CATHEDRAL CITY — John Aguilar will become the first Latino to serve as mayor of this community when he is sworn into office on Wednesday, Dec. 11.

It is the second consecutive year a member of the City Council has made history in this community of about 55,000 people. The late Gregory S. Pettis made history in 2018 when he became the first openly gay mayor of Cathedral City.

The position of mayor began to rotate among members of the City Council in December 2018 after the city moved . at-large elections to district-based elections. The person with the most seniority rotates into the mayor’s post. After Pettis’ death in January 2019, Mayor Pro Tem Mark Carnevale was sworn in as mayor. He will step down from that position on Dec. 11.

Voters elected Aguilar to the City Council on Nov. 8, 2016. Before that he served as an appointed member of the City Council from September 2014 to early December 2014, and again from December 2014 to December 2016 after then-Councilmember Stan Henry was elected mayor.

Aguilar accepted the council seat appointment in order to encourage greater participation from Cathedral City’s Hispanic community as well as other underrepresented communities, according to his professional city biography.

Aguilar, retired from Riverside County where he served as Deputy Director for Riverside County Economic Development Agency’s Housing Authority, is currently serving the city as an at-large representative. His term expires in 2020. He currently resides in District 2. He has not yet said if he will seek re-election.

Carnevale told Uken Report he is “comfortable” passing the baton to Aguilar. “He is a good man. He is a smart man. He deserves to be mayor. You won’t find a more honest man.”

As he prepares to step into the mayor’s role, Aguilar told Uken Report, “I (want) to say, for the record, how much we all really appreciated the leadership of Mark (Carnevale) during the transition following Greg’s untimely death.  He did an amazing job of reassuring the community and city staff that despite the great sense of loss we all felt, the city would stay on course and not abandon so many of the initiatives that Greg and prior Councils were responsible for.  Mark managed the transition with dignity, courage, (and a little humor). I so look forward to continuing to serve with Mark, Rita (Lamb), Ernesto (Gutierrez), and Raymond (Gregory.)

As Aguilar prepares to leave his footprint in the history books, Uken Report asked Aguilar a series of questions. The questions and his responses are printed in their entirety.

Uken Report (UR): You will be the first Latino Mayor. What does that mean for the city and what is the significance of that?

Aguilar: Cathedral City has built a reputation through the hard work of its citizens and prior Councils for embracing diversity, implementing policies such as the adoption of Sanctuary City status, which protects and recognizes the significance of the various minority communities who have chosen our city to live in and raise their families! Though I am not the first Latino on the Council, I am very proud to serve the Community as its first Latino Mayor.

UR: What does it mean to you to be Mayor mean and what can you do as Mayor that you could not do as a Councilmember.

Aguilar: While in a City Council-Manager form of Government like ours the Mayor’s position is largely a ceremonial one, I believe that it is important to use this platform to provide continuity of leadership. Since I have served on City Council over the last five years, I will be able to ensure that we stay on course and remain true to our Goals and Objectives.   I bring a unique perspective to the Mayor’s position in that I have over 30 years of service in the public sector at all levels of Government as well as a lengthy resume of Workforce Housing and Commercial Development.   We are fortunate to have a hard-working City Council who likes one another and works well together, is passionate about serving Cathedral City, and is uniformly committed to success and excellence in Government!

UR: How will your term as an openly gay Mayor differ from that of a heterosexual mayor, if any.

Aguilar: None really, I do not believe in stereotypes….it is possible that having been discriminated against as both gay and Latino provide an additional layer of sensitivity and help heighten my awareness of the plights and challenges faced on a daily basis by all our citizens regardless of race, age, religious affiliation, family status, or gender.

UR: Do you have any special passion projects you would like to bring forward?

Aguilar: I would like to see a Citizens Academy Program implemented. This would encourage neighbors and consist of outreach to our various districts to promote civic engagement, understanding of local government, broaden partnerships and inspire more community participation in our local government. I will also work with our Council and staff to expand and continue our local hire program to ensure economic equality and that we promote practices that give our local residents the first opportunity at jobs that are created as our local economy expands. By the way, we have already had several agreements with local business who have agreed to a “first” and “local” hire which have resulted in a great many of our residents in finding new employment and better paying jobs.

UR: What are your passion projects/issues?

Aguilar: I really want to continue to ensure the strength of Cathedral City’s finances and work toward enhancing our public safety services where finically feasible — and I’ll be looking for ways to provide the best customer service to our community, including the prospective opening of City Hall on Fridays which will be discussed by the Council in the near future. I believe we are blessed to have the most committed and hard-working staff anywhere. Without exception, every one of the city’s employees are constantly striving to improve our city and serve our citizens. I would like to continue to build and strengthen our relationships with our Business Communities, particularly the Auto Dealers – who for so long have provided a strong economic base for our community.

Working with our staff and Council, I will work to ensure that several new projects will see significant progress or completion including: The Agua Caliente Casino, College of the Desert Automotive and Advanced Transportation Technology Campus, Shottenkirk Desert Lexus, Fountainhead Development of 13.5 acres downtown, D.R. Horton and The District Residential projects, Crossroads Retail Development at Bob Hope and many more. I am hopeful that the community, through a diligent educational and information effort, will support annexation into the Desert Recreation District. This will provide our families, especially our children, with access to recreational and park activities which they have not had access to since the city eliminated its Park and Recreation efforts during difficult economic times.

UR: When your year as Mayor is over how will you want it be to defined?

Aguilar: I’d like my term to be one that has promoted fairness and civility, growth and economic well-being for all — while further establishing us as an inclusive community that leaves no one behind.







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  • Mayor John Aguilar: Illustration