A liberal Indio native and political newcomer has veteran and conservative councilmember Michael H. Wilson in his Election Day crosshairs — and he’s willing to uproot his family to take him on.

Waymond Fermon, 38, currently resides in District 4 in the newly drawn five Indio districts. Councilman Troy Strange is seeking re-election in that district and Fermon has no desire to challenge Strange. Fermon, a former competitive body builder, has his sights firmly set on Wilson and his policies.

“Mike conveniently had District lines drawn around his home,” Tizoc De Aztlan, Fermon’s campaign adviser told Uken Report. “That’s not going to stop Waymond from becoming a councilmember. He and his family live in Indio a couple miles outside that line but will be moving in the next couple months.”

Fermon, a correctional officer at Calipatria State Prison for 16 years, will relocate to District 2 for what promises to be a contentious race.

Michael H. Wilson

Michael H. Wilson

“That argument about drawing district lines around my residence is laughable,” Wilson told Uken Report. “Every agency that has gone from at-large to district voting has drawn districts around the current incumbents in office. Why? Incumbents have been elected for a full term. We have earned the terms that we serve through a vote of the people. It wouldn’t be fair or reasonable to draw boundaries that pitted an incumbent that’s up for election and served their rightful four-year term against another incumbent that’s served only two years of a four-year term and has to run again.”

Wilson, 52, who currently serves as mayor, said there are also strict guidelines that have to be met during the districting process. The city followed every one of them and is in good legal standing, he said.

Indio didn’t voluntarily move to districts, and the community didn’t want district-based voting, Wilson said.

“We were forced into it via litigation, which we knew we couldn’t win,” Wilson said. “It was the very same folks who are pushing Mr. Fermon and running his campaign that forced Indio into districts. It shows how inexperienced Mr. Fermon is in Indio politics. He didn’t understand he was not living in my district and announced his intent to run in my district before he has established legal residence in my district.”

The current District Map was approved on a 4-1 vote with Lupe Ramos Watson dissenting.

At 38, Fermon said the stars aligned for his foray into politics.

“I’d seen some of the issues we were having in the cities today. They are the same as when I was growing up,” Fermon told Uken Report. “I started attacking them. I started working with the youth. I started bringing visiting groups out to my institution, where I have a group of eight men that are lifers, who actually talk to the kids, you know, about keeping them on a straight path. I started seeing things around the community, and the homeless situation. I started getting involved with that, and a circle of friends of mine, we all were in agreement that this was the right time to a step forward to affect some change in the city.”

Fermon announced his candidacy on New Year’s Day, nearly a year before the November city election.

“We wanted to announce early to get the community involved,” Fermon told Uken Report. “Sometimes it takes a while for things of this nature to get out to certain individuals. So, we wanted to start early, and build some momentum going into our campaign. We’re ready to go, you know? And, that’s part of it. We’re ready to go, right now.”

As to the price tag of his candidacy, Fermon said he’s unsure how much it will cost, but added, “The sky’s the limit.”

One thing you will not hear him say is how poorly the city is doing under the current leadership.

“Indio’s thriving,” he said. “You’re gonna hear me echo this a lot. Indio’s thriving. Indio’s the city of festivals, not a community of festivals. We have businesses and individuals thriving in Indio, but not all of them. I want everybody to thrive. There’s enough to go around for all of us.”

Some critics have questioned how Fermon, who works weekdays in Calipatria about an hour away, will be available to attend 5 p.m. City Council meetings, attend study sessions, which sometimes begin mid-afternoon, and serve on various city committees.

“I work full time to support my family,” Fermon said. “My schedule can accommodate all the duties required of an effective councilmember.”
He has wasted no time in getting out on the stump. The evening before we spoke, he addressed the Sun City Shadow Hills Democratic Club.

“I want to make myself available and approachable.  I’m understanding that some of the current council members are not available,” Fermon said. “I come with a smile. You know? I’m approachable, and I’m making myself available. I’m out there in different parts of the community, not only just my district. I’m everywhere. I think that’s crucial, and it’s important.”

He is not yet willing to release his platform, but said it will be released “soon.” One thing he is willing to discuss early and often is what he calls the “toxicity” in the city.

“It’s no secret that there’s a lot of negativity stemming from the council as it is now. You can watch archived videos of meetings, or you can go to a meeting, and it’s a lot of negativity being spewed in these meetings,” Fermon said. “I’m all about positivity. It’s no secret who I’m running against. But I don’t focus my attention on any individual. I just focus on what I’m doing, and what I can bring to the table. I think I have great ideas, a great outlook on life, and I think I’ll be the right person to help lead the city because it’s a team effort. That’s why it’s called a council. I think the right person could bring the positivity to the city council.”

The excitement in his voice is palpable as he continued. “We are on the cusp of something good coming. Something good. It’s gonna be big, really good, and positive, and we’ll move forward.”

One of the hottest topics in Indio, particularly with the City Council, has been whether it should become a sanctuary city, where local immigrants would not have to live in fear of immediate deportation or harassment from law enforcement. To date, the City Council has rejected the idea.

Fermon said he is not yet willing to say where he stands on the issue. He said he is educating himself on the issue. “It’s very crucial with the political climate right now to be well-educated on sanctuary cities. I’m open to sitting down with whoever wants to have conversations about it. Growing up in Indio, I’ve witnessed many things happening with immigrants. I’m not gonna say illegal, because I don’t know. But I’ve just witnessed things that weren’t to my liking.”

With that being said, Uken Report pressed him again on his stance regarding sanctuary city status. “I’m not really speaking on that right now. I think that’s something that will come later on down the line. But I think it’s a positive stance that I have, yeah.”

Fermon said he is receiving a great deal of support of Joy Silver, a Democrat who is seeking election to the state Assembly to replace Republican Jeff Stone. She is also co-founder of the Courageous Resistance of Palm Springs and Other Desert Cities. The group was formed after the 2016 election. To date, the group is largely credited with encouraging at least two Coachella Valley cities – Cathedral City and Coachella — to adopt sanctuary status.

“I’m willing to learn and form a decision based on the people, not on what I believe. We’re elected officials,” Fermon said. “So, what the people want, that’s what they’ll get. I think that’s how it’s supposed to run. I don’t own that seat. Nobody owns those seats. That’s where people get it confused. We don’t own those seats. The seats belong to the people.”

Addressing homelessness in Indio will also be part of his platform, Fermon said. He declined to elaborate.

“Mr. Fermon has come out of the gates running a partisan race being pushed by partisans running his campaign and is out of touch with Indio’s residents’ needs and wants,” Wilson said. “I plan to run on my strong record and leadership in a non-partisan way, representing all Indio residents regardless of their political affiliations. Remember, local city elections are non-partisan and require you to represent all residents.”

Fermon wants to see Indio in a negative light and convince Indio voters that everything is bad in Indio when in fact just the opposite is true, Wilson said. “Indio is on a great role with exciting prospects. Some have said Indio is in a renaissance period.”

In a post-script, Wilson said, Fermon wants to paint him with a broad brush to indicate that somehow Wilson is making policy decisions in a vacuum.

“It takes a majority, at least three votes, of the City Council to make anything happen,” Wilson said. “I am only one of five people on the City Council making public policy and giving direction to city staff. The policies that we stand behind and support have been almost all unanimous votes, with some exceptions, and the Council has stood strong together. Our motto is ‘We,’ not ‘I.’”

Fermon is not married but said he lives “happily” with his three children, ages 1 year, 15, and 18, and “their mother.”