Mayor Marie Blankley Leads Gilroy Forward
By Roger Riffenburgh
It was a challenging time for the City of Gilroy in December 2020 when Marie Blankley took office as the newly elected mayor. The Covid pandemic was approaching its peak and stressing city finances, the city was still recovering from the tragic Garlic Festival shooting of 2019, and several key city jobs were staffed with interim managers as a result of departures.
Today Gilroy’s situation is much more positive. Mayor Blankley is proud of the successful effort to fill vacancies and rebuild the city’s executive team into a group that works together like a family. Beyond that, much of her work has been focused on economic development and improving the city’s financial stability. She has worked with the council and staff to push several projects forward.
Construction is starting this year on two NHL sized hockey rinks at the Gilroy Sports Park, largely “funded by a revenue bond for which the San Jose Sharks are responsible,” says Blankley.. This arrangement should bring both financial benefits from visitors, as well as local recreational opportunities. The city is also renovating two alleys parallel to Monterey Street, called Gourmet Alley and Railroad Alley. The project provides better lighting and makes the alleys more pedestrian friendly, attracting people to downtown restaurants and shopping. Gilroy won a $3.9 million grant through the CalTrans Clean California program to fund it.
Data showed that Gilroy’s streets were deteriorating rapidly. Blankley realized that street maintenance is often neglected in difficult budget times, but following a pavement management plan can save money in the long term. So she pushed for consistent funding through a 5-Year Street Repair Program.
Other efforts that Blankley is working on include building a 10th Street bridge across Uvas Creek, improving fire department response times with a temporary fourth firehouse, and planning for a community center. She devoted her February Spotlight message to affordable housing issues. She is a member of the Valley Transportation Authority board and has been raising the visibility of Gilroy there. Gilroy is likely to be a High Speed Rail stop if the line makes it to the Bay Area.
Professionally, Marie Blankley is a CPA, which is no doubt valuable to the city in these times. She was raised in Gilroy, earned her bachelor’s in accounting at Santa Clara University, and later a master’s in taxation at Golden Gate University. She worked as an accountant and has run her own CPA business in Gilroy for 27 years.
Over the years, Blankley has been active with Rotary, the Gilroy Foundation, the Gilroy Youth Task Force, and St. Mary’s Church. She was appointed to the council in 2018 and won election later that year. She was elected mayor in November of 2020 with over 68% of the vote.
For fun Marie enjoys listening to music and hiking with her husband Steve and the dogs. She and her husband have a son and daughter, both engineers. She says “With faith in yourself and the strength to make yourself proud, we can improve communities and move mountains together. Moving Gilroy forward, together. Love Gilroy!”