OCEANSIDE — A former State Assemblyman and an Arrowood homeowners association board member are two of the seven candidates hoping to be elected as mayor in November.
Rocky Chávez is no stranger to the Oceanside City Council. He was first elected as a member in November 2002 and spent seven years on the council.
Chávez has worn many hats in terms of leadership during his 20 years of public service and 28 years in the United States Marine Corps.
He served as the commanding general’s appointed representative on the Oceanside Unified School District Board of Education between 1999 and 2001. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he founded and directed the district’s School of Business and Technology, a charter high school, from 2002 to 2008.
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Chávez as the undersecretary of the California Department of Veteran Affairs in 2009, where he focused on streamlining and increasing services for veterans.
Additionally, Gov. Gavin Newsom selected Chávez to currently chair the Governor’s Military Council, which works to protect the state’s military installations against Department of Defense (DoD) budget cuts and ensure the state has a good relationship with the DoD.
In 2012, Chávez was elected to represent California’s 76th district on the State Assembly, covering Oceanside, Camp Pendleton, Carlsbad, Encinitas and Vista. During that time, he served as vice-chair of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee and the Higher Education Committee.
Chávez currently serves as a board member on the Tri-City Medical Center Board of Directors.
During Chávez’s time on City Council, during which he was selected as deputy mayor, he focused on issues like public safety and economic development for the city. As mayor, those two issues are among several that Chávez wants to continue focusing on if he is elected.
“We need to be strong supporters for police and fire,” Chávez said. “They play a very important role in maintaining a safe community.”
Chávez also wants the city to improve its housing stock, something that has been a challenge not only for Oceanside but also for cities all over California. Specifically, Chávez wants to see the city move toward more high-density housing.
“When I first ran 20 years ago, if you talked about condos and apartments people would get really upset,” Chávez said. “Now it’s time to look at it, especially with the move toward more public transit.
“More high-density housing in the city is a good thing,” he added.
Chávez also believes the city needs to improve its transportation access. According to the former councilman, the city previously had an “attitude of no more roads.” Chávez wants to see more investments in road infrastructure as well as improvements to public transit, the city’s bike trails and safe routes for students going to school.
Chávez said much of SANDAG’s funding going toward public transit and transportation is helping cities to the south while cities in the north like Oceanside are being left out.
“I’m not fighting over the issue of cars and public transit, I want it all,” Chávez said. “I want the fair share of the money for my residents. We pay taxes just like they do.”
Chávez also wants to see Oceanside build on its relationship with Camp Pendleton, which borders the city to the north.
Chávez believes he is suited for the title of mayor thanks to his various experiences in public service. He also knows the right people at the state and federal level that could potentially help Oceanside as well.
“I know people to get things done for the city,” he said.
According to Chávez, the city needs a leader who has experience working for Oceanside voters.
“It’s not time for somebody who’s never been there to figure it out,” Chávez said.
Fernando Garcia, another candidate vying for mayor, disagrees.
“Nobody goes into office being an expert,” Garcia said. “There will never be a time — if it’s not these issues it’s some other issues.”
Garcia decided to run for mayor after serving as a board member of the Arrowood HOA. He said he ran for that position after becoming fed up with how slow needed changes were coming to his neighborhood.
After that, Garcia began working with the city to help address issues in his Arrowood community, but he felt as though the city was lacking in its response too.
“The city hasn’t been responding to the issues affecting us like crime and community development,” Garcia said.
According to Garcia, many cars in his neighborhood have been broken into but there still hasn’t been an increase in police presence there. Additionally, he said, the community is still waiting in a “gridlock” over fire evacuation plans.
“Those are the main things that drove me to run,” Garcia said.
Like Chávez, Garcia is a retired Marine, having served in the Marine Corps for 20 years.
Garcia believes Oceanside has become stagnant as far as construction and planned infrastructure. He also noted several of the mayoral candidates like Chávez, Deputy Mayor Jack Feller and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez have already spent enough time on council.
“It’s a lot of the same names, but now it’s time for some new names, new ideas and fresh perspectives to go to City Council,” Garcia said.
Though he is still trying to figure out how to spread his candidacy’s message throughout the city, he is excited to run. One of the main reasons he is excited about running for mayor is to demonstrate to other Latinos and fellow immigrants — Garcia originally moved to the United States from Mexico — that they can participate in the civic process.
“We Latinos can go out there and be part of the process, especially down here in Southern California and San Diego County,” Garcia said.
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son