GREENFIELD — Six months into the position of a term that ends in 2018, Mayor Jesus Olvera-Garcia talked about the challenges and opportunities of being a newcomer to politics.
With the controversies of the former mayor’s recall and the building of the cannabis facilities behind him, for now, Olvera-Garcia has been “hearing from the community and being the change that they wanted.”
“I’m here for the whole community. I bring transparency and good representation,” he said.
Olvera-Garcia is thankful to all the people who helped him with his campaign, especially “to the faith community who voted for me and believed in me,” he said.
The mayor would like to see the community more involved in what happens in their city. He is in conversations with City Manager Jaime Fontes about avenues to communicate with the public, including hosting weekend forums.
Not being a career politician, he acknowledged that it has been a learning curve, but is ready for the challenge. A mathematics teacher, Olvera-Garcia explained, “I tell my students to take risks.”
Personal challenges the mayor has faced are “changing from one culture to another and learning the language.”
Olvera-Garcia was born in Mexico and has been in this country only 11 years. He described his experiences as an immigrant as “crucial moments” in his life, which gave him the courage and motivation to “step up” and run for mayor.
His wife Marilu and four children are another driving force. He is the father of three girls and a 1-month-old boy. As a father and teacher, he sees students as “everyone’s children,” adding, “What I want for my children, I want for all children,” referring to a better future and experience living in Greenfield.
A better experience in Greenfield for children and the community includes making safety a priority. He would like to see more qualified officers hired, which would mean “offering more competitive salaries in the scope of what the city can afford.”
Of Fontes’ idea to have listening sessions, Olvera-Garcia stated, “It’s a great idea to get the public involved in hiring a new chief of police. It is important for the community to have a relationship with the police department.”
What he would like to see in a new chief is “someone who has experience, has a record of success in reduction of crime overall, and will do outreach to the community and the youth.”
What would also make for a better living experience in Greenfield is beautifying the city. But, Olvera-Garcia wants to see improvements and repairs that are “cost effective, lasting and improve the (existing) conditions.”
He questioned, “How can the residents take pride in their homes without the streets and sidewalks being fixed?” adding, “They’ll do their part, if the city does its part.”
Projects are underway to fix sidewalks, city streets and street gutters. Repairing sidewalks around the schools will make for a safer walk to-and-from school for students. That project is being paid through grants.
A mathematician, the mayor wants the city to spend money “wisely,” not just do “touch ups.” He said, “Invest a little more with better results.” He pointed to the spreading of gravel over city streets before he became mayor as an example of money not spent wisely. He said, “It’s already the same as it was before,” referring to the poor condition of the streets.
The mayor is also an advocate for more recreational programs for the youth and elderly. He supports having programs like a YMCA and/or a Boys and Girls Club in Greenfield.
Of the elderly, he said, “Their needs have been neglected or forgotten. They need a place where they can come together to talk and share.”
In terms of economic development, the mayor pointed to the new businesses coming into the city. Vines of Greenfield is scheduled to include a hotel, a gas station and a fast-food restaurant. He would also like for the Yanks museum to “get moving.”
While it is well-known that the mayor has not supported the building of the cannabis facilities in Greenfield, when questioned, he said, “I will do the will of the people and will focus on ensuring that the work with the cannabis facilities is as transparent as can be — the policies, transactions and regulations — that they are done right and that the community will benefit.”
About his position, the mayor said, “There’s a perception that the mayor has a lot of influence, but the council’s success is everyone’s success. It is a collaboration, a collective effort.”
Pausing a moment, he said, “I never thought of being here,” referring to his election as mayor, “when I came from Mexico. It’s been a wonderful experience.”