Meet Third District County Supervisor Candidate
and Former Mayor Dr. Justin Cummings
Dr. Justin Cummings is the Co-Founder and Associate Director of the UCSC CITRIS Initiative for Drone Education and Research, on call Project Scientist with Integral Consulting Inc., Santa Cruz City Council member and former 2020 Mayor of the City of Santa Cruz, and is a candidate for the position of Third District Santa Cruz County Supervisor. From a very young age and into adulthood, Justin has been passionate about protecting the environment, social justice, and public service. Justin holds a BA in Spanish and a BS in Biology from Eastern Illinois University in 2006 and a Ph.D. from the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a designated emphasis in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Cruz in 2013. His dissertation work focused on understanding how native trees used for forest restoration inhibited the regeneration invasive grasses in Panama.
From 2013 – 2015 Justin worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Florida International University where his work focused on understanding how changes in climate influenced the uptake and release of carbon in the Everglades. In 2015, Justin returned to Santa Cruz to help co-create and serve as the Founding Program Director of the UCSC Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program (UCSC DDCSP), which seeks to grow diverse leadership to strengthen conservation. After being sworn in as Mayor in December of 2019, Justin stepped down from his position with the UCSC DDCSP to work as an environmental sensor technician and drone operator for the UC Natural Reserve System California Heartbeat Initiative. In this role he helped conduct drone surveys of ecologically protected and sensitive areas across the state of California. In addition to this work, he helped coordinate Drone Camp 2021 and also was the team lead for a 2021 UC NRS Post Fire Survey team that assessed the damage and regeneration of selected ecosystems from the 2020 fires. During this time he also helped create and is the Associate Director of the UCSC CITRIS Initiative for Drone Education and Research, which brings together diverse students, researchers, and industry partners to fuel research and innovation, and develop a diverse drone workforce.
After being one of the highest signature gatherers to place rent control on the ballot in 2018, Justin decided to run for Santa Cruz City Council and in 2018 was the highest vote recipient. Justin served as Vice Mayor in 2019, and Mayor of the City of Santa Cruz in 2020, one of the most difficult and challenging years in recent history for the city, and is currently a city council member. Justin was one of two African American men elected for the first time to the City Council in 2018 and was the first African American man to serve as Mayor of the City of Santa Cruz. During his time on the City Council, Justin has worked towards building consensus on the council and within the community to help move the community forward in a positive and productive way. During his time on the council Justin has served on dozens of committees, ad-hoc subcommittees, and commissions that address topics such as the city budget, city revenue, land use, environmental protection and climate change, cannabis, UCSC growth, homelessness, public safety, city schools, COVID-19 recovery, clean energy, public health and the library. He has also submitted and passed resolutions and policies with the majority of his colleagues in an attempt to build consensus. The policies that he has helped champion have focused on supporting diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion, affordable housing, tenant protections, programs that assist individuals experiencing homelessness, addressing accountability, transparency, and use of force in policing, environmental protection, public health, supporting Unions, and small businesses among other topics. As Mayor during 2020, he worked with community members and leaders, across a variety of social, business, and government sectors, to bring our community together as we confronted the many challenges faced during 2020. This included the graduate student protests at UCSC, the Recall election, the onset of COVID-19, social unrest after the murder of George Floyd, the CZU fires, and the 2020 elections. As Third District County Supervisor, Justin is interested in prioritizing the following issues:
Environmental protection and carbon emission reduction
Creating and supporting effective programs and services that promote public health, justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion
Sustainable land use planning and affordable housing production
Rebuilding and sustaining our community and economy due to COVID-19
Strengthen disaster preparedness, resiliency, and recovery from Climate Change impacts