Garlic Festival leader announced his run at renovated Gilroy Bowl

Greg Bozzo tells residents gathered at the Gilroy Bowl for his campaign’s April 23 launch why he decided to run for mayor of the city. Photo by Calvin Nuttall

By Calvin Nuttall

Long-time resident Greg Bozzo announced his candidacy for mayor of Gilroy. He will run in the Nov. 5 election against incumbent Mayor Marie Blankley.

Photo by Calvin Nuttall

In a humorous and personal speech April 23 at the recently renovated Gilroy Bowl, the local landscape contractor outlined his vision for improving the city’s relationships with local businesses and reviving the beloved festival in a downtown venue.

Known for his community involvement and leadership in the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association. In his voluneerism, he has served as chair of the Gourmet Alley committee in 2004, president of the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association in 2010, and later continued as a board member.

Speaking to a room full of supporters, Bozzo frequently cited the discontent felt among many local business owners around their dealings with city staff. He told them that was a leading reason for his candidacy, promising to improve what he called “City Hall Customer Service” as mayor.

“Along my listening tour of the past nine months, the feedback I got from people about the challenges they have working with the city of Gilroy is that they are unable to build a positive working relationship,” he said. “Of all the different people, nonprofit organizations, for-profit organizations, citizens, everybody comes back with the same challenges, and that is an ability to build a relationship.”

Bozzo pledged to restore good relations by collaborating more closely with local business leaders to ensure their needs are accommodated. He cited the roll-out of the recent Gourmet Alley downtown renovation project as an example of where the city has allegedly failed to take the needs of local businesses into account.

“Imagine if our elected leaders and city management, prior to the roll-out, called local people in our community,” he said. “Imagine if they called local contractors, like Larry Kent or Dave Leal, people who have years of experience in construction and development, and asked their opinion. I think they would be building relationships, they would be letting members of our community share their expertise with them. Our elected leaders and city managers find it hard to do that, over and over again.”

Citing his volunteer work with the Garlic Festival, Bozzo pledged to do everything in his power as mayor to revive a “reimagined” version of the popular event.

Photo by Calvin Nuttall

The festival has not been held since 2019, when a mass shooting killed three and wounded 17. Several resulting lawsuits and the subsequent insurance challenges have prevented the festival from being held since then.

“If all businesses stopped because of frivolous lawsuits, there would be no economy,” he said. “Why us? If I am mayor, you will hear a lot about the return of the Garlic Festival. As mayor, I will do everything I can to have your festival, the heart of Gilroy, in downtown Gilroy.”

Bozzo also addressed the issue of the city’s unhoused population, promising a change of direction with respect to Gilroy’s housing policies.

“With the right leadership and cooperation at City Hall and with other government agencies, and with Gilroy non-profit organizations, we have enough talent in this community that we can be known for how well we have addressed this problem, not well-known for how well we don’t address it.”

Bozzo likened the job of mayor with subcontractor work, believing that he can learn on the job.

“People always ask me, ‘How do you know how to fix City Hall?’” he said. “Well, I don’t know how to fix it, but I know it’s broken. If I go into a home that has cracked windows and they’re slumping and the doors don’t open, I know the foundation is cracked. And the foundations and fundamentals of our City Hall are busted.”

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Calvin Nuttall is a Morgan Hill-based freelance reporter and columnist.