- Age: 55
- Occupation: Accounting supervisor
- Public service: None to date.
- Education: Associate degree in business administration.
- Family: 28-year marriage. One son, father, sister, brother and several nieces and nephews, all California residents.
Gilda Gularte was inspired to challenge longtime Highland City Councilman John Timmer in 2016 when she started attending council meetings.
“I saw some things I thought should not have happened in our community,” she said.
Small businesses were being shut down because of the city’s strict code enforcement rules, she said.
“We should be embracing small businesses, not closing them down,” Gularte told the Highland Community News on Friday, Oct. 12.
One was a recycling center, which was given 30 days to comply with the code enforcement orders.
“They still shut him down,” Gularte said. “And that night, six families lost their income.”
Six months later, she told her family that maybe we need change. Maybe that new voice should be me.
“And I decided to be that voice,” she said.
She officially kicked of her campaign in June 2017.
She has been learning about the community and talking to community members and businesses to find out, “How do we grow our community?”
“We need housing, we need businesses.
“I think those are some of my goals, to work with our community to improve on the west side and the east side together and not keep this split that we seem to have.”
Gularte wants to work with San Bernardino City schools, which serve the west side and operate at “10 percent efficiency,” she says.
By contrast, Redlands schools operate at 65 percent efficiency, she said.
She said that nearly two-thirds of students in the Redlands district are meeting statewide expectations and only one in 10 San Bernardino district schools are meeting them.
(According to the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress website, 40 percent of San Bernardino City district students are meeting the state standards.)
“Where is our voice to ensure that our kids are starting out with the right education and moving on to better things for them?”she asked.
“Education is key, right?”
She praised the REAL Journey Academies, which opened entrepreneurial middle and high schools in the old Kmart building off Highland Avenue in August.
She hopes it will be a springboard for new businesses.
“We need to make sure Highland is ready to embrace them,” Gularte said.
“We have to have a voice for our children.”
Gularte hopes to create a coalition to make this happen.
She also became a strident opponent of the Harmony housing project. She said her husband read about it in the newspaper and they started going to the meetings of the Greenspot Residents Association and Residents for Responsible Development.
She didn’t get involved until after the signatures were gathered to place the issue on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The council took the referendum off the ballot and rescinded approvals after a Superior Court judge invalidated parts of the environmental impact report.
Her opponent was one of the council members who supported the Harmony project.
“We need responsible development,” Gularte said.
“We do need housing, we do need business.
“But that location, the size, the environmental impact, the fiscal impact in our community is not what we need.”
Gularte advocates televising Highland City Council meetings, although she hasn’t researched what it would cost. Her opponent, Councilman John Timmer, said he’d be receptive to the idea. But his priority is public safety.
“I believe that the civic engagement, people willing to get involved, will outweigh that cost,” Gularte said.
Asked if she thinks the city is fiscally sound, she said she’s concerned that 71 percent of the budget goes toward public safety. She’s worried about the potential impact of the California Public Employees Retirement System.
“We cannot continue to have property taxes as the only source of revenue in our city,” she said.
Gularte has been told by community members that the city is on the verge of not being fiscally sound — adding that she needs to do more research.
She said she hasn’t attended council meetings in the past few months because she has been knocking on doors for her campaign. She has visited all seven precincts in the district and is starting the second round.
“I have some really good volunteers that are helping me get the word out on my campaign,” she said. “We’re out there every day. I’ve gone through a whole pair of tennis shoes.”
She has raised about $4,000 and has been endorsed by the Teamsters Union and Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes, a Democrat from Grand Terrace.
Gularte thinks she has a chance to win.
“From the responses that we’ve received, I have a pretty good shot, I believe. People think it’s time for a change. Considering that I’m the only one that stepped up this time, I think we’re doing well.
“Whether I win or lose, I think I’ve already won. I’ve had people tell me, ‘You’re the first person who has ever knocked on our door — in 25 years. That kind of outreach, I think, is good for our community.”
Regardless, Gularte says she’s not going away.
“I’m going to push for the televised city council meetings. With social media, people should be aware of what’s on the agenda before the meetings. People should be able to go to our website and be interactive.”
She acknowledged that the city has made improvements. Visitors can sign up for email alerts when agendas are posted. But compared to other city websites, Highland’s is archaic.
- Age: 71
- Occupation: Retired after 30 years as a firefighter and battalion chief.
- Public service: U.S. Army, Kiwanis Club, American Legion Post 421, Friends of the Library, member of Immanuel Baptist Church.
- Education: Bachelor’s degree in forest management from Northern Arizona University.
- Family: Wife Carol, six children and 15 grandchildren. Highland resident for more than 30 years.
- Interests: Traveling, camping, reading, volunteering in the community.
Longtime Highland City Council member John Timmer is frugal by nature.
You can tell by looking at his campaign signs — the same ones he has used in previous campaigns.
He was out on the streets of District 4 on Monday putting them back up after the wind blew a few over.
Like other veteran members of the council, Timmer is most proud that the city is debt-free.
He intends to keep it that way.
Timmer is not one of the original members of the council after the city incorporated in 1987, but he was on the first Planning Commission and was elected to the council in 1992.
During his 26 years on the council, he has been mayor for five of them.
“I have a lot experience in actually working for the city,” he said.
As a chief officer with Cal Fire, at various times he was in charge of multimillion-dollar budgets, personnel, the automotive section, logistics, fire prevention and the 9-1-1 dispatch center.
“I also served on the incident management team,” Timmer said. “This is a team that served all over California to manage large and complex wildland fires all over the state.”
He has been deeply involved in the Highland community for more than 30 years.
He serves on the Immanuel Baptist Church executive building committee.
Timmer was born in Holland.
His parents immigrated to Australia when he was 3 and to the United States when he was 16.
“I look at government and this country probably a little different than other Americans with a different background,” he said.
When he first got a job with the state, firefighters had to move to get a promotion.
“And so I moved all over California and I never really had an opportunity to get involved with any one community,” Timmer said.
His time in the Army and college didn’t offer many opportunities for public service, either.
“So when I moved to Highland, the state changed its policy so that you now could be promoted in place,” he said, “because moving people around was very expensive.”
There from the start
That was about the time rumblings of incorporation began to shake up Highland. Timmer was involved from the start.
He attended all the council meetings and was invited to join the new Planning Commission.
That seemed to fit his skills as a battalion chief, which takes extensive planning.
Timmer said he’s never been interested in higher office because, as a councilman, he can have an immediate impact on his neighbors’ lives.
“As a council member, I could be driving down the street and say, ‘There’s a pothole.’ I can call City Hall and see immediate response,” he said.
“I really enjoy being on the council because I have the ability to get things done.”
Timmer is optimistic that the rest of the Golden Triangle — the area bounded by Greenspot Road, Boulder Avenue and State Route 210 — will be built, eventually.
“It’s prime real estate without use and eventually it will be developed,” he said.
“When the time is right and the right people are involved, it’ll happen.”
The west side
Asked about what can be done to raise income levels in west Highland, he said the problem is that there are no single owners of large properties. Getting several owners of small properties to work together is a challenge.
“We’ve made some choices as a city council to help that,” Timmer said, “one being was we built the bridge on Fifth Street.
“It used to be a real narrow, little bridge.
“We figured that if we’re going to help the airport grow, which then helps the west side of town, we’d widen that bridge — not because the traffic in Highland requires it but because we wanted to create good access from the freeway to the airport.”
Another thing the council has worked on with the San Manuel Band of Mission Indian and the San Bernardino Transportation Authority is to add a new off-ramp on SR210 just east of the frequently congested Arden Road/Highland Avenue interchange.
This will give motorists better access to the airport and improve direct access to the casino.
That will improve access to the west side, which may lead to more cooperation among owners of smaller properties, he said
‘A great honor’
“It has been a great honor and I am proud to serve as your current council member,” Timmer said in a written statement.
“My priorities will continue to be improve public safety services, maintain sound and responsible budget/fiscal management, and support Highland’s dedicated volunteers, like the senior center, Citizens on Patrol, reserve police and firefighters, youth sports, library, trails and others.”
Timmer said he wants to continue to add police and paramedic personnel as funds become available and to maintain no city debt into the future and continue the pay-as-go policy where all city projects and purchases are paid in full at completion of the projects, thus no future debt.
“Let’s continue to keep Highland a great place to live, shop, work and raise our families,” he said.