BRAWLEY — The Desert Review reached out to the four candidates running for Brawley City Council for comments that may help voters to better understand their ideas and reasons for running in the November 3 election.
Ronald Gray III and Roman Castro are running against incumbents George Nava and Donnie Wharton for the two four-year terms. Castro did not participate.
Gray said that he has considered running for years because of his concern with the state of downtown Brawley.
“Our downtown has looked like a natural disaster for some time and it’s hurting the city and small businesses, too,” said Gray.
He also thinks city parks need addressing and more police officers could alleviate the rising crime in Brawley.
Nava wants to continue making a positive impact on the city and its residents through projects that have already been slated and bring fresh new ideas to the community despite the challenges and impacts of COVID-19.
Wharton echoed the COVID-19 challenges and wants to continue to drive the current projects that maintain the community’s health and safety, while serving the citizens of Brawley and providing the high level of service they deserve.
Gray says his qualifications for a city council candidate include the drive to start and finish projects, his voice for himself and others to do what is right, to listen to concerns, his age at 37, not too young or old, and that he wants to continue to learn from the experience and share his knowledge with others.
Nava said that he has a good balance of extensive experience in city government, private business, and a strong education.
“I take my responsibility to the citizens of Brawley seriously and I make educated and responsible decisions for the community,” said Nava. “I am a creative problem solver with proven leadership abilities.”
Wharton believes his experience and background are in his favor with 33 years professional aviation experience, 25 years of business experiences, various levels of community and military service, 16 years of emergency medical service, two masters degrees, several executive certifications, and his eight years of city council experience. Wharton feels he can lead with humility, compassion, and integrity.
If elected, Gray will focus on downtown Brawley, including giving it a facelift with paint or murals, to make it more pleasing. He thinks there can be ways to enhance the downtown area and encourage people to stop and walk through it instead of just driving by it.
Nava wants to continue to support small businesses and encourage the community’s entrepreneurial spirit. He helped create a new role with the city via the Director of Community and Economic Development, which he believes will bring some positive changes to the businesses in Brawley.
Wharton expressed his desire to continue to support the agricultural industry, as well as the business growth in Brawley.
“Agriculture has been the backbone of our economy,” said Wharton. “Along with the welcoming of new businesses and industry, I am focused on the continued upgrading of Brawley’s infrastructure.”
Gray would like to immediately team up with the city manager and staff to focus on short term and long-term goals.
“I would love to see the east-side of Brawley develop more,” said Gray. “It seems like forgotten territory.”
Nava feels that this is an important time for Brawley with positive changes. With the appointment of an interim city manager, he says this is a great time for the strengths of the community to be highlighted. He is positive about the future of Brawley and he feels there is a solid plan to move the community forward.
Wharton sees a great opportunity to capitalize on the city’s strengths and to improve on areas in need of change. As new leaders are being hired in key positions across the city, he wants to hire a new qualified city manager that is aligned with the same vision as the community.
Gray says that maintaining a healthy tax base is crucial to economic stability and longevity of the city and ratcheting up taxes to increase revenue is not in the best interest of any town. He says higher taxes and declining public services are likely to drive residents away. He wants to pursue economic stability for the long-term.
Nava said that creativity is his approach to working through financial challenges.
“Exploring funding opportunities needs to remain a priority, along with attracting new business and industry,” said Nava. “Thankfully, many infrastructure projects have grant funding to help offset costs.”
Wharton wants to plan for the inevitable impacts of COVID-19. He said that the city must keep existing critical infrastructure projects in the queue, as many have timed grants that must be used. He wants to invest in areas that give the most return, while looking for new ways of delivering services to the public.
To bring new business to Brawley, Gray wants to focus on prime commercial properties that he feels have been untapped. He says more commercial businesses will make more people come to Brawley and spend their money. With the Highway 111 bypass, he feels that the prime areas to explore are the Walmart corridor and the intersection of Highway 111 and Best Road.
Nava said that he has brought several ideas to the city that have been implemented. Although he does not agree with the notion that Brawley is not business friendly, he does feel the city must work through that by letting the community know what accomplishments have been achieved and highlight future approved projects that will move Brawley forward. He says that processes that assist community stakeholders and help them succeed must be improved.
Wharton is adamant about opening up businesses.
“We cannot allow the selective nature of the state government to decide which businesses will succeed and which ones will fail in the name of public health,” said Wharton.
He said that Brawley is the north county hub for business, and it is the gateway community to Glamis. He wants to continue with ideas he has brought forth that focus on these two facts and to continue his work on the overall strategic planning process for new business growth in Brawley. Wharton pointed out that before the pandemic, Brawley experienced a 20 percent increase in new business licenses that indicated renewed interest in business start-ups.