This article is part of a series on figures who have declared their candidacy for Milpitas City Council or Mayor of Milpitas for November’s general election. The filing period for candidacy opened on July 13 and will close on August 7. Two City Council seats and the Mayor’s seat are up for grabs. The entire series can be found here.
Vice Mayor Bob Nuñez has been second-in-command for seven months now—a position given to him after a controversial wrestling of power from Mayor Rich Tran’s former vice mayor. Yet, despite his decades-long career in politics, Nuñez said he’s learned more as vice mayor than in any other position he’s held.
“It took me a while to first understand the role of being one of five, and then once I started understanding that, becoming the vice mayor told me what I needed to do, as I saw it, was to make sure that the city council got to the point that they could vote on something and there would be an outcome,” Nuñez said. “You can’t just discuss and argue forever.”
That experience, Nuñez said, will serve him well should he win a second term on the council. His party affiliation as the lone Republican on the council has meanwhile earned him a reputation as a compromiser and relationship-builder, earning labor and business union endorsements in his previous runs for both mayor and council.
Nuñez, 68, was elected to the council in 2016 after a stint on the Milpitas Unified school board. Previously, he served as chair of the Santa Clara County Republican Party from 2014 to 2019, superintendent of the East Side Union High School District in San Jose from 2006 to 2009, and assistant superintendent at the Riverside County Office of Education from the mid-1980s until 2004, when he was forced out after accusations of misappropriating county funds.
When Nuñez challenged Mayor Rich Tran for his seat in 2018, Tran accused the former Riverside school board member and former East San Jose resident of carpetbagging his way into Milpitas.
“Councilmember Nuñez is a jumper,” accused Tran in an October 2018 debate.
But the two have seem to patched things over, with the pair lauding the work and unity the council has achieved since the mayor’s last election win. The mayor, however, has yet to endorse Nuñez for reelection.
Nuñez has co-chaired the council’s housing subcommittee since its founding in May, 2019—an entity, Nuñez said, that has given many residents the opportunity to afford the city’s rising housing costs. He, along with Councilmember Carmen Montano, has overseen the establishment of several citywide programs supporting affordable housing: a citywide rent relief program, a tenant protection program, and a “just cause” eviction ordinance. Nuñez was also previously part of the council that successfully lobbied to keep dozens of tenants from eviction in the Sunnyhills neighborhood.
“What we’re trying to do is be leaders with regards to delivering those services with a city-first approach,” said Nuñez.
Aside from providing access to affordable housing, Nuñez’s priorities include advocating for more robust mental health services—including an idea for a social services-type department in the city—cultivating a partnership with the school district, coordinating with local transportation agencies to reduce traffic, and most importantly, boosting public safety.
“Persons want to know that our fire department and such are going to be there when they’re called,” Nuñez said. “They want to know they’re safe. That is still a top priority.”
And it’s his involvement in tough decisions, Nuñez believes—from providing housing services to low-income residents to ensuring the city has a rainy-day fund for events like the unforeseen pandemic to ensuring the council has a good working relationship with each other—that makes his case for another term on the dais.
“This city is well run,” Nuñez said. “Have we addressed major concerns? Yes. Are we looking at doing things above and beyond that? Yes. Even during these difficult times, the answer is yes. Have I been part of all of those? I believe the answer is yes. And I think that’s the reason I have earned four more years on the city council.”
As of press time, the incumbent Nuñez will be running against seven other candidates: fellow incumbent Councilmember Anthony Phan; Planning Commissioner Evelyn Chua; nurse and community member Julian Hilaro, Jr.; retired engineer Bob Marini; former Planning Commission Vice Chair Demetress Morris; business executive Suraj Viswanathan; and tenant advocate Tiffany Vuong.
Current position: Councilmember (December 2016-present)
Running for: Reelection
Declared candidacy: July 2020