Alex Gallardo Jr., who works as an educator at a charter school in Stockton, is used to getting a lot out of a little bit as a teacher.
"You have to budget and fundraise and think of ways to get all the things you need," the candidate for Merced City Council said.
Gallardo said he's never run for any public office, nor does he have any political experience, but he's always been intrigued by politics. "I always liked watching all the debates and reading about it," said the 35-year-old single dad, whose first major in college was political science. "Always seemed like such an interesting process."
After college he changed his mind about political science and turned to education by becoming a teacher.
This year, he ran into Merced County Supervisor Hub Walsh before the deadline to file as a candidate and they had a little talk.
"Basically, he said, 'There was no better time to run than now (because) there are three open seats.' It made me think, and I found out you just need 30 signatures. I guess I was brave enough to try to do it," recalled Gallardo, who was born in Atwater and raised in Merced.
Gallardo notes his greatest achievement in education was at Venture Academy, the charter school in Stockton where he's been a teacher for the past seven years and started the athletic program. Within three years the school fielded six athletic teams. "That's when I look back and say, you know, I made a difference there," he said.
Gallardo sees the city budget as a priority and thinks it should be examined to see where money can be saved. "Find all the ways to keep jobs while looking at the budget," he said, adding instead of eliminating positions perhaps everyone could take a smaller hit.
And for a year or two, he says, the city should lower the public facilities impact fees. "Make a way to rework the fees we are charging in order to encourage businesses to come to Merced," he said.
Gallardo believes an important factor to attracting businesses is making Merced appealing from the highway. "Encourage business owners that are off the freeway to keep things looking nice and to promote themselves whether it's a billboard or advertising," Gallardo said.
He believes he would bring leadership, enthusiasm and teamwork to the position. "We all have to work together," he said of the council. "If we're all on different pages, then it doesn't even matter."
Gallardo, who sees himself as an average citizen who would like to make a positive change in the community, said he cares about kids and families from an educator's perspective.
He said it's important for families to have jobs and for kids to feel encouraged by their parents having jobs.
Gallardo feels that things will come around for Merced. "Eventually there will be even more growth in Merced. I think eventually we will get these expressways built on both sides of the freeway out to UC Merced," he said.
With more students and more growth from UC Merced, he said the city would grow. "That will turn around where we're building houses and schools," he said.
Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.