The Soledad City Council is made up of five members including a mayor. This legislative and policy entity of the City and responsible to the residents of Soledad for all municipal programs and services. City Council members also serve as the Soledad Successor Agency of the former Redevelopment Agency for the City. The City Council appoints members of the community to commissions, committees, and boards. The City Council provides policy direction on a broad spectrum of issues. The Soledad City Council holds regular meetings at 6:00 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. All meetings are open to the public and governed by the rules of the Ralph M. Brown Open Meeting Act.
As a lifelong resident of Soledad, my story begins with being raised in the Salinas Valley by farmworker parents. I attended San Vicente Elementary School, Main Street Middle School and Gonzales High School. I then achieved my Associate Degree from Hartnell Community College. Shortly thereafter, I left home to earn my Bachelor of Science Degree.
My background in criminology from California State University at Fresno laid the foundation for my desire for a high level of ethics, transparency, and accountability in public service. With over 20 years of experience in local government—including four years as a Soledad City Council member and many more in my current position as District Director for a State Senator—I bring a breadth of experience. My expertise includes administration of federal grants and the crafting and knowledge of local and state policies especially in the area of affordable housing. Additionally, I possess strong personnel and project management skills which have proven to be foundational in building civic and regional partnerships and providing fiscal sustainability for the delivery of programs and services.
I will continue to partner with county, state and federal government to ensure our community obtains the resources and funding necessary to thrive and prosper. I have participated in numerous boards and projects focused on creating lasting and positive impacts in the community. I currently serve on the following boards.
My policy goals will continue to focus on smart growth principles and policies. This includes providing residents much needed commercial and retail business, a range of housing opportunity choices, walkable neighborhoods, preservation of open spaces, transportation choices and a strong sense of belonging.
Marisela Lara began her first term as a member of the Soledad City Council in 2018, and currently serves on the parks and recreation committee. She has lived in Soledad for 23 years and has fostered a deep appreciation for this beautiful city that she calls home. Marisela graduated with her Bachelor of Arts of Collaborative Health and Human Services from CSU Monterey Bay, and a Master’s Degree of Public Administration from San Jose State University. Marisela hopes to continue serving her community in her new role.
Ben Jimenez, Jr currently serves as a Councilmember on the City Council. He previously served eight years on the City Council as a Councilmember and Mayor. He currently serves on the Association of California Cities Allied with Public Safety, Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority, and the Citizen Advisory Committee (Alternate). Mr. Jimenez retired from the California Department of Corrections as a District Administrator and continues to teach Administration of Justice courses at the local community college. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Management from Saint Mary’s College and earned a Master of Criminal Justice Degree from Arizona State University. Councilmember Jimenez has lived in Soledad for the majority of his life. Ben and his wife Susana have three adult daughters and find Soledad a wonderful place to live and raise children.
Alejandro Chavez was elected to the City Council in November of 2010. He served as Mayor Pro Tempore from 2012 until 2020. Alejandro is the representative on the Transportation Agency of Monterey County Board of Directors and is the Alternate on the AMBAG Board of Directors. He also serves on the City’s Parks and Recreation Committee and Budget Committee.
Alejandro has vast experience working in the public sector along with the private sector as he is currently the Executive Director of a business association representing more than 700 businesses. Alejandro Chavez previously worked as Chief of Staff for Monterey County Supervisor Armenta representing District 1 from 2000 until 2017. Formerly Alejandro worked for the United Farm Workers of America and previous to that he had been an Executive Director of non-profit dealing with substance abuse and gang issues. Alejandro has been on numerous Boards throughout the County of Santa Cruz and Monterey over the years, including Pajaro Valley Affordable Housing Corp, Central Coast YMCA and the South County YMCA to name a few. Alejandro, his wife Erica and children started a new fund named the, “Monterey County Tolerance and Acceptance Fund” It is an initiative to create a sustainable path to fund nonprofit projects that promote acceptance of Monterey County’s rich cultural diversity and different lived experiences. This fund will make grants available to projects that support a vision of healthy, safe, vibrant communities.
Alejandro Chavez has been a coach at various levels and different sports. These sports include baseball, softball, football, volleyball and basketball. Alejandro has over 18 years of coaching experience from T-ball to travel ball in baseball, from Iddy-Bitty Basketball to the High School level in basketball and a number of teams at all levels in volleyball, etc. In addition, Alejandro was the Athletic Director at a Middle School in Salinas for 6 years. Alejandro and his wife Erica Padilla-Chavez are proud to call Soledad their home. They are parents of two, one that is a College student and another that is a Senior in high ready to start on her next journey.
248 Main Street • Soledad, CA 93960
Phone: 831-223-5000 • Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm