The first week of the new year brought not only heavy wind and rain but also a changing of the guard (or not) in many local seats of San Joaquin County government. Here’s a roundup of who has taken the oath of office so far.

The county’s Board of Supervisors saw a packed house Wednesday as its two newly-elected members were sworn in and took their seats at the dais during the board’s first meeting of the year.

Former Stockton City Council Member Paul Canepa, who took over for the termed-out Kathy Miller as the new District 2 representative, was given his oath of office by Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln.

Lincoln thanked Canepa for his service to Stockton and said he was “extremely proud” of the new supervisor, as well as excited for him to now be a leader at the county level.

“This city has had the privilege of your leadership for a total of eight years, and you’ve navigated the city of Stockton through some very challenging times, difficult times,” Lincoln said. “As a result of that, our city today is stronger than ever.”

Canepa served on the Stockton City Council for two terms representing the city’s 3rd District. The Stockton native and local businessman, who beat out fellow former-Stockton City Councilmember Elbert Holman for the county’s District 2 seat in the November election, described this next gig as a new chapter in the long book of his life.

Paul Canepa (left) is sworn in as a county supervisor by Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln on Jan. 4, 2023. (Cassie Dickman)

“You are all part of my book,” Canepa said to family and friends, those who have supported him along the way. “Thank you for helping me be the person that I am, the person that I’ve become. I’m very proud and honored to have this position.” 

Steven J. Ding was sworn in next as the new District 4 supervisor for the county, with former Congressman Richard Pombo administering the oath of office. The small business owner and Pombo’s former chief of staff takes over for the termed-out Chuck Winn, taking the vote over other local business owner Steve Colangelo in the November election.

“Thirty years ago this week, I was sworn in to my first term in the United State Congress — and you were there,” Pombo said. “You ready?”

“I’m ready,” Ding replied.

The new supervisor became emotional during his first speech, particularly when acknowledging his mother, who was in the audience, and what the board will do. Ding said he looked forward to doing work that wasn’t about partisan politics, but instead will be “Valley first.” 

“That’s what we’re going to remember around here — San Joaquin County first,” Ding said. “We’re going to fight like hell for everybody.”

Supervisor Robert Rickman, was also officially voted in as chair of the board, taking over the gavel from Supervisor Winn, while Miguel Villapudua was also elected as the board’s vice chair. 

“I look forward to working collaboratively with my new colleagues on the Board in continuing to make San Joaquin County a desirable place to live, work, play, and raise a family,” Rickman said in a news release earlier this week.

The board changes leadership at the beginning of each year. Rickman served as the board’s vice chair last year.

In addition to the new supervisors, Steve J. Bestolarides was sworn in as the county’s assessor-recorder-county clerk, Jeffrey Woltkamp as auditor-controller and Phonxay Keokham as treasurer-tax collector.

San Joaquin County District Attorney Ron Freitas greets supporters at his inauguration ceremony (Courtesy photo)

District Attorney Ron Freitas was also sworn into office this week. The career prosecutor took his oath Wednesday to become the county’s 42nd district attorney in front of a large crowd of who’s who of county officials at the San Joaquin County Superior Court in downtown Stockton.

In a press release from the DA’s office, Freitas says he is honored to take on the county’s top prosecuting job. 

“There is work to be done in order to ensure the safety of neighborhoods and communities in every corner of San Joaquin County,” Freitas said. “I look forward to the next six years and bringing common sense back to the criminal justice system in our county.”

Freitas takes over the job from former County DA Tori Verber Salazar, who lost reelection to Freitas in November following a contentious election season.

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San Joaquin County Sheriff Patrick Withrow was also re-sworn in this week for his second term outside the Sheriff’s Office in French Camp, with many law enforcement and local officials in the audience. His older brother, Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow, administered the oath of office.

Withrow thanked all who supported him and noted this time around was much easier than when initially getting into office, describing his first term as a journey.

“We came into a department that, let’s just say, needed a lot, a lot of help,” Withrow said, who ran unopposed. “To transform what we’ve become in these four years is nothing short of a miracle of what my staff has done, and it’s absolutely amazing.”

The terms of the DA and sheriff are usually four years, but Withrow and Freitas will both get two extra years on the job due to a new state law, Assembly Bill 759, designed to line up both district attorney and sheriff’s races with the Presidential election.

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