Vasquez, Villalpando speak on Somerton council race
SOMERTON — Voters will choose among candidates for mayor and three city council seats in Somerton's March 12 primary election.
Candidates for mayor are the incumbent, Martin Porchas, and Arturo Magana, Somerton's current vice mayor. Running for the three four-year council terms are incumbents Miguel Villalpando and Gerardo Anaya, and challengers Carlos Gonzalez, Francisco Vasquez, Arturo Vargas and Patricia Miranda.
Early voting for the primary is under way.
This is the third in a series of candidate profiles appearing in Bajo El Sol and the Yuma Sun.
Vasquez, 48, is a teacher at San Luis Middle School who has lived in Somerton 14 years. Villalpando, 41, is a supervisor for UPS and a lifelong resident of Somerton.
Previously profiled were Porchas, Magana, Anaya, Gonzalez, and Miranda. Vargas did not respond to requests for an interview.
Why did you decide to run for the city council?
VASQUEZ: I have seen that Somerton is not progressing. I am concerned about public safety. We need more police patrol cars on the streets. Also (I am running) because our vision — when I was councilman previously — was that we wanted Somerton to be more than a bedroom community, but I don't feel that has been accomplished.
VILLALPANDO: There are many projects that have come along and others that I would like to see continue for the benefit of the community, among them road improvements, (use of) solar energy (at city offices) and citywide recycling. I would like to see them continue because they are good for the community.
What can you contribute to the efforts of the council and the progress of Somerton?
VASQUEZ: My determination. I like to ask questions, investigate and involve myself wherever I need to be involved, to ask questions and make the correct decisions. I will study whatever needs to be studied and I will go wherever I have to go to make the best decisions for the good of the community.
VILLALPANDO: My relationship with the community. I have lived here all my life, I know many families and they know me. As a council member, it's necessary to know the community. I also offer experience. I was mayor previously. A novice can run (for office), but (candidates) have to know the community well and what it means to be on the council.
What is the principal challenge or problem facing Somerton?
VASQUEZ: Safety. Basically greater support for the officials the city has, that the fire department continues to progress, that the parks and recreation department gets more workers and more funds to get things done.
VILLALPANDO: The main challenge is politics. There are people who want to see the current council fail, and that's not good for the community. But it's not failing. The city is moving forward with the council that it has now.
What would you do or propose to do to resolve that challenge?
VASQUEZ: That the (city boards and) commissions be given the opportunity to make recommendations and that the city council listens, and through those recommendations, secure (federal or state) funds. The function of the commissions is also to seek funds, just as those in the large cities do?
VILLALPANDO: That those who are on the council take a greater interest in communicating with the administration and that they focus more on their roles (as council members). I know that we all have our jobs, but we have to focus full time (on our responsibilities on the council).
How would you reinforce or change the conduct of the council?
VASQUEZ: Improve the council's representation of residents. I would propose to invite more people to approach the council. Discussion brings good results. I don't want to see the council have a predetermined agenda. I want the people to realize how the council makes decisions.
VILLALPANDO: To continue and improve the openness of government, and that before criticizing, people check into the way things really are. I have no problem with people who criticize me, as long as they do it truthfully.
What is your message to voters?
VASQUEZ: That they not be left behind, that they believe that change is possible. We are not going to become a city on the same level as Yuma overnight, but we can have a thriving community, and to do that, we need people with vision, who are serious.
VILLALPANDO: That they support those who are on the council now, because (the incumbents) have done a good job. In the last eight years, the council has demonstrated that it served the people. That can be seen from the (completion of) city projects that had not been done previously.