Last week city councilmemeber Pedro Gonzalez was appointed mayor of South San Francisco for the third time, and he is half-way through his 13th year on the council. He told Patch that he never expected to stay on the council for this long, but he had a lot of people rooting for him. Gonzalez already gets calls from people urging him to run again when this term ends in Nov. 2013.
In 2000, when a city councilmember vacated a seat mid-term, Gonzalez's phone started ringing.
"'Did you apply yet?' people kept asking me," he said from his office in City Hall on Tuesday. Gonzalez was hesitant to apply because at the time he was settled into a position as president of the Historic Old Town Homeowners and Renters Association. But at the very last minute, within the hour before the deadline, he applied; and later on, he was appointed.
Gonzalez had run unsuccessfully for city council the year prior when a colleague at the homeowners association told him that the growing Latino community in South City needed someone to represent them.
"They need a bridge between government and the police department and the community," Gonzalez said. "So I saw a need and jumped in."
Building that bridge has been a key component of how he has viewed his role on the council over the past decade.
"I've been trying to get the Hispanic community involved and to speak up so they can be part of the game," he said, "part of the system."
In addition to giving a voice to a key South City demographic, there are plenty of pressing issues on Gonzalez's desk. Though he's more optimistic about the economic health of the city than he was four years ago, right after the US economy had crashed.
At the top of the mayor's mind is how to make up for the funds the city no longer has at its disposal to provide affordable housing, now that the state dissolved all redevelopment agencies. That agency allowed South City to use a portion of property taxes for affordable and market-price housing. Now, Gonzalez said, the state is requesting the city actually give back certain properties that had been purchased with redevelopment agency funds.
"We're still fighting to [retain] some of those properties," he said. "Our challenge is to see what other programs can work [in place of the redevelopment agency] to create that housing."
Other items at the top of the Gonzalez's to-do list are: addressing homelessness; continuing to foster revitalization of the local economy since the national downturn in recent years; and continuing to improve safety in partnership with the South San Francisco Community Coalition for Safe Neighborhoods, which was created in response to street violence in 2010.
Gonzalez served as mayor in 2004 and in 2008. The role of mayor is not dramatically different from that of other city councilmembers. It's a lot of signing documents, running the meetings, and "you get all the complaints and suggestions from people," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, originally from Mexico, lived in Los Angeles before moving to South San Francsico 45 years ago. He worked as a butcher in Mexico, Los Angeles and South City. He also was a music store manager and helped his brother to open one of three music stores in San Francisco in the 1990's. Gonzalez retired in 1996.
He has been a public servant in South City for many years. For a detailed biography, see the city website here.