Tuolumne County Supervisor John Gray announced on Friday that he will not run for a fourth consecutive term in 2020.
Gray, 70, said he’s decided to retire from political life when his current term ends at the start of 2021. He’s the longest serving member on the county Board of Supervisors and represents District 4, which covers most of the southern part of the county.
“When I ran for this office back in 2008, I said that three terms was enough,” he told The Union Democrat in a telephone interview while visiting his children and grandchildren in Oregon. “I’ll be 72, and I think it’ll be time to retire, spend more time with family and kick back a little bit.”
Whoever succeeds Gray will be only the third person elected to the office in 24 years. Former County Supervisor Mark Thornton served for three consecutive four-year terms before he was defeated by Gray in the 2008 election.
Gray said he drives 300-plus miles each week between his home in Groveland and the County Administration Center in Sonora. As a Tuolumne County native, whose family arrived here in 1850, he described being an elected supervisor as one of the best jobs of his life.
“There’s a lot of pressure in this job and a lot of work that’s complex and demanding,” Gray said. “It’s 24-7 and takes its toll, but it’s not that I haven’t enjoyed. It’s been a pleasure to serve, and it’s humbling.”
Some accomplishments that Gray cited were the master stewardship agreement that the county signed with the U.S. Forest Service in late 2017, the construction of a long-needed new county jail, and working with the National Park Service to establish a YARTS route between downtown Sonora and Yosemite National Park.
Gray said he’s also gained a deep admiration and respect for the employees who work for the county since becoming a supervisor, especially in how they’ve handled a string of emergencies starting with the 2013 Rim Fire.
“We have so many caring and hardworking individuals in county government,” he said. “It’s lights on late at night and there early in the morning. It’s one of those types of businesses that doesn’t shut down.”
If he had any regrets, Gray said it would be not being able to prevent the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority from falling apart. He’s served on the agency’s board since January 2010 and as its chairman since March 2014.
County supervisors and the Sonora City Council decided to shut down the TCEDA in February following an investigation by the Tuolumne County Civil Grand Jury that led to months of debate about the way the agency was being managed and spending public funds.
“You hear people say that the economy has just flatlined, but that’s just not a true statement,” he said. “Everybody else went down, but we stayed stable. Had it not been for that program, I’m confident we would be in a lot worse shape than we are today.”
Gray said he believes it will have a detrimental effect on the economy if the board can’t put something together to replace the TCEDA and continue promoting the county as a good place to do business.
However, the demise of the authority was not a factor in Gray’s decision to not seek re-election next year.
“If I was going to quit, I would have quit after the Rim Fire,” he said. “That was much more taxing. This is one of those unpleasant things that you take care of and do your best to resolve, then you’ve got to move on and not dwell on it.”