In a time when the city needs it, Peter Padilla said, he can bring clear vision and foresight to the Merced City Council.
“I think I have something to say,” Padilla, 64, stressed. “One of the things Merced is missing is a vision.”
The city of Merced needs to create more opportunities for business to grow, he said, which means the land should be properly zoned and otherwise prepared.
He juxtaposed the Amazon fulfillment center’s relatively smooth road into Patterson with the rocky road the Wal-Mart distribution center has had into Merced.
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“Wal-Mart comes to us, and we really don’t have the place for them.” he said. “They have to create it; they have to go through all the hoopla.”
Unlike Merced, Patterson had industrial land set aside and officials planned ahead, Padilla said.
It’s the city’s job to create opportunity for developers, he said. Boosting the city’s tax base through development could allow the city to restore some services, such as adding public safety officers or programs for children.
Educating the work force is part of the necessary planning, he said. The city could work with the local high schools and businesses to offer more vocational classes that would give students the skills they need to get jobs.
Padilla has been a State Farm Insurance agent for 28 years. The Fresno State graduate was born and raised in Merced, moved away and then returned to Merced in 1983.
Owning a small business gives him experience with budgeting, he said. His State Farm branch has two employees.
“I know how to make things work with limited resources,” Padilla said. “The city is facing and will face a budget problem for the next few years, for the foreseeable future.”
He also serves on the State Farm Community Action Committee, a group that speaks with legislators at the state level. He holds another leadership position as the local chapter president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, a lobbying group.
“I do have a lot of experience dealing with politicians,” he said.
As commissioner for Merced Youth Baseball, Padilla ran the local organization for 20 years. He also served two terms on the Merced Parks and Recreation Commission. He sits on the city’s Planning Commission.
Padilla said the city’s few recreation options compound Merced’s problems with gangs, drugs and violence.
“You need to address those by engaging the youth of this town,” he said.
Boys & Girls Club of Merced County as well as baseball and soccer leagues are a good start, he said, but the city can help provide activities to a larger number of young people. He said evening and weekend programs are particularly scarce.
“It provides good mentorship for kids, it provides good citizens for the city,” he said. “In the long term, I believe we are looking at less cost for policing, less cost for graffiti abatement, all the positive things that come out of raising kids in a positive life.”
Padilla is the only candidate in the race to inform the city clerk’s office he is not accepting $1,000 or more in contributions, which exempts him from filing an itemized list of contributions.
He said it doesn’t make much sense to spend thousands of dollars campaigning for a council seat. He said he’s in the race to help people, because that’s what insurance agents do.
“It’s in our nature to be part of the community, and it’s in our nature to help people,” he said.
Padilla said he sees growth in the city’s future, much of likely it to be shaped by UC Merced. The university will provide Merced with the chance to be a partner with “young thinkers,” he said.
City leadership has done a good job to develop Merced as a walkable and bikable town, he said, and are themes he would like to carry on.
“Merced has a very bright future,” he said.