Outgoing Modesto City Councilman Mani Grewal has been appointed to fill the Board of Supervisors seat left vacant by the death of supervisor Tom Berryhill this summer.
The 41-year-old Democrat was selected by Gov. Gavin Newsom to serve the rest of the term of the late District 4 Stanislaus County supervisor and former state senator, who passed away Aug. 29. The district represents most of Modesto, Del Rio and a small part of Ceres; Grewal will complete Berryhill’s unexpired term ending Jan. 2, 2023.
The Modesto businessman was first elected to the city council in 2015. He decided not to run for another term on the council, instead running for state Senate in an unsuccessful bid against fellow Democrat and Assembly member Susan Eggman of Stockton.
Grewal, who spoke with The Bee by phone after his appointment was announced by the governor’s office Saturday morning, said he was humbled to have the privilege of filling Berryhill’s seat.
“Being born and raised in this region, Stanislaus County is my home. My parents came here over 50 years ago,” he said. “It’s an honor to carry on his legacy and serve the constituents of District 4 to the best of my ability, to gain their trust and confidence. The public service that Supervisor Berryhill and the entire Berryhill family have given to this region is something I strive for myself.”
Grewal’s selection caps almost three months of waiting to see who the Democratic governor would appoint. His selection will bring the number of Democrats on the previously all conservative five-person board to two once the new terms start. With Grewal, the board will have three new supervisors including newly elected cousins Matthew “Buck” Condit (a Republican) and Channce Condit (a Democrat).
But Grewal said he expects partisan politics to be put on the back burner as the board tackles important issues, most pressingly the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He said he has reached out to his fellow supervisors since speaking with the governor late Friday and being informed of his selection.
“We’ll all put partisan ideology aside and focus on what’s best for Stanislaus County and our constituents,” he said. “We’ll have a full board with new members and we all want to hit the ground running to address the issues facing the county right now, including obviously COVID-19.”
Grewal appointment historic for Sikh community
Rep. Josh Harder (D-Turlock) released a statement on Grewal’s appointment calling it historic, noting that he will be one of the first Sikh Americans to serve on a Board of Supervisors in the state. He is also the first Sikh American to serve on the Stanislaus County board.
“Governor Newsom made a good choice in selecting someone who has experience serving the people of the valley and represents the diversity of our community,” Harder said in the written statement. “Mani and I have had a productive relationship for years and we share a commitment to listening to all sides and getting things done. I look forward to working together.”
Supervisor Vito Chiesa, who with Supervisor Terry Withrow will be the two returning members on the board, issued a written statement on Gewal’s selection as well.
“I think the Governor made a very good appointment. I’ve known (Grewal) for many years and he understands local government and the importance of business and jobs. I am excited and look forward to working with Mani,” Chiesa said.
Grewal said the pandemic will be the biggest priority when he joins the board. He said the supervisors will work on continuing to educate the public on how to slow the spread of the virus (including wearing masks, social distancing and limiting social gatherings), helping local businesses hurt by shutdowns and, when it is approved and ready, distributing a vaccine to county residents.
Pandemic will be a priority for new supervisors board
“I think we have to reiterate we’re all in this together. This isn’t a pandemic that is specific to a certain group or region, it’s nationwide and worldwide,” Grewal said. “We have to make sure we start trending that curve downward. We need to overcome the pandemic to get back to our pre-COVID lives.”
He said other priorities include tackling the homeless issue in the county, continuing to work on economic development and bringing good-paying jobs to the region, and advocating for the region’s agricultural industry and water rights.
Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) reiterated Grewal’s support to the area’s farming community in a written statement congratulating him on his appointment.
“Mani and I are friends we have worked together on many issues. He has stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the fight for water,” Gray said. “Governor Newsom made a great call with this appointment.”
Congratulatory statements flooded in for Grewal from his soon-to-be former fellow councilmembers Jenny Kenoyer and Bill Zoslocki, Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse, and the region’s elected statewide officials Assemblyman Heath Flora (R-Ripon) and Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas).
Grewal also reflected on the history of his appointment, and what it means to both the region and nation’s Sikh community.
“As one of the few practicing Sikhs and one of the highest serving officers in the nation it means a lot to the Indian and Sikh community that now we are being represented at a board of this level,” he said.