Who is Alfredo Pedroza, the man at the heart of DOJ’s investigation of Napa County?

The county supervisor was viewed as an ascendant California politician until he became embroiled in controversy over a vineyard development proposal.|

Read more stories about the federal investigation at pdne.ws/3wEIQko.

The subpoenas recently served to Napa County officials by the U.S. Department of Justice spray in a number of directions, with tendrils into subjects as varied as the wine business, waste management, airport services and property development.

But a person not named in the three subpoenas would appear central to the federal investigation.

That person, Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza, was viewed as an ascendant California politician until he became embroiled in controversy over a vineyard development proposal in rural Napa County.

Last May, two months after announcing his candidacy for the state Senate seat set to be vacated by Bill Dodd in 2025, Pedroza said he would not run after all — and that he would not seek reelection for his supervisor seat when his term concludes at the end of 2024.

Here is what we know about Pedroza.

Napa born and raised

Pedroza, the son of Mexican immigrants, grew up in the city of Napa. His father, Alfredo Pedroza Hernandez, worked in the vineyards for more than 30 years after arriving with no high school diploma and little English fluency. The senior Pedroza was killed by a driver while riding his bicycle on the Silverado Trail in 2012.

Alfredo H. Pedroza, now 36, met his future wife, Brenda Llamas, in a Spanish class at Vintage High School in Napa. They have three children.

Pedroza bought his first house in Napa at the age of 24 and built strong community ties. He was on the board of directors of both the Sonoma County and Napa County Hispanic chambers of commerce, and has also been active with organizations like Community Action Napa Valley, the Sunrise Rotary Club and the Napa Valley Education Foundation

Background in finance

Pedroza received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and economics from Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, and began working in financial services around 2005.

He rose to the level of branch manager with Redwood Credit Union, overseeing the lender’s Sonoma and Glen Ellen branches, then became an assistant vice president with Mechanics Bank.

Political fast track

In 2012, Pedroza was voted onto the Napa City Council despite his precocious age — he was 25 at the time — and lack of political experience. He became the city’s youngest-ever council member when he took office in December of that year.

Less than two years later, then-California Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Pedroza to the District 4 seat on the Napa County Board of Supervisors, which Dodd had vacated after getting elected to the State Assembly.

Pedroza was later elected to a pair of four-year terms, in 2016 and again in 2020.

Why think the DOJ is focused on Pedroza?

While the supervisor’s name does not appear in the federal subpoenas, many of his donors do. Among the 40 entities named in a document request in one of the subpoenas, more than two dozen are either individuals who donated to Pedroza’s election funds, or companies owned or managed by people who did.

Another of the subpoenas focuses heavily on waste management services in the cities of Calistoga, St. Helena and Yountville. Those Upvalley cities are served by the Upper Valley Waste Management company. Pedroza is currently vice chair of the Upper Valley Waste Management Agency.

Also on the list of entities the DOJ is interested in are those most closely tied to the Walt Ranch controversy. They include Pedroza’s father-in-law, Esteban Llamas; Craig and Kathryn Hall, the billionaire local winery owners who were attempting to develop the rugged land into vineyard; and Viñedos AP, the corporation set up to own the property adjacent to Walt Ranch.

What is Walt Ranch?

Pedroza’s star dimmed when he was pulled into an ongoing battle over 316 acres of woodland in the hills between Napa and Lake Berryessa. Critics complained of the Halls’ plan to remove up to 14,000 mature oak trees.

The uproar reached a new level when Napa resident Beth Nelsen revealed that Pedroza’s family had purchased undeveloped land adjacent to Walt Ranch, and that the supervisor had helped secure a $2.7 million loan for the property purchase, using his Napa house as collateral.

By then, Pedroza had voted on a number of items pertaining to Walt Ranch that came before the supervisors. Nelsen and others insisted Pedroza recuse himself moving forward and he eventually agreed.

Unsatisfied, the angry residents mounted a recall campaign against him. They also filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Now, close to two years later, the commission has yet to complete its investigation.

Last year, the Land Trust of Napa County purchased the embattled property from the Halls, a move that should ensure the land remains mostly undeveloped.

An abrupt farewell

Pedroza had been seen as a strong candidate to replace Dodd in California Senate District 3. But last May, after raising $12,000 for his senate bid in three months, he gave up his campaign. Pedroza cited family priorities.

Pedroza also confirmed he would not seek reelection to the board of supervisors when his terms concludes at the end of 2024.

You can reach Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. On X (Twitter) @Skinny_Post.

Read more stories about the federal investigation at pdne.ws/3wEIQko.

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