn in for the term he was elected to serve running from January 2023 until January 2027.
The board of supervisors, despite having just enough time to solicit candidates to run for the post in the November 2022 election and hold another elective contest at that time to fill the position, elected not to do so and instead sought applications for appointment to the position, which summoned bids from Dutton’s widow, Andrea Dutton, former County Supervisor and County Treasurer/Tax Collector/Auditor/Controller Larry Walker, Assessor’s Appeals Division Supervisor Bradley Snowball, Assistant Assessor Chris Wilhite and Gonzales. Ultimately, the board settled on promoting Wilhite into the post, which currently pays $277,557.08 in salary, 17,000.10 in perquisites and add-ons and $101,211.42 in benefits for $395,768.60 in total annual compensation.
Gonzales was raised in Colton for and at the age of 20 moved to the Del Rosa neighborhood, an unincorporated county area adjacent to San Bernardino, remaining there for 23 years. In 1995 she moved to the City of Fontana where she operated a family restaurant. Three years later, she ran successfully for city council in Fontana and was reelected in 2002. In 2004, she was elected as Fifth District County Supervisor, representing east Fontana, Rialto, Bloomington, Colton, Muscoy, western Devore and western San Bernardino. She served four terms – 16 years – at which point she was termed out of office as a consequence of the three-term term limits that went into effect in 2006. She contemplated vying against Dutton in 2022, but unaware of his severe health challenge and wary of his power of incumbency, ability to finance his campaign because of his existing campaign finance account and the advantage he possessed of being able to generate further political donations from the wealthy businesses which he had favored with his tax assessment policy, decided not to run.
In announcing her campaign on Thursday, Gonzales emphasized that she “will represent the people throughout San Bernardino County” and that she “brings a wealth of experience, relationships, and results to this newest challenge.”
Though the board of supervisors chose Wilhite, who said he would not seek election as assessor if he was appointed to the post, over Gonzales in filling the slot for the first two years of what was to be Dutton’s current term in office, she cited the support of three of the members of the board of supervisors who made that decision, as well as that of other local politicians, in declaring her readiness to serve as assessor.
“Josie Gonzales is a leader who shares a commitment to our vets and had a record of fighting for San Bernardino County veterans – including fighting for new veterans’ homes,” First District County Supervisor Paul Cook was quoted as saying in her prepared announcement.
“Josie Gonzales will safeguard taxpayer protections on our homes,” said Third District County Supervisor Dawn Rowe, who is currently the chairwoman of the board.
“Josie has an unmatched toughness that combined with her expertise produces results.” said Fourth District Supervisor Curt Hagman.
“Josie Gonzales is my partner in supporting a better education for San Bernardino County students,” said San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ted Alejandre.
“Josie Gonzales is a change-maker,” said Ontario Mayor Paul Leon.
“Josie’s heart for people will allow increased communication between residents and businesses in the San Bernardino County assessor office,” according to Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, who served on the Fontana City Council with Gonzales from 2002 to 2004.
Gonzales touted herself as a “longtime leader in San Bernardino County” who has “spent more than two decades as an advocate for early childhood education, reducing homelessness, and affordable housing of all kinds.” Gonzales said she has “never forgotten” where she came from and has always recognized the importance of a roof over one’s head. Having openly talked about entering the workforce at 10 years old and sleeping on an army cot until she was 15, Gonzales says her background led her to work towards adding thousands of affordable housing units for seniors and working families. While she was in office as supervisor, she said she worked to help reduce veteran homelessness by 50 percent.
One of the reasons that Gonzales, 70, is interested in the position is that after two years in the post, it would jump her county pension from its currently listed $44,850.60 yearly to $313,070.20 annually.
In addition to her operation of a restaurant, Gonzales is credited by the San Bernardino County Employees Retirement System with having been a county employee for 33.44 years, with a retirement date of 1997. A strict interpretation of those numbers would imply that Gonzales began working with the county in 1963 or 1964 when she was 12 or 13 years old. That record in which she was said to have worked for the county for more than 33 years likely reflects either the 16 years she served as supervisor or that she purchased years in the county retirement system, a practice which under state law was permissible until 2013. The $44,850.60 pension she was shown to have been pulling as late as 2018 would thus appear to state that she was earning a pension of $24,832.69 at the time of her retirement, which was subject to a 3 percent cost of living increase per year, meaning that, given the county formula for calculating pensions involving a multiplicand of two percent times the number of years she worked – 33.44 – times her highest level of pay, that Gonzales was earning $37,130.22 yearly at the time of her first retirement from the county at the age of 46.
By moving into the assessor/recorder/county clerk’s position and remaining there for the two years from 2025 until 2027, she would increase her number of years as a county employee to 35.44 years, increase the multiplicand of two percent per year for the county’s common employees to three percent for administrative employees and increase the top pay she was paid as a county employee from $37,130.22 to the $294,460.31 that she will be receiving at the end of her term as assessor/recorder/county clerk as a consequence of the two 3-percent increases she will receive to the $277,557.08 that would be her initial pay rate upon assuming the assessor/recorder/county clerk post [$277,557.08 X 1.03 x 1.03 = $294,460.31].
Thus, after considering the formula for the county pensions provided to administrative employees including a multiplicand of three percent for every year worked times the number of years worked times the highest salary earned [$294,460.31 X .03 X 35.44 = $313,070.20], her pension will increase from its currently listed $44,850.60 to 313,070,20.
-Mark Gutglueck

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