ELECTION 2022: Incumbents paved the way to progress that newcomer seeks to continue

Incumbents Yolanda Flores and Rosaena Sanchez have watched the city grow from a $17 million deficit in the general fund to a $900,000 deficit, making strides that challengers want to see more of

LINDSAY – Lindsay City Council Incumbent Yolanda Flores put her name on the ballot once again, hopeful to see the city continue to make progress after a change in Lindsay leadership. 

Newcomers Elvia Nathalie Jara and Julie Grzybek are seeking to land a seat on the council but they’ll have to go through Flores and Rosaena Sanchez to get there. After years of turbulence within Lindsay’s city council under past leadership, Flores believes the council has finally become stable this last term. Lindsay holds at-large elections, meaning voters in the entire city vote for council members, rather than splitting up voters by district.

Incumbent Flores was elected in 2018, leading with the highest number of votes out of all other candidates. Though she has only served on city council for four years, she has been involved in advocating for Lindsay residents for much longer. In 2011, Flores and a group of residents had initiated the process to recall five of Lindsay’s council members because of poor leadership, high managerial salaries and a lack of transparency. In her petition, she stressed that the city of Lindsay cannot afford a bankruptcy at the hands of failing leadership.

“The main reason why I wanted to run for election was because I wanted to change how [the city] was being run. We were able to accomplish that,” Flores said. “We have our new city manager, which is awesome, and we have a lot of new management. Our new management team is doing a great job. So we’re just going forward.”

An audit reviewed in Dec. 2019, just a year after Flores was elected, revealed the marked improved financial standing of the city of Lindsay, beginning to climb out of their stark 2017 general fund deficit of $17.1 million to $10.7 million in 2019. The general fund deficit this year is at a much improved  $900,000. The growth of the city’s funds happened right after a major shift in leadership occurred following the ousting of former public safety chief and city manager Rich Wilkenson. 

Flores looks forward to the completion of projects that she has supported, such as a new recreation park in the city and welcoming Elevate Dispensary, that will potentially raise the city’s revenue. Flores strives to hear the voice of the community and complete projects that they need, such as the shade structures that were placed in children’s playgrounds in the city. She also was a part of getting multiple streetwork projects underway. 

“We’ve approved so much construction on our streets,” Flores said. “I think we have over 10 streets that are being renewed and repaved within the next year, so I’m really happy about that, because I know that was an issue with most of the community members that I’ve spoken to.”

Incumbent Sanchez is a Lindsay native who graduated from Lindsay High School who has sat on a council seat for years. Between 2012 and 2016 Sanchez was elected as a candidate of change in a time of turmoil and then became a part of an effort to reform city administration with mayor Ramona Padilla and councilman Steve Mecum. Both of which made premature exits from the council before the end of their terms.

Sanchez stepped down from the council when she chose not to run for a second term in November 2016. Instead she opted to run for Tulare County District One Board Supervisor. She failed to show up to several debates and did not distinguish herself from a crowded field of nine candidates.

In 2018, Sanchez unseated two tenured incumbents Esteban “Steve” Velasquez and Danny Salinas. But that wasn’t the first time, as Sanchez and former council member Mecum unseated five-term incumbents Velasquez and then Mayor Ed Murray in 2012. 

Jara did not participate in an in-person or phone interview for The Sun-Gazette, but is a finance student and wants to serve on city council to advocate for the resources that the community needs, according to her Instagram campaign page and GoFund Me fundraiser. She hopes to serve the city by providing a new voice to the council.

“I strive to provide a voice for our working class, to build productive relationships, and make a positive impact on all my pursuits,” Jara wrote. “Working towards an open and honest government for the betterment of the community by increasing transparency, accountability, responsiveness, and effectiveness.”

Jara wrote that she desires to see progress and energy in the city. There is an importance on cultivating connectedness in the community, caring for the environment, advocating for those who have been “silenced by society,” and working toward progressive policies that meet the needs of local families, according to Jara.

“[I want] to measure success by more qualitative measurements such as scale effectiveness of efforts,” Jara wrote. “Doing what I can to fight for the quality of life, to protect our home, and to advocate for your needs.”

Candidate Julie Grzybek did not respond for comment as of press time.

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