Less than five months from election day and San Jose Councilwoman Sylvia Arenas finally has a challenger: Evergreen School District trustee Jim Zito.
District 8, which stretches across the Evergreen area and into the East Foothills, has been uncontested for months. Ex-Councilwoman Rose Herrera had been the only other rumored candidate when she dropped out of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors race. However, Herrera recently revealed that she has no intention of running for her old seat, which Arenas took over in 2016.
Zito said he’s running to unify the district.
“I want to represent District 8 in a way that is open for the community that we could essentially deal with the issues that are confronting us,” Zito told San Jose Inside. “I just feel we really do need to put the neighborhoods to work by building up the neighborhood associations again and get together and bring Evergreen back into the picture, because it’s been kind of sleepy the last few years.”
Zito has lived in the Evergreen area for more than 30 years and is no stranger at City Hall. In 2002, the City Council appointed him to the Planning Commission, where he served two four-year terms. From there, he helped found a neighborhood coalition called the District 8 Community Round Table.
The community organizer made his leap to elected office in 2010 when voters installed him to the Evergreen School District governing board. When his first term was up in 2014, Zito squared off with Arenas and two other candidates for three seats on the school board. Arenas and Zito finished the race as the second and third vote-getters.
Arenas said she’s confident her record as councilwoman will secure another win.
“I’ve worked to bring people together around common sense solutions for Evergreen families,” she said. “I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together, and honored to have earned widespread support from community leaders and families.”
The D8 rep said she wants to focus on bringing people together and defending her seat against a challenger who stands to rake in financial support from the city’s business and development community. “Regardless of who is recruited by special interests to pursue their right-wing political agenda, I’ll continue to focus on bringing people together, not dividing them,” Arenas added.
Zito described himself to San Jose Inside as fiscally conservative and socially moderate. And he said he wants to prioritize the revival of the District 8 Community Round Table.
“Participation hasn’t been as high as it had have been in the past,” he explained. “I’d like to see that revitalized because there’s no one person that could represent 100,000 people without that kind of input.”
Zito has yet to announce his formal policy platform, but said he wants to focus on spurring growth, curbing homelessness and easing traffic congestion. The D8 candidate currently works as a math and science teacher at Downtown College Prep Alum Rock Middle School after spending 30 years in the bio-tech field.