Adolfo F. Gamez. Clorinda Contreras Erives. Linda Laborin. Tida Garcia. Juan F. Rodriguez.

 Adolfo F. Gamez. Clorinda Contreras Erives. Linda Laborin. Tida Garcia. Juan F. Rodriguez.

There are three councilmember seats to be filled with four-year terms to expire 2022. The candidates who will be on the ballot for the Tolleson primary election on Tuesday, August 28, are Clorinda Contreras Erives (incumbent), Adolfo F. Gámez, Tida Garcia, Linda M. Laborin (incumbent) and Juan F. Rodriguez (incumbent).

For more information concerning upcoming elections, contact the Tolleson City Clerk’s office at 623-936-7111 or the Maricopa County Elections Department at 602-506-1511.

The Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce and the West Valley View are hosting a candidate forum from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 15, at the Tolleson Union High School District Office boardroom, 9801 W. Van Buren Street, Tolleson.

Clorinda Contreras Erives

Age: 45

Education background: Graduated from Tolleson Elementary and Tolleson Union high schools. She earned an associate’s degree from Glendale Community College; and a Bachelor’s of Science in bilingual and multicultural education, a master’s in elementary education and a master’s in early childhood education from NAU.

Current employer/job: She is employed at ASU Preparatory as a K-5 Teacher on Special Assignment.

Year moved to the district: She’s a fourth-generation Tolleson resident. She’s lived in Tolleson her entire life, except for a stint in Australia as an exchange student, and during her time at NAU.

Last book you read: The last book that she reread was 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

Why are you running?

I am running for Tolleson City Council because I am passionate about Tolleson. Under the leadership style of Mayor Tovar, councilmembers are valued for their strengths and passions. I want to continue to serve my community by bringing new solutions to problems that have a positive impact on the daily lives of Tolleson residents.

 What are your three most significant accomplishments?

As a councilwoman, I was elected by my constituents to work collaboratively with fellow councilmembers for the betterment of Tolleson. As a council, these are a few of our most significant accomplishments.

1. As a council, we established a Mission & Vision Statement and Core Values, which were rolled out in March. This is the first time our council established these very important key elements of an organization’s strategic planning.

* Mission Statement: We will retain the foundation of our family-oriented, friendly, small-town atmosphere. We will support a positive, diverse growth environment that maintains and enriches the quality of life for everyone.

* Vision Statement: The vision of the city of Tolleson is to be financially sound to fund reliable programs and services. We support leadership development opportunities for all.

* City of Tolleson Core Values:

Caring: We listen and engage with all members of the community. Display kindness to one another through words, actions, high-quality service delivery and environmental integrity.

Collaboration: We work together to accomplish common goals. Develop relationships with community partners that are strategically specific for community members. Engage the community for proactive, ongoing dialog.

Equity: Foster fairness and compromise to ensure that every part of the city is taken care of and all community members have the opportunity to succeed.

Inclusion: The city of Tolleson is stronger because all its diverse voices are heard and included. We meet our community members where they are, and we leverage individual strengths to help one another succeed. We are a united front.

Inspire: We inspire one another through family, generational leadership and commitment to each other. We amplify one another to cultivate greatness.

2. Reduction in Taxes: This positive statement is not made very often. However, through our council’s due diligence and good stewardship of our taxpayers’ dollars, the property tax levy for fiscal year 2018-19 primary property tax rate was set at 1.8039, the secondary property tax rate at 2.0280, for a total rate of 3.8359, which is a reduction from last year. I will continue to be good steward of your tax money!

3. #REDFORED: As an educator, I have seen firsthand the devastation that has come due to the financial cuts to public education. I have seen an explosion of extra-large class sizes, reductions to eliminations in student programing and facilities crumble. Cuts are so deep that inevitably, educators had to take a stand. This led to the creation of the #REDFORED movement that was made on behalf of the children in public school. As a councilwoman, I worked with Mayor Tovar to bring forward the #REDFORED resolution. On April 24, the city of Tolleson unanimously adopted a resolution in support of #REDFORED. Our city was the only city in Arizona to pass a resolution that supported our teachers and students. The success story doesn’t end there. While the #REDFORED movement was underway and our schools were closed, our city took additional steps to support the families of our elementary and high school districts. The city partnered with several companies in Tolleson to support families with child care, drinks and snacks, and engaging activities for students to participate in.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

One reason I consider myself a highly qualified candidate for council is because of my willingness and openness to see multiple viewpoints. Issues in life are not always black or white. They are more complex. I find myself seeking answers to the questions “Why?” and “How do you know?” When considering an issue, I seek to find answers to these questions from all sides of the issue. I am willing to do research, listen to others, conduct interviews, investigate and seek information for experts regarding all sides of an issue affecting my city. I may not be an expert on every issue, but I do consider myself a leader who is willing and open to learn as much as I can to make an informed decision affecting Tolleson.

What are the three biggest challenges facing Tolleson?

The three biggest challenges facing Tolleson are:

• Drugs: One of my critical issues is safer schools and safer communities. Statistics have shown our nation is facing a drug epidemic unlike ever seen before. Our community is not unlike many other communities that are being affected negatively by drugs. Through discussion with our first responders, it is evident that our community is being negatively impacted by drugs. 

• Discover Tolleson: Our downtown corridor, Paseo de Luces, unfortunately has been developing slowly.

• 2020 Census: The year 2020 is coming quickly and with it comes the Census. It is imperative to count everyone in Tolleson. I foresee the 2020 Census coming with many challenges for Tolleson. These challenges could jeopardize our count. One of the questions on the proposed questionnaire is in relation to citizenship. I am nervous that this question could threaten some of our community members from feeling safe in answering and completing this questionnaire. That may result in undercounting the population of Tolleson, which means an ineffective allocation of resources and funds.

Adolfo F. Gámez

Age: 62

Education background: He graduated from Tolleson Union High School. He earned an Associate of Arts degree from Glendale Community College, and a Bachelor of Science degree from NAU.

Current employer/job: Retired

Year moved to the district: Lifelong resident

Last book you read: He’s currently rereading The Godfather by Mario Puzzo.

Why are you running?

I believe I have the passion and experience by which to continue to serve. As a teenager, I noticed those on the council at the time weren’t addressing the needs of the community. It was a motivating factor to run for council. The purpose was to hopefully initiate change for the betterment of the community.

In the 35 years I previously served, Tolleson transitioned from an agricultural community into a strong industrial/distribution center-based city that boasts 25,000 jobs in a 6-square-mile community of 7,000 residents.

These distribution centers not only provide employment opportunities for our residents, but the tax base benefits the Tolleson Union High and Tolleson Elementary school districts, keeping our residents’ taxes lower than they would be otherwise.

The distribution centers also add to the assessed valuation of the city, helping it in its bond ratings.

Tolleson’s 20-plus Fortune 500 companies within its borders didn’t happen overnight. It took years of establishing positive rapport with the business community and I am very proud that I had a strong role in recruiting and securing many of these companies into our community.

What are your three most significant accomplishments?

1. I led the fight against the South Mountain Freeway. If the freeway had gone through the city of Tolleson, it would have displaced all the industries/businesses along 99th Avenue and done away with future development in the area. That would have led to an obvious loss of jobs and tax base. The freeway would have also impacted the Tolleson Union High School District office, Tolleson High School property, city hall, and, homes and businesses north of Van Buren Street.

2. I was able to get land donated in the mid-1980s from a company looking to build a distribution center in Tolleson. The person representing the company asked the council if there was anything they could do for the city. I informed him we needed land for parks. He asked how much land, and I asked how much they had to donate. After getting back to the council, he informed us they had 6 acres to donate to the city. Today those 6 acres are known as Tolleson Veterans Park.

Along the same lines, I helped the Tolleson Elementary School District get land donated for one of their schools, Sheely Farms Elementary School. One of the sons from the family who owned the land was a classmate of mine from first grade through high school. This land donation saved the school district’s taxpayers $1 million.

3. One of the first goals when elected in 1981, was to convince the city council that we needed a Boys and Girls Club. I was able to persuade the council to use Community Development Block Grant funds that we could roll over annually, then use our city land to construct the building. The cost was $1.2 million. It offered a safe place with after-school programs, organized sports, clubs and much more for our students.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

I have the experience of getting it done. While other cities were focusing on housing developments, during my tenure, Tolleson was bringing in industry that proved to be our saving grace in the 2008 market crash. Tolleson, unlike other cities, did not lay off any employees.

I have been involved my whole life, starting with coaching Little League right out of high school, and have been a board member in many nonprofit organizations that positively impact many segments of our community.

What are the three biggest challenges facing Tolleson?

1. Potable water is becoming very expensive and if we don’t plan now, it may soon be out of reach for many of our citizens and businesses, especially our seniors or those on fixed incomes. This is a challenge.

The city buys 86 percent of its water from the city of Phoenix. The other 14 percent comes from Tolleson’s groundwater wells.

Due to the agricultural history of the land, the groundwater contains nitrates, minerals, salts, solvents, bacteria and other effluent materials. The city treats it with a reverse osmosis process.

The abundance of groundwater in the West Valley is an opportunity not only for Tolleson, but for the surrounding cities.

I believe the West Valley cities should address this issue as a region. My idea of a regional water treatment plant could be a solution.

2. The city’s existing housing needs to be addressed. Some of these homes were built in the 1940s and are in dire need of repair. We need to secure funds for the rehabilitation of these homes whether through grants, the city budgetary process, or working in partnership with lending institutions to secure low-interest loans for homeowners who qualify.

3. We must protect the undeveloped land we have left. The city is top heavy in industry and we must seriously look at striking a balance on how we develop it, whether it be much-needed housing, retail such as a grocery store and a pharmacy, and the need for open spaces/parks.

Tida Garcia

Age: 41

Education background: Attended community college

Current employer/job: United Healthcare, director, Delegated Claims Oversight

Year moved to the district: 2004

Last book you read: The Coming Job Wars by Gallup Chairman Jim Clifton. It gives great insight on building and encouraging entrepreneurship for communities.

Why are you running?

I’ve been a Tolleson resident for more than 14 years. I’m running because I am passionate about serving our families. I will be a new and fresh interactive councilwoman who just wants to improve our community with my strengths and passion. I want to continue to be a part of the positive change in moving Tolleson forward.

What are your three most significant accomplishments?

1. My biggest accomplishment is being a mother. To me, it is the greatest gift and responsibility to be blessed with. 

2. Serving on the Tolleson Elementary School District governing board and on the Tolleson Community Coalition have been amazing experiences. I’ve been actively engaged in creating positive and successful schools in Tolleson. I’m proud to lead the school board as president in making all students our No. 1 priority. Serving on the Tolleson Community Coalition as board president has taught me to put the needs of our residents first. I have stayed laser focused on providing financial assistance to our youth, seniors and veterans.

3. Having a rewarding successful career in health care for the past 18 years has taught and continues to teach me daily how to serve better. Each day, I can develop and drive new initiatives for the improvement of the organization.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

I’m the only new candidate who hasn’t served on the city council. I would have the opportunity to look at current and new situations with a fresh perspective and bring new ideas. I would work in partnership to bring innovative solutions to continue to move Tolleson forward. I’m driven with a servant heart and passion for Tolleson.

What are the three biggest challenges facing Tolleson?

First challenge is to continue to unify the community. Engaging with all community members to encourage them to voice their concerns and ideas on how to improve Tolleson. Listening to our community members is key for developing successful programs for our youth, seniors and veterans and building safer neighborhoods.

Continued economic and sustainable growth for Tolleson. Attracting new and promoting existing small businesses is a key component in the economic growth for Tolleson. Small businesses create job opportunities, internships for our youth and services within the community.

Drugs. Our community has always had issues with drugs. I want to bring positive solutions to clean up our city and provide preventative education for our youth and drug rehabilitation programs for those who have addictions.

Linda Laborin

Age: 73

Education background: GED, attended Glendale Community College, Estrella Mountain College, Phoenix Community College, ASU West, and the ASU Main.

Current employer/job: Retired

Year moved to the district: Lifelong resident

Last book you read: The House by Danielle Steele

Why are you running?

I am an experienced councilwoman who loves her community and residents, young and old, and is always looking out for ways to improve their lives through city programs such as the Tolleson Senior Center, activities for our youth. I am an advocate for safe neighborhoods.

What are your three most significant accomplishments?

I attended a conference and one city described an “in case of emergency card” with the senior center guests’ emergency numbers, names, ages, addresses and pictures. It was implanted in Tolleson. The plan includes having the names of seniors’ doctors and their prescriptions on a disc that is accessible to the fire and police departments. Seniors can fill out a form to have that information accessible to the proper authorities. There was an incident in Tolleson where a police officer was able to locate a senior’s family after he got lost because of that card.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

My dedication to the city and the love I have for the people of Tolleson. I am always accessible to the city’s residents. Anyone looking for me, can find me at the Esther Angulo Senior Center in the mornings.

What are the three biggest challenges facing Tolleson?

One of the challenges is an aging population and aging homes that are in disrepair. In addition, there are people who pass away and don’t leave their homes to surviving relatives; causing the homes to remain unoccupied. This leads to vandalism and the homes become an eyesore. The conditions of some of these homes, whether occupied or not, are to the point where they should be torn down and rebuilt. Habitat for Humanity is a great partner with the city and has been upgrading homes around the community through federal grants.

Second, the city needs affordable housing. Tolleson is very community and family oriented. We have young families who would like to stay and live near their parents and friends after they grow up, but there isn’t enough housing to accommodate them.

A third challenge is getting a business to occupy the vacant Kmart building. Kmart served a purpose in the community because of the extensive type of products it carried, and people could walk to it. At one time, the Tolleson Kmart was the highest-grossing Kmart store in the state. There is definitely a market here and it would be great to get the same type of business such as a Target in that location.

Juan F. Rodriguez

Age: 43

Education background: Earned the following degrees from ASU: Master of Public Administration, Bachelor of Arts degrees in political science and history.

Current employer/job: A 20-year city of Phoenix employee who serves as a parks supervisor. Additionally, he has served as a Tolleson city councilman for 12 years. He’s the vice mayor.

Year moved to the district: Lifelong resident 

Last book you read: Love Your Life Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want by Rachel Cruze

Why are you running?

I’m running for City Council because I want to keep working hard for our Tolleson residents. Specifically, I want to create strategic policies designed to deliver vital services, and to create a culture of prosperity for our future generations. This major responsibility requires a person who is committed to personal development, a strong work ethic and unwavering love for Tolleson. I’m proud to say I’ve attended school at P.H. Gonzales Elementary School and Tolleson Union High School. Go Wolverines! I danced with the Tolleson Ballet Folklorico and played baseball in our West End Little League. These are the same programs and schools my three children have participated in, and where my wife serves as a kindergarten teacher. I’m proud of my Tolleson roots, and am honored to be raising my children in these same traditions.

What are your three most significant accomplishments?

1. Creating and implementing a comprehensive housing program for Tolleson residents. The program consists of three major components: The removal of abandoned/blighted properties, which have become fire hazards, shelters for criminal activity and reduced property values; incentivize developers to build new single-family homes on these vacant lots to promote home ownership and increase overall housing stock in Tolleson; and rehabilitate homes owned by senior citizens, people with disabilities and low-income families to improve the existing housing conditions of current residents. 

2. Forming and serving as the chairman of the Tolleson Parks and Recreation Center Committee, which focuses on designing a multigenerational approach to recreation programs; identifying facility improvements to modernize the more than 25-year-old building and adding new programming like technology and fitness for residents of all ages. New amenities will include: fitness center, satellite public library, teen room, game room, arts and crafts center, indoor gym, free public Wi-Fi, rock climbing room, improved parking, courtyard, art walk and much more. I’m proud to announce the Tolleson Parks and Recreation Center is scheduled to reopen in the fall.

3. Increase our annual operating budget by implementing a recruitment strategy of e-commence and fulfillment centers businesses. These businesses offer products primarily to a regional and national market but keep their point of sales within Tolleson. That means the tax revenue collected for all their sales remains local. These revenues allow us to meet our immediate and long-term financial needs. It also makes it possible to maintain our already-healthy “rainy day” fund. Ultimately, these funds allow us to keep delivering the many services we offer and keep us financially solvent for the future. I represent Tolleson on the Maricopa Associations of Governments’ Economic Development Committee, which has allowed me to track regional trends that may manifest themselves as future economic opportunities for our city. As a council, we must remain competitive to continue to attract economic opportunities for our city.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

My ongoing commitment to prepare myself to serve at the highest level and my relentless work ethic. 

During the past 20 years, I’ve prepared myself academically at ASU, professionally as a seasoned supervisor for the city of Phoenix and as a volunteer by serving on numerous boards, committees and commissions. Most importantly, I’ve gained valuable experience as a Tolleson councilman and vice mayor. These experiences have allowed me to develop a critical approach toward understanding major issues and making decisions that best benefit our community. Effective leadership requires a relentless commitment to quality work. During tough times, I’ve rolled up my sleeves and keep marching forward for our residents. My passion for Tolleson is unwavering and I stand fully prepared to work hard for our community’s future.

What are the three biggest challenges facing Tolleson?

1. The top challenge facing our community is the obvious presence and use of drugs in our streets. Recently, we’ve had home invasions, vehicle break ins and witnessed the ongoing foot traffic coming from particular hotels and apartments at all hours of the night. Tragically, we’ve also experienced the loss of loved ones due to drug overdoses. It’s time we have a serious conversation about this issue, and partner with our police department. Collectively, we need to identify problem areas, and adopt best national practices to combat this drug epidemic. The lives of our residents depend on it.

2. Recruitment of users to the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Unfortunately, this has been an ongoing issue for the city of Tolleson. The plant could generate significant revenue for our city because it has extra capacity to treat beyond its current flow. The new revenue can be reinvested into the plant or create a capital improvement fund for future renovations. This will require an aggressive marketing campaign to recruit new municipal, tribal and/or private partners to send new flow to the plant. As a council, we need to be committed to finding a long-term solution that is sustainable and increase revenues to the city.

3. As a community, we need to attract responsible development opportunities for the remaining undeveloped land within our city limits. This should include single-family home developments, public green spaces such as parks and retail businesses designed to serve our residents. This should not include more warehouses, long-term-stay hotels or apartments in areas that no longer make sense. We need developments that are going to complement our residential and downtown core areas. Tolleson needs to continue to become a welcome destination to the Southwest Valley that our residents and visitors alike can be truly proud of. This will require tough conversations with potential developers, and an aggressive recruitment plan to go after desirable developments.  It will not be easy, but it’s extremely important to our community’s quality of life.