Rosalinda Valencia doesn’t intend to be a rabble-rouser.
It might not seem that way to the average person. She can be brash, and she definitely doesn’t pull any punches.
Earlier this year, right around when she announced that she’d be running for Lathrop Mayor this campaign season, Valencia drew audible gasps from those in the Lathrop City Council chambers when she publicly chastised Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal – her opponent – and asked him to step down after a campaign finance debacle earned him a slap on the wrist, and a fine, from the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
But the jeers don’t deter her from doing what she thinks is right. And in this case, it’s improving life in the City of Lathrop in very specific ways.
“Basically I want to make this a place where we can all afford to live and work,” Valencia said. “The mayor talks about how he wants to bring jobs here so we don’t have to commute, yet he still commutes. Everybody wants to take credit for the things that we have – for brining Tesla to Lathrop, and how it’s such a great thing.
“But there aren’t very many people from Lathrop that even work at Tesla, and that deal had everything to do with the property that was sitting there unused and them working something out. We just need somebody that is going to do something that’s good for all of the people in this city.”
Valencia, who has run for council before, had originally planned to throw her hat in the ring for one of the two seats that are up for grabs this November. But when she learned of Dhaliwal’s accounting slip up and that nobody had stepped into the race to challenge him, she said that she felt compelled to step up and mount a challenge. She is putting specific ideas about how the council affects and impacts the lives of Lathrop’s residents onto the political stage.
And her ideas aren’t necessarily popular. For example, if she were at the helm she’d have every single city department head sit down and evaluate the contracts that have been signed with other agencies and municipalities to help augment services when Lathrop wasn’t large enough to provide them on their own.
That means discussing sewer agreements with the City of Manteca. That means determining whether partnering with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department is still the best answer for providing police services for a community on the verge of a growth explosion.
Neither of those, she said, jive well with the official City Hall line and the work that the people in that building are trying to do. Economic cevelopment, while a priority, doesn’t seem to be as high up the priority list as it should be – a department with a dedicated staffer looking to bring the sorts of jobs and commercial prosperity that only an expert would be able to identify. It’s not, she says, that the City of Lathrop as a whole isn’t doing the things that it should be doing, but rather not focusing as intensely on the areas that need to be addressed.
But make no mistake about it – she has a voice.
Over the course of the last three years Valencia has become insanely active on social media and taken on the role of administrator for several Facebook groups that focus specifically on issues that are facing families in the region. She works to bring crime issues that have been reported to the public through similar channels, and has nearly become an expert at finding out information that isn’t necessarily readily available – court and campaign filings and documents that often get lost in the minutiae that comes with running a growing California city.
At the end of the day, she said, it’s all about making Lathrop a better place to live for the people who live and work there.
“I want to see places come to Lathrop that people can enjoy going to – I want to see a grocery store that can give Save Mart some competition because I think that competition is healthy and it helps the people that it serves,” she said. “But there are businesses out there are afraid to work with the city. They’re tired of the corruption and they’re tired of being bullied.
“Nobody likes a bully. I’m a military wife and my entire family has been in the military so I understand the idea of chain of command and I know that I have the best intentions of the people in mind and I have a good heart. But the people have a right to know what’s going on.”
Valencia lives in Lathrop with her husband, Gary Smith. She has four children, and says that she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and volunteering in the community.