Oakdale council hopefuls talk about supporting business, aiding homeless and more

·2 min read

Four people seek to fill an Oakdale City Council vacancy via a June 7 special election.

Robert Amaral, Kayleigh Gilbert, Jennifer Harris and Anthony Pratt are vying to succeed Ericka Chiara, who resigned in December. The term runs through 2024.

All but Amaral took part in a Thursday, May 19, forum in the council chamber. The Modesto Bee could not reach him about his candidacy. Amaral, 68, told the Oakdale Leader that he is a retired correctional officer who would bring a conservative voice to the council.

Gilbert, 24, is an insurance agent and fifth-generation member of the family that founded the A.L. Gilbert feed business in 1892.

Harris, 48, has worked at High Tech Self Storage and the former Hershey Co. chocolate plant in Oakdale.

Pratt, 29, served in the Navy and is now pursuing a psychology degree at American Military University.

The special election is part of the June 7 primary for county, state and federal offices. Oakdale does not have council districts, so every voter in the city will take part.

The forum was put on by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women. A video recording is on the city website.

All three candidates urged compassion for homeless people and noted support such as the Oakdale Rescue Mission.

“As long as you follow their guidelines, there is opportunity there,” Harris said.

Gilbert said she learned during a recent ride-along with a police officer that most homeless people in Oakdale grew up in the town.

She works for TWFG — Ingrid Walker Insurance Services. She also volunteers through the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce to help other businesses promote themselves on social media.

“I want to be a voice for our small businesses and our entire community,” she said.

Pratt coaches boys junior varsity basketball at Oakdale High School, among other youth sports activities.

Harris said she has been a state-at-home mother in recent years and saw a need during COVID-19 to run for office.

All three urged support for businesses on the block of Third Avenue where a streetscape renovation began in early May. The four-month project means difficult pedestrian access for now but will bring a more walkable environment.

“I think the word of mouth,” Pratt said, “just letting people know, ‘Hey, if you guys are having dinner in town, go down there to Third Avenue.’”

Oakdale is holding the special election because of a state law barring a city council from having a majority of appointed rather than elected officials. Mayor Cherilyn Bairos and Councilman Curtis Haney were both appointed to their posts. Councilmen Christoper Smith and Fred Smith were elected.

Bairos, Haney and Christopher Smith are up for election in November.

Kayleigh Gilbert is running in the June 7, 2022, special election for a vacant seat on the Oakdale City Council.
Kayleigh Gilbert is running in the June 7, 2022, special election for a vacant seat on the Oakdale City Council.
Jennifer Harrris is running in the June 7, 2022, special election for a vacancy on the Oakdale City Council.
Jennifer Harrris is running in the June 7, 2022, special election for a vacancy on the Oakdale City Council.
Anthony Pratt is running in the June 7, 2022, special election for a vacant seat on the Oakdale City Council.
Anthony Pratt is running in the June 7, 2022, special election for a vacant seat on the Oakdale City Council.
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