Temecula City Council District 4 candidates Mark Gular, Sonia Perez, Adam Ruiz and James Stewart

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Clockwise from top right: Temecula City Council candidates Mark Gular, Sonia Perez, James Stewart and Adam Ruiz.

When former Temecula Mayor James Stewart resigned earlier this year over an email that was criticized as racist, it threw the outcome of this year’s race for the Temecula’s District 4 City Council seat into question.

Back in June, Stewart responded to a constituent’s email on the subject of police sensitivity training with a message that said in part “I don’t believe there’s ever been a good person of color killed by a police officer.”

When that email became public, the mayor quickly drew backlash, and while he said the email resulted from a typo made while using speech-to-text software, he ultimately stepped down both as mayor and from his city council seat.

“City of Temecula, I hear you, I agree with you, and I am deeply sorry,” Stewart said at the time.

But a couple months later, Stewart qualified to run for the City Council again in District 4, the district in which he lives — he had previously been elected to an at large seat before the council moved to district elections in 2017.

There are currently four candidates vying for the seat: Mark Gular, Sonia Perez, Adam Ruiz, James Stewart.

This week, Valley News asked each about their plans if they were to win the District 4 seat.

Mark Gular

What is your motivation for wishing to serve Temecula and more specifically, the district you serve? 

My motivation is being a voice for the people. As a veteran I wanted to continue to serve after serving and thought being involved in my community through this platform would help fulfill that.

In the upcoming term, what are your top three goals to address or accomplish for the city and/or your district?

  1. Building Community: Integrating and involving more of the community to work together on issues to be more bi-partisan.
  2. Veteran Advocacy: Having been born and raised in the Bay Area and being in the military is something that is very frowned upon. Locals protest outside recruiting offices as well as on the pier when we do activities like the Navy’s Fleet Week. Due to the climate in California generally not being military-friendly, I am making it a priority to be a voice and advocate for our veterans.
  3. Service Focused: Since Temecula is a working class city, I am focusing on supporting small businesses, which is great for our local economy. Ensuring that our community workers such as our police / fire / first responders / medical are protected due to safety and security of our city being paramount.

What do you bring to the council that is lacking if any? Or what do you bring to the table that makes the council better or more well-rounded?

What I bring to the council that we currently are lacking is someone who’s my age and generation that can bring a different perspective to the table. I am the youngest candidate on the ballot, but at the same time have a proven career in leadership due to my experience serving our nation, which helps me in being more well-rounded.

What are the two biggest issues facing the city of Temecula in the next four years that you hope to address?

Although we are a fast growing city, traffic seems to be a big ticket item and is something that I would like to address and be part of a solution. The pandemic also has in some way has affected every one of us. I would like to ensure that our local businesses have our support as leaders and know that we recognize that and would continue to promote “Supporting Your Local”

What qualifications or personality/intellectual traits do you have that make you appropriate or the right person for the job?

 A qualification/personality trait that makes me appropriate for the job is, as a service member, I have climbed the ranks from being a subordinate to a superior. Through that, I have extensive experience in working with others on my team who all came from different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs. How that applies to this position is knowing as a leader how to understand and empathize for those I’ve led and ensuring each of their opinions were valued as they are part of the team.

Sonia Perez

What is your motivation for wishing to serve Temecula and more specifically, the district you serve?

Keeping the quality of our lives by supporting small businesses, tranquil communities that are safe by supporting our police and prioritising the preservation of our valley by not stockpiling apartment buildings and saving our land for farming.

In the upcoming term, what are your top three goals to address or accomplish for the city and/or your district?

Revisiting staff salaries, prioritizing our families children and senior citizens by allocating our budget to much needed advocacy and services, simplifying and lowering costs of fees for small businesses. 

What do you bring to the council that is lacking if any? Or what do you bring to the table that makes the council better or more well-rounded?

I am a woman who owns a couple of small businesses that have worked in both the public and private sector who understands both work environments and the need for each of these entities.  I understand real estate and what is required for new building and resale.  This experience can assist with keeping our community a low density and allow for continued farming to thrive.

What are the two biggest issues facing the city of Temecula in the next four years that you hope to address?

Contracts that have been agreed upon with the state to build low income housing should be prioritized to serve the senior citizens and veterans.  Safety is a huge problem and defunding  the police is not the answer but having the police protect and serve our community is.

What qualifications or personality/intellectual traits do you have that make you appropriate or the right person for the job?

I am solution oriented and I absolutely enjoy researching problems and or budgets to get to the bottom of the real answers and dilemmas.  I am a critical thinker and will always have knowledgeable people to go to for more information and solutions.  I am very resourceful and can bring people together to get behind great causes.

Adam Ruiz

What is your motivation for wishing to serve Temecula and more specifically, the district you serve? 

I have always had a passion to serve and have served the Temecula community since I started my business and joined the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2005.  Since then, I have helped start the Valley Young Professionals, helped grow the Young Professionals Network, and was the Founder of the Rotary Club of Temecula – New Generations.  I was appointed to the Temecula Community Services Commission in 2019 and am currently the Vice Chair.  I have also served on many local organizations and non-profits, and current positions include the Chair of the Southwest California Legislative Council and Vice President of the Murrieta-Temecula Group.  I am a firm believer that you can either choose to sit back or be involved.  I choose to be involved, make my voice heard, and hopefully inspire the next generation of leaders to be more involved.  I love this community and want to do my part to keep it a special place for everyone.

In the upcoming term, what are your top three goals to address or accomplish for the city and/or your district?

Quality of life.

Quality of Life is my number one priority and what makes Temecula so special.  It is my goal that we as a City continue to protect the quality of life for all residents and visitors.  This includes public safety, business development and support, and housing.  I commit to listening to every voice and representing each person.

Public safety.

As your next Councilmember one of my highest priorities is Public Safety. I will work to ensure that Temecula has a sufficient number of first responders on the ground to protect the physical and mental well-being of all of our residents. 

Economic development.

I am passionate about and committed to cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs. I support businesses of all shapes and sizes. I believe we should not only focus on attracting new businesses to Temecula, but also continue to support our local business community.

What do you bring to the council that is lacking if any? Or what do you bring to the table that makes the council better or more well-rounded?

Throughout the many leadership positions I’ve held, I’ve always been able to listen to everyone’s ideas and input, analyze the information, and make the best decision for the organization, all while being respectful to everyone involved.  While we may not always agree on things, we can still listen and respect our peers.  I have the ability to get along with everyone and am a strong communicator.  I will also bring my energy and enthusiasm and remain connected to the community. 

What are the two biggest issues facing the city of Temecula in the next four years that you hope to address?

The biggest issue Temecula is facing is rebounding from the effects of COVID-19.  As a strong and proven leader with existing relationships with other local, county and state officials, I would continue to advocate for assisting our business community in every way possible.  Our thriving tourism industry has been hit extremely hard, as has the rest of our businesses.  We need to continue to offer support to those that have been able to remain in business, and advocate for those that have had to shut down.  Reviving the business economy not only benefits those business owners, but also their employees and the families that they support.  Additionally, those businesses will bring much needed revenue back to the City, allowing us to continue our services and start any deferred projects.

I think another thing to focus on in the near future is showing the strength of my leadership as the City Council brings on new council members.  We have been served by great leaders for many years, and now the council is seeing new faces.  It’s important for us to utilize the strong base that’s been provided for us, and build upon that to keep Temecula focused and moving in the right direction.  

What qualifications or personality/intellectual traits do you have that make you appropriate or the right person for the job?

As I mentioned above, leadership is nothing new to me.  In addition to all of my local leadership positions, I am a State Director for the California Association of REALTORs®, and will serve as the Chair of the Legislative Committee in 2021.  I have also been a National Director with the National Association of REALTORs® since 2014, and was the Chair of the Federal Legislative & Political Forum in 2019.  As a current City Commissioner, I have knowledge of city operations and relationships with city staff which I believe will help me as future council member.  I am a strong communicator and have the ability to get along with everyone.  I will stand by my decisions while still being respectful to those that may not agree with me.  I will also hold regular meetings with the residents so I can have a better understanding of their needs, concerns and what they’re happy with, while providing a platform for them to feel comfortable and connected to the city leadership.

James Stewart

What is your motivation for wishing to serve Temecula and more specifically, the district you serve? 

My love for Temecula and it’s citizens is obvious by my two Facebook pages Temecula Stew and Temecula Valley fun facts. I have been providing information directly to the citizens to keep them up to date on anything happening in city government they should be aware of. My love for the history of Temecula is also very infectious. I have recently been elected to the board of the Temecula Valley Historical society.

In the upcoming term, what are your top three goals to address or accomplish for the city and/or your district?

I have been made keenly aware that the city can make improvements of inclusion of all minorities in our community. The city needs to continue to be aggressive on our workforce development plans. We also need to build a police station closer to the city center. The civil unrest has made this need even more necessary. In the event we decide to start our own PD one day, this piece of public safety infrastructure will make it possible.

What do you bring to the council that is lacking if any? Or what do you bring to the table that makes the council better or more well-rounded?

I bring a personal touch to the council. I was always accessible to any person or business that needed my help. I have learned some valuable lessons on communicating to the public, but I still feel that open communication is the key to good government.

What are the two biggest issues facing the city of Temecula in the next four years that you hope to address?

Traffic is affecting the quality of life in Temecula. The freeway expansion will be a great step in the right direction. Temecula city roads are also aging. In my District 4 we have some of the oldest roads in Temecula, some 40+ years old. In order to maintain the high quality of life that we all expect, we have to maintain our infrastructure.

What qualifications or personality/intellectual traits do you have that make you appropriate or the right person for the job?

My depth of understanding of the city needs and wants are greater than most. My tenure on the city council coupled with my connection to the public through my barbershop, gives me a unique perspective. My connection to the public and its needs and wants, has always been very strong. My understanding of this city and the public that I serve, makes me the best person, for this very important job in this very critical time.