• Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson

Kalantari-Johnson receives high-profile endorsement for supervisor

Updated: Apr 26

Original Sentinel article


District 3 Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty, who is not running for reelection, has weighed in on the upcoming supervisorial race to replace his seat.

Coonerty announced Monday morning his endorsement of current Santa Cruz City Councilmember Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, who has served on the city council for nearly a year-and-a-half and will have served just under two years by the November election.

However, her roots to Santa Cruz run much deeper than her short political history. Kalantari-Johnson’s family immigrated to the United States from Northern Iran when she was young, and she got her undergraduate degree in psychology and French from UC Santa Cruz.

She continued her education at San Jose State where she received a master’s in social work. Her furthered education has helped with her consulting business in which she writes grants, coordinates and manages programs and develops leaders in public health, education and social services capacities.

“It is vitally important that Santa Cruz families have a strong voice on the Board of Supervisors,” Coonerty said in a statement. “(Kalantari-Johnson) has all the knowledge, skills and the right values to represent our community. She has my complete and total support to succeed me on the Board of Supervisors.”

Coonerty announced last fall he would not seek a third term after his term expires at the end of 2022. His departure from the District 3 county supervisor seat will mark the first time a Coonerty hasn’t held the position in 16 years.

He has held the seat himself since 2014. Prior to that, his father, Neal Coonerty, had occupied the seat since 2006. Ryan Coonerty has also served Santa Cruz as the mayor on two occasions.

“Ryan Coonerty has provided Santa Cruz County with strong leadership and dedicated public service during his time on the Board,” Kalantari-Johnson said in a statement. “I am honored to receive his support and wholehearted endorsement. While he will be leaving big shoes to fill — I am ready to slip on a pair on running shoes to go to work solving problems for the third district.”

However, Kalantari-Johnson is not alone in the pursuit for the soon to be vacant seat. Her colleague on the city council, Justin Cummings, is also running for the position.

Cummings has served on the council for four years, as well as a year as the city’s mayor in 2020. He also has roots at UC Santa Cruz, where he received a PhD in Environmental Studies — a passion of his since childhood. He is currently the associate director of the UCSC CITRIS Initiative for Drone Education and Research.

Ami Chen Mills is the third candidate vying for the supervisorial position. She is a 30-year resident of Santa Cruz and is a former award-winning journalist at the Sentinel and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Chen Mills’ work also extends to the public sector where she worked with the Health and Hospitals system in Santa Clara County as well as several agencies throughout Santa Cruz County. She also helped organize the 2019 Climate Strike and has previously lobbied with local political figures such as Anna Eshoo and Jimmy Panetta.

All three candidates will be on the primary election ballot for the June 7 election. If any of the three candidates receive one more vote than 50% of the vote, then they will be named the new supervisor after the June election. If no candidates receive 50% of the vote, then a runoff election will be held during the November General Election.

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