Fred Ruiz, chairman emeritus and co-founder of Dinuba-based Ruiz Foods, is no longer a member of the University of California Board of Regents.
His 12-year term expired March 1 and he was not appointed to another term.
It was, however, Ruiz’s call, and not any sort of political move by Gov. Jerry Brown, who appoints 18 of the 26 regents, subject to state Senate approval. Ruiz is a Republican and Brown is a Democrat.
In this case Ruiz felt he couldn’t devote adequate energy to a second stint.
“I’m 73 years old,” Ruiz said. “Another 12 year-term? Realistically, it would be difficult for me to maintain the same kind of commitment that I had in my first term.”
Ruiz’s departure is the second loss of a local person on a high-profile state board. Earlier this year, Brown didn’t reappoint Granville Homes President Darius Assemi to the California Transportation Commission. Unlike Ruiz, Assemi wanted to stay on the commission.
Ruiz is advocating for Brown to name another person from the Central Valley as his replacement.
“This is a really important issue,” Ruiz said. “We need to have somebody from the Central Valley to be a voice to the Regents.”
At the time he joined the board in 2004 – appointed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Ruiz said his fellow regents did not understand the Valley’s issues. He in turn, “became vocal on trying to educate them.”
Ruiz pointed to a Thursday action from the regents that highlights the importance of a Valley member. The regents unanimously approved an expansion plan for UC Merced. The expansion will enable the campus to enroll 10,000 students by 2020.
Looking forward, Ruiz hopes elected officials and influential people who have access to Brown step forward to push for a Valley representative on the board. One person he specifically mentioned was UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland.
“The point is somebody from the Valley would have an influence on the regents’ decision-making process as it relates to the Central Valley,” Ruiz said.
He said his fellow members were a “wonderful group of individuals who came from various backgrounds and experiences. What I liked so much was we would not always agree on opinions, but we listened to one another.”