Campaign season in Glendale has officially started despite election day being seven months away.
And the person to kick it off? A former city employee who’s sued the city in the past.
Edith Fuentes, who received a $200,000 settlement from the city after she challenged her demotion, last week held the first campaign fundraiser for the April election. Among the 90 people in attendance were Councilman Rafi Manoukian and former Councilman Bob Yousefian.
But Fuentes isn’t the only candidate who’s vowed to run.
Incumbents Ara Najarian and Laura Friedman said in interviews last week that they plan to run again. But Mayor Frank Quintero said he won’t, as promised. He also debunked rumors that he was eyeing the treasurer’s seat.
While the election season in Glendale doesn’t tend to kick off until closer to the end of the year, Fuentes said she scheduled her $99-a-person fundraiser early because she’s new to the game.
“I wanted a head start being that I’m brand new,” Fuentes said as the crowd, which was mostly Filipino, flowed into the Hilton Glendale on Thursday.
If elected, Fuentes would be the first Asian American to sit on Glendale’s dais.
Once the city’s top zoning administrator, Fuentes was demoted to planner with a salary cut of 30% last September. She challenged her demotion through the Civil Service Commission, claiming it was prompted by ethnic and gender discrimination. She also said her demotion may have been in retaliation for a successful discrimination lawsuit she filed in 2000. As part of a settlement in that case, Fuentes received a public apology from city officials.
But the city argued that Fuentes was demoted because of poor job performance.
Both sides denied each other’s claims, but in the end, Fuentes walked out of City Hall with a hefty settlement and retired at her highest salary.
“I think she’ll be a good addition to the city,” Yousefian said. “When you just walk in, you have no clue about the inner workings of the city. She’s been there. She knows the problems. She knows what makes things work. “
Fuentes highlighted that point, integrating it into her speech and conversations with donors.
But Najarian and Friedman said they have unfinished business to complete. Friedman wants to continue her efforts bringing arts programs and creative businesses to Glendale. Najarian wants a third term so he can strengthen his bond with residents and continue to bring their concerns to the dais.
“I think I’ve formed a very good bond with the residents, and my communication with them is even more fluid,” Najarian said.
The incumbents also said they were the best candidates to deal with Glendale’s dire economic situation. The City Council closed a $15.4-million budget gap this summer, following an $18-million gap last year.
“It’s going to be very important to continue to right-size the city,” Friedman said, referring to the shrinking employee roster as a result of early retirements and layoffs.
“It’s important for me to stay on the council to continue that path,” she said.