Tolleson Candidates

Tolleson is getting ready for a big primary election, with the mayor and three council seats on the 2020 ballot. Ballots for city council and mayor candidates in Avondale, Buckeye, Litchfield Park and Tolleson were mailed by Maricopa County Elections Department last week. (Goodyear does not have any seats up for election this year.)

Early voting began last week for the Aug. 4 primary election.

The deadline for mailing ballots is July 29. Visit beballotready.vote to check registration status. Of West Valley cities, Tolleson has by far the most competition, with three or four positions challenged.

On the Tolleson ballot will be Vice Mayor Juan Rodriguez, the only candidate for the mayor position. Incumbent Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar is not running for reelection (though she will be on the ballot as a candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission).For the council positions, incumbents Lupe Leyva Bandin, John Carnero and Albert Mendoza face challengers Donnie Gerhart, Jimmy Davis and Adolfo Gámez.

The West Valley View emailed questions to the Tolleson candidates. Here are the questions and responses of those who replied:

 

Please briefly describe your background including any relevant education and work history.

Lupe Leyva Bandin

I was born and raised in Tolleson and attended Tolleson Elementary and high School. I was appointed to the council in 2014 to fill a vacancy. I was elected to my first term on the council in 2016. I was finance coordinator at Tolleson Elementary School District and director of finance at Tolleson Union High School District (retired). All together, I have 28 years of public school finance experience.

Jimmy Davis

I come from a lifelong journey of service. For half a decade I worked as the lead advocate for the Kaiser Family Center, a family homeless shelter run by the Salvation Army.  In my time there I oversaw the day to day operation of the program and worked to create policies and procedures that would help to improve the lives of the 28 families who lived in our shelter program.  As an educator and music minister working for the largest primarily Hispanic Catholic Parish in the Diocese of Phoenix, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale, I have worked tirelessly to bring our families, specifically our children, opportunities to participate in the arts. 

In January of 2019, I brought my vision for the arts to Tolleson, when I opened Jimmy Davis Music.

Juan Rodriguez

I am currently 45 years of age.  I hold the following degrees: Master of Public Administration Degree – Arizona State University;  Bachelor of Arts Degree - Political Science - Arizona State University; Bachelor of Arts Degree - History - Arizona State University.

Additionally, I’ve served as a City of Tolleson Vice-Mayor and Council Member for the past 14 years.  I have the following work, board and commission experience: Twenty-two years with the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department where I am currently a Parks Supervisor.  

Adolfo Gomez

After getting my degree in history and psychology at Northern Arizona University in 1979, I worked as a social worker at Tolleson Elementary School for 13 years helping many families and children in the city. At Estrella Mountain Community College, where I worked for 22 years, I had many roles throughout my career as a student advisor, program developer, director of the Southwest Skill Center and the director of Corporate and Relations Foundation, a role that consisted of raising money for the college and student scholarships.

Donnie Gerhart

I am a retired Master Sergeant (E-7) from the Air Force and served as an aircraft electrical and environmental system technician. I deployed to Pakistan, twice to Afghanistan and two remote tours in South Korea. Currently, I am going into my 4th year teaching math for the Tolleson Union High School District.  The past five years, I have been a board member of the city’s public safety personnel retirement system for both the fire and police municipal facilities corporation and the industrial development board which we will dissolve in 2019. As far as education, I have a bachelor’s in human resource management, master’s in business administration and a master’s in public administration with an emphasis on government policy.

 

What neighborhood do you live in and for how long have you lived there?

Donnie Gerhart

 I have lived in Tolsun Farms going on 11 years now. 

Lupe Leyva Bandin

I have lived on the southside of Main Street and Van Buren for 61 years growing up and married.

Adolfo Gomez

I live in Tolsun Farms because that is where we saw a home we liked and decided to purchase. We have lived on this property for 28 years. We did live in other areas of town beforehand, but no matter where in Tolleson my wife and I have lived, it’s always been home.

Jimmy Davis

I am a resident of Tolleson living around 93rd Avenue and Garfield Street. I have lived in Tolleson off and on for the majority of my life. I moved back to Tolleson after residing in Glendale for two years in 2017.

Juan Rodriguez

I live in Tolleson.

 

Why did you choose to live here?

Lupe Leyva Bandin

My parents lived in Tolleson when I was born

Juan Rodriguez

Tolleson is and always will be our home.  My wife Alma and I chose to raise our family here by design.  We’ve always believed in the philosophy of making things better through public service, and we’ve lived our lives in that tradition.  I’ve been blessed to have been given the opportunity to serve the people of Tolleson for the past 15 years and the residents of Phoenix for the past 22 years.  My wife is a kindergarten teacher at P.H. Gonzales Elementary School. 

Adolfo Gomez

I was born and raised in Tolleson. When I was in high school, I saw that the council at the time was making decisions that were not in the best interest of the community. I decided that I would go to college, then run for city council and try to make a difference.

I believe I have and hope to continue to do so.

Donnie Gerhart

When we were looking for us after the military home and being from Tolleson, that was the first city that came to mind. If you have ever driven through Tolsun Farms, it is very common to receive a wave or hello from the neighbors and seeing kids playing in their yards. We knew we wanted to live here and raise our family.

Jimmy Davis

Tolleson is where both sides of my family have called home for generations. My paternal grandfather Fred Davis, settled in Tolleson in 1968 opting to raise his five children in this community, eventually becoming chief of police.  

 

What are the three biggest issues of this local election?

Jimmy Davis

We must find ways to increase available housing options. The lack of housing makes it impossible for many people of my generation to raise our families in our hometown! We must find effective ways to increase housing options in Tolleson.  

We have growing infrastructure issues in our community and crumbling housing. Our storm drainage systems need a major overhaul. I know any time it even sprinkles my street floods.  This happens all around the city. We must make the repairs and improvements necessary to fix this issue. We must also expand the current housing rehabilitation program to meet the needs of our residents. 

We must see an increase in community programming and education, especially arts programming.   Our multigenerational recreation center needs to see major growth in the area of programming.  The loss of the boys and girls club leaves a gap that we must ensure we fill.  Community programming can be a very powerful tool for our residents of all ages. It gives people a purpose.  

Donnie Gerhart

The impact of COVID-19 on our citizens and the new normal by preventing the spread and the recovery. 

Programs and support for our seniors, veterans, and children. 

Revitalization of city facilities and buildings.

Juan Rodriguez

COVID -19.  Unfortunately, this worldwide pandemic has impacted not just our city but the rest of the world. We need to continue to educate our residents on the importance of prevention, detection and timely medical treatment if found to have a positive result.

Drugs. The presence and use of drugs in our streets are beyond obvious and we need to get a better handle on it. This is an issue I brought up two years ago and as a council we instituted drug education and modernized our Parks and Recreation Center to give our children a healthy alternative. Unfortunately, there remains much more to do. 

Development of vacant lots: Our city has limited land remaining and we need to take a strategic approach on who and what we allow to join our community. On one hand we’ve had some major victories like Carmax, Floor and Décor, Carvana and the new Marriott Hotel. We will reap the benefits of their tax contributions for decades to come. 

Lupe Leyva Bandin

Economic development-of our remaining “key locations” in Tolleson. We need to secure solid retail for solid revenues.

Substance abuse and mental health. The city has allocated funding for substance abuse education city-wide and to support substance abuse rehabilitation and mental health services at our Tolleson High School.

Housing. The city council is in discussions with developers for new housing starts. The council’s goal is to provide affordable housing to attract new residents and help seniors to remain in Tolleson with their friends and loved ones.

Adolfo Gomez

Communication among the three political entities, Tolleson Union High School Board, Tolleson Elementary School Board and the Tolleson City Council is non-existent. The city is planning an aquatic center and the Tolleson Union High School District is planning an aquatic center somewhere within the district. It doesn’t make any sense, nor is it fair for Tolleson taxpayers to get hit twice for two aquatic centers.

I believe that we must address the issue of water for the city’s future. People complain about water rates and understandably so, including myself, but what they may not realize is that we buy our water from Phoenix. If Phoenix raises their rates, Tolleson has no choice but to pass those costs to its residents. 

Tolleson is lacking a grocery store and when Kmart closed its store, it left a huge void and need in the community.

 

What experience do you have with managing spending?

Donnie Gerhart

I have taught personal budgets and spending to high school seniors. In my MBA program, I completed several statistics classes. While I was active duty, I was a member of several temporary duty preparation teams where we managed the budget to cover all members deploying. 

Jimmy Davis

As a business owner, budget planning and managing is a way of life.  In addition, in my role at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, I oversee my program’s budget. I am used to looking at the bottom line and finding ways to create programming opportunities on a shoestring budget. Change isn’t always expensive. Oftentimes, it is a matter of keeping a tight belt and finding ways to maximize your resources.  

Adolfo Gomez

I have 36 years of city council experience. Each year the city adopts a budget for the entire city for all of the departments. It is not the job of the city council to manage spending, but the job of the city manager and the finance director.

Lupe Leyva Bandin

My experience in public school finance included preparing salary, benefits and general expense budget projections. Reassessing needs periodically in order to maintain and keep million dollar budgets balanced. I have experience in best practices for procuring supplies, materials and services to receive the best value for our tax dollars

Juan Rodriguez

City of Tolleson: I’ve attained extensive experience over the past 14 years as a council member. We have formulated, amended and approved the annual budget.  All 14 years we have met our budget projections and for the last three years we have exceeded projected revenues into the city and reduced municipal property rates to our residents. City of Phoenix:  Currently I’m responsible for managing a $10 million budget divided among salary, commodity, contracted services and internal charges.  

 

What new ideas do you have?

Juan Rodriguez

I would like to establish a capital improvement fund in which we can self-fund or mix funds on major projects.  This would reduce our organizations dependency on long-term debt such as the sale of municipal bonds, which may take decades to pay back. I am very proud to have been a part of the new City Hall Plan and hope to see it built in the next couple of years. However, I believe we need to go further given the recent closure of the high school pool. I would like to work on developing a conceptual plan for a new municipal aquatic facility. This facility would cater to our children with cool slides and families by providing reservable picnic areas.  We all have fond memories of the high school pool and it’s time to work on making new memories, Tolleson!   

Adolfo Gomez

One: The creation of a potable water treatment plant. We must develop a strategic plan that would include other cities, Maricopa County, and any entity that would be interested in becoming a partner in looking to secure water for our future.

Two: Youth work program that would provide employment for Tolleson youth, such as helping Tolleson Senior Citizens with landscaping at their homes.

Three: I would like to bring a university satellite (ASU, U of A, or NAU) to Tolleson. It would be in collaboration with the Tolleson Union High.

Four: I would like to have the city offer the residents of Tolleson classes on how distribution and fulfillment centers benefit the city, residents, and the school districts in taxes and the assessed valuation of the city.

Donnie Gerhart

I would like to see a place in the new city hall to display and share some of Tolleson’s history.  More programs available to our kids. I would like to see the completion of Post 6310 building. 

Jimmy Davis

I bring a background in community programming and would love to use my background to expand Tolleson’s program offering. In addition, I believe Tolleson residents should be able to eat, shop, and play in our downtown area. We must work to attract business other than industrial-type businesses. Our downtown area has been beautified now let’s get people in it. Our residents also need access to goods, as they must travel outside of our borders to buy groceries or other goods. We must work to bring in a grocery store. Revitalizing our downtown Tolleson area with diverse businesses will bring in revenue our city can utilize to continue improvements. Van Buren is beautiful. Now let’s make it functional.  

Lupe Leyva Bandin

Establishing neighborhood assessment groups to give residents a tangible stake in deciding their own neighborhood needs. The groups will encourage attendance at council meetings.

 

What is your track record and style of responding to questions from the public?

Lupe Leyva Bandin

I receive questions from neighbors and community members as I move about the city. I listen and answer if I can or I take down their contact information, do research and contact via phone or in person.

Donnie Gerhart

 If I know what the question is about, I have no problem providing an answer. If it’s a topic I am unsure about I would research it and collaborate with experts and follow up with an answer. 

Jimmy Davis

During my campaign, I have worked to make myself available to the constituents in a safe way. I have offered virtual town halls and made myself available by phone, email, social media and many other avenues. In my life, I always make myself available to my students and their parents. I’m open and honest and will always find new ways to reach the community which I serve.

Juan Rodriguez

I work with my public directly and in person.  I’ve always kept a good feel for the pulse of our community, because residents feel comfortable coming to me when issues arise.  We talk about them and try our best to resolve them, but we just don’t ignore it. 

Adolfo Gomez

I believe I have a solid track record in responding to questions from the public. I always return calls and answer the questions asked of me and my style of responding is one of straightforwardness and honesty. If I don’t have the answer, I will find it and get back to them as soon as possible.

 

What current elected official do you most admire?

Adolfo Gomez

The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Adern because of the professional and successful way the country fought the coronavirus pandemic, leading with science, empathy, and communication. Some have called her the most effective leader on the planet.

Lupe Leyva Bandin

Vice Mayor Juan Rodriquez. Juan serves on the council and his wife, Alma is a teacher in Tolleson. Their life-long commitment to Tolleson is honorable and Juan’s enthusiasm is infectious and inspiring.

Jimmy Davis

I have a great deal of admiration for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, better known as AOC.  She is the youngest serving member of Congress.  Her energy, drive, and overall compassion for people make me admire her.  She is truly fighting the good fight in this country and wants to see positive change for the future.  

Donnie Gerhart

The current elected official I admire is Mayor Tovar. A teacher, cancer survivor and the first ever female mayor in Tolleson. 

Juan Rodriguez

Senator Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines. Most of us know him as a world-renowned boxer who has become his people’s champion. Although he has amassed significant wealth, he has remained rooted in his simple upbringing and not allowed it to define his life.