Mayor Bill De Witt and Vice Mayor Gilbert Hurtado are facing a challenge from Ricardo Reyes, a political coordinator for Service Employees International Union United Long Term Care Workers Union, in the March 5 municipal election.
De Witt and Hurtado are running as a slate.
“I am running for South Gate City Council because it is time this great city leads in industry and innovation once again,” Reyes said.
“As a leader in advocating for good jobs, sustainable energy, the environment — and as a small business owner — I have shown that I have the courage, experience and commitment to make a difference at City Hall,” he said.
Reyes is a lifelong resident of the Southeast area and a graduate of South Gate High School. Besides his union position he serves as the chairman of the Veterans Caucus of the California Democratic Party.
He is a Marine Corps veteran who has served tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He serves as director of military outreach for the Veterans Project and is an appointed commissioner to South Gate’s Citizens Advisory Committee.
“This election gives us an opportunity to change the political discussions at City Hall and take our city in a new direction,” Reyes said. “With so many of our neighbors out of work and many of us having lost or in the process of losing our home, we need to recognize the need to break from politicians and policies of the past.”
Reyes said he would protect programs that seniors and families rely on, bring back the good-paying jobs that were once abundant in South Gate, increase transparency, limit the influence of special interests at City Hall, improve neighborhood safety and expand after-school programs that keep children safe.
Hurtado, a postal service management employee, said he was involved in the recall “against a group of elected officials that we felt were corrupt.” in 2003.
Because of that, he and De Witt have campaigned together and won two four-year terms.
“Although the global economy has been bad, we used this as a challenge to keep the city moving forward,” Hurtado said. “By advocating for over $75 million for city projects and working with all of our city employees, we have continued to provide the city with the services our residents deserve.
“Some of the improvements to our city include renovations to our parks, street improvements, new lighting and water pump improvements,” Hurtado said.
“Our leadership has allowed South Gate to have the lowest unemployment rate in the Southeast area, when compared to comparable cities. We also have one of the lowest water rates as well as one of the lowest trash rates, he added.
“Although we have a one cent sales tax, we are one of a few cities that does not have a utility users tax.”
Hurtado, 52, was born in Los Angeles County and grew up in East Los Angeles. He graduated with honors from Garfield High School. He has an associates of arts degree in liberal arts.
Hurtado and his wife, Lily, have been married for more than 32 years, They have two adult children: John Paul, employed by the El Segundo Police Department; and Natalie Hurtado, a teacher at a Catholic middle school.
He is president of the South Gate Junior Athlete Association.
Hurtado said his and De Witt’s accomplishments include balancing the city’s budget for the last eight years, helping to obtain more than $75 million in grants toward infrastructure for new lights, city streets and South Gate Park improvements, which include the batting cages, jogging track, soccer fields and swimming pool; as well as improvements at Cesar Chavez Park.
De Witt, 71, was born in Los Angeles County. He grew up in South Los Angeles and graduated from Dorsey High School.
In 1963, De Witt graduated from USC with a bachelor of arts degree in finance.
He served in the U.S. Coast Guard and left as a petty officer. In returning to Los Angeles, he got involved in his family business, which is in the wood industry.
De Witt and his wife, Mary, a school teacher, were married in 1977. They have two sons: Bill De Witt II and Edward De Witt. Their first grandchild was born Nov. 28.
He was first elected to the South Gate City Council in November 1980 and was an interim appointment on Nov. 3, 2004 to fill a vacancy. De Witt was then elected on March 8, 2005 and re-elected March 3, 2009.
De Witt lists his accomplishments as crime reduction, park improvements, water issues and economic development.
He has also seen the completion of nine new schools in 10 years — six elementary schools, a middle school and two high schools.
City Clerk Carmen Avalos and City Treasurer Maria Bernal filed for new four-year terms with no opposition.
Avalos on Nov. 6 was elected to the Cerritos College Board of Trustees. She said the two positions do not conflict.
Arnold Adler, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Wave Newspapers