District 2 County Supervisor Anthony Botelho was close friends with the late Jim West.
“He was just one of my dear friends,” Botelho said of their 22-year friendship. “I knew he was there for me for anything.”
Botelho called West “one of those people that is irreplaceable in one’s life.”
Botelho and other friends remembered West on Friday on the day after his death. They described someone dedicated to the community, but also a company man who thoughtfully balanced his professional loyalties and his dedication to many nonprofit and political activities in town.
“They turned to Jim to add that credibility,” Botelho said. “It was amazing, the turnaround he was able to give with the reputation of Graniterock at that time.”
Botelho called West “the face of Graniterock” in San Benito County. Since West’s arrival with the company, he said, “Graniterock has always been a good company that wanted to participate and be a solid, contributing neighbor.”
In its own remembrance to employees in an online newsletter, Graniterock pointed out how West was raised in Illinois.
He was a Marine and went to college in Southern California. His professional career began in consulting for the construction materials industry before taking on a long-held role with Graniterock. He joined the company in 1996 working public relations and community affairs, according to the company.
As for hobbies, he was an antique car buff and had taken care of Graniterock’s vintage fleet in recent years.
West was survived by his daughter Tina, a granddaughter and great granddaughter, Graniterock noted.
While West over the past two decades was active with organizations like San Juan Bautista Rotary and United Way, and served on the San Benito County Healthcare District Board, Botelho suggested West may have even pursued his own District 2 supervisor role if not for the two being such good friends.
“Sixteen years ago, he was one of the first people that encouraged me to run for supervisor,” Botelho said.
The supervisor recalled West driving his Model A Ford to voters’ homes when Botelho first ran for office.
“He would drive me to the doorstep of a house and turn the car around, and I’d jump on the running board again, and we’d drive to the next house,” Botelho said.
West was a true car guy, Botelho said. Aside from the famous Model A, he was known to drive Graniterock’s classic trucks at area events.
“He actually refurbished the cement mixer himself,” Botelho said. “I saw him put that piece by piece together. He had just a tremendous mechanical knack and appreciation for older cars.”
Like Botelho, Frankie Gallagher was friends with West for a long time, 15 to 20 years. They were both involved with the chamber of commerce, the newspaper editorial board, Leadership San Benito’s Board and local United Way campaigns. West also served on the county parks commission with Gallagher’s husband.
Gallagher said the two always had great conversations.
“He always had a big smile,” Gallagher said. “He was a great guy. He was fun to be around. He was highly intelligent.”
Gallagher said her heart goes out to West’s daughter Tina and grandchildren.
“He was just an all-around great guy,” she said. “He’s going to be missed terribly by his family, his friends and family.”
Another close friend was Richard Place, a former supervisor who represented the San Juan area and now lives in Hollister.
“For Granite, you could consider him an ambassador for the company, not just an employee,” Place said. “He had a great relationship between the company and San Benito County.
Place said the county was fortunate West was concerned for both the community and his corporation.
“It’s very upsetting,” Place said. “We were good friends. We spent a lot of time together. We had lunch last month together.”
On the personal side, Place said West was “outgoing, gregarious, had a good sense of humor.”
“He hardly brought up politics even though he was involved in politics,” Place said.
Place noted how West was a key person involved with the De Anza Trail’s improvements, which have been funded by Graniterock, in the San Juan Bautista area.
“That was important,” Place said. “He had the keys and he was responsible for making sure everything was taken care of on it.”
Gordon Machado was among dozens of residents to sit on local boards with West. They were both on the San Benito County Healthcare District Board along with the newspaper editorial board.
Machado said his former colleague always did his homework and the two were usually compatible on causes.
“For me, it was an asset, and vice versa, to work together,” Machado said. “He was consistent with attendance. He had a good sense of humor.”
Fellow San Juan Councilman Chris Martorana was stunned by West’s death.
“I’m just having trouble adjusting to the whole thought,” he said.
They were in the Rotary Club together, and Martorana recalled West’s status.
“He was what they call a red badger,” he said. “I think he said he was the oldest living red badger. Clearly, the sense of humor is what stands out to me and his ability to balance what seems like a very difficult job with being friends with an awful lot of people.”
Rotary President Cesar Flores remembered how West was the driver in El Teatro Campesino’s Dia de los Muertos processions.
“That was his truck,” Flores said. “He was the driver.”