The city of Wildomar continues to face challenges as responsible growth tops the list of issues that five candidates vying for the three seats up for election list as being important to them and citizens of this young city. Residents of this city have also voiced concerns over traffic, public safety and preservation of the city’s quality of life. The candidates for city council address these concerns in their candidate profiles below.
Businesswoman and incumbent Marsha Swanson has been a member of Wildomar City Council since the city’s incorporation in 2008, serving as mayor, mayor pro tem and as a council member. She currently serves on the city’s Parks Committee, Economic Development Committee, on the Riverside League of Cities Executive Committee and as an alternate on PARSAC, RTA and WRCOG. She has also served the community on the MAC.
“Over my life I have held many leadership positions, President of our local Board of Realtors, a Director for the State Association, served on the States Local Government Relations Committee and the Land Use Committee, member of our Chamber of Commerce, a Rotarian and a lifetime member of The Friends of the Library,” she said. “I managed a large office and have owned my own business.”
Swanson said if re-elected she will work to do what is best for the city of Wildomar and its residents.
“I am asking to be re-elected because I do not see myself as a politician, but as a community member,” she said. “I will work for the good of Wildomar residents. Wildomar has been my home for 40 years. I am a wife, mother, grandmother and businesswoman. I care where we are now and about the future of Wildomar.”
Israel Leija is a telecommunications technician who is concerned about Wildomar’s public safety, job training and cleaning up the city. He believes Wildomar can continue to grow under the right leadership.
“I welcome an opportunity to contribute to the work of city council as a member,” Leija said. “Currently I have been researching, getting involved with past and current situations on behalf of residents and city council members. I’ve learned that the city is struggling many different ways.”
Leija said that if elected, he would bring knowledge to the position that he has gained in various leadership roles with his past experience serving as a project lead with various teams. He has worked with companies boasting as many as 17,000 employees, designating administration rights. He has also provided leadership in school committees and worked with the school board.
“As a board member my priorities include public safety, job training and cleaning up our city, both physically and politically,” he said. “This will attract the right kinds of economic development and businesses, and that in turn will increase our property values and our quality of life. If elected, I would use my leadership experience and expertise to initiate as exploration of the ways the city may best meet the needs it deserves. The city belongs to us; let’s make it respectful for our fellow residents, neighbors and visitors.”
Incumbent councilman Ben Benoit said while in office he has worked to save local parks, secured funding for vital community projects such as the Clinton Keith Bridge expansion and safe sidewalks to schools, kept the city’s budget under control while resisting tax increases and fought to receive more tax dollars from the state.
“Thank you for trusting me to serve you over the past four years,” he said. “In that time we have accomplished much together.”
The business owner said that if he is re-elected he would continue to focus on the areas critical to preserving Wildomar’s quality of life. He said he remains committed to fiscal leadership, supports responsible growth and public safety,
“I remain committed to maintaining a balanced budget, keeping spending in check, not taking on unnecessary debt, and investing prudently in the projects, improvements and services that residents expect,” he said, adding that public safety should be a local government’s main priority. “I will continue to work hard to ensure that Wildomar remains a safe place to live and work. In order to prosper as a community, we must have a business-friendly environment that encourages economic growth. We must also be smart about how we grow, being careful to protect the rural nature of our community. I would be honored to continue serving you.”
Land use consultant Gary Andre said that he believes the current council has a “bad habit” of being unable to resist the influence of Orange County developers, and he believes it is time for a change.
“[Developers] who are converting irreplaceable commercially-zoned land into hyper-high-density condo/apartment projects, forever limiting tax revenues to run the city properly, such as adequate police and fire protection, as well as roads,” he said. “What does this mean to you? Higher taxes! It is time to change this bad habit.”
Andre has been involved in land review in the city since 2003 and has spent 30 years working as a contractor, is a former building inspector with eight certifications, served as Co-Chair from 2003 – 2008 on Wildomar Land Development Review, served on the Planning Advisory Committee for the City of Lake Elsinore from 2004 – 2007, was Trail Commissioner for Riverside County from 2004 – 2010, served on the City of Wildomar Inaugural Planning Commission from 2008 – 2010 and has been Chairman of Wildomar Multi-Use Trails since 2003.
“As your council member, I will appoint a devoted, courageous Planning Commissioner, who will help retain the small town lifestyle we all love,” he said. “Without this change, Wildomar will become as urbanized as Orange County. This may be our last chance to vote to save Wildomar’s small town lifestyle and ranch community that we all love.”
Businessman and incumbent Timothy Walker has been a resident and property owner in Wildomar and a small business owner in the valley for 33 years.
“My wife and I have been married for 35 years. We have raised our three children and now have two new grandchildren living in our community. We plan on retiring here as well,” he said. “I’ve watched Wildomar grow, and strongly support the goals of the current city council and the policies it has put in place to help our community grow in the right direction.”
Walker said the city’s best interests have been his top priority in all city business, activities, and policy decisions.
“I support healthy growth in our city, and at the same time I looked forward to keeping our small town feel which is loved by so many people who live here,” he said. “We need to keep encouraging business development which will help our property values increase while also maintaining a clean, healthy community. I believe my common sense conservative approach has helped promote a healthier, more prosperous community. I have worked closely with our city staff, and I know they truly love our community and want the best for us all.”