With 1,678 votes, incumbent Riverbank City Councilwoman Leanne Jones Cruz was voted back into office during the 2014 General Election, held on Nov. 4. In a three-way race for two open council seats, Cruz and fellow incumbent Cal Campbell earned the posts, both outpolling challenger Larry King.
Cruz said she is looking forward to serving a full four-year term after initially being appointed in October 2013 and serving the community for over a year before running in the election.
“My goals have not changed at all,” said Cruz. “I am still interested in seeing Riverbank prosper and become sustainable in business and moving forward on making sure we have a balanced budget.”
After running in 2012 and not securing a win, Cruz still had interest in obtaining a position on the city council and stayed involved with city business by attending several different meetings and other community events. If she had not been appointed in 2013, she said she already had plans to run in the 2014 election regardless.
“I think that is what ultimately helped me get appointed is that I was still involved,” said Cruz. “I felt pretty strongly that it was my time to give back to my community.
“I was determined to run.”
Focusing on city business continues for Cruz and at the top of the list are the Riverbank Industrial Complex and the residents at River Cove.
Cruz explained that they are getting really close to having some parts of the industrial complex turned over to the city and that she would like to see the conveyance process through.
There are long range plans to review the situation at the River Cove housing development and Cruz explained that she was instrumental in adding them to the strategic plan due to the problems that they have like the parking situation during the summer.
As the liaison to the budget advisory committee, Cruz and the committee made several recommendations to the city council and one of the items was to get the budget structurally balanced, which got moved forward.
With having only a one-year term on the council, Cruz believes she has barely gotten her feet wet. She explained that she finally feels like she has gained more knowledge of the process and the items that are brought to the council.
“Government can be kind of a slow process so it is not something that happens right away,” added Cruz. “I would like to see some of these things that we are working on come through and so that is kind of exciting.”
Cruz said for her candidacy, she did not have a campaign manager, however her family helped her out with passing out flyers and walking neighborhoods.
“This time, which was different, is that I was seeking endorsements quite a bit more than last year,” stated Cruz. “I didn’t realize that that process was such a big part of the election process.
“I had to do a lot of interviews with endorsements and fundraising.”
Feeling the pressure of the campaign for two open seats with three people running, Cruz knew that there was no guarantee for a win. Cal Campbell and Cruz supported each other during their campaign and had several endorsements that were the same.
According to Cruz, this city council is not divided and they do not fight amongst themselves although they do not always agree.
“I see it as the council has some of the same goals in mind and are getting a lot of business done for the city,” expressed Cruz. “At the end of the tunnel we may not always agree on something but we are getting a lot of business done in the best interest of Riverbank and the people that live here.
“I really feel strongly about that.”
Not afraid to be the lone wolf on a vote, Cruz explained that it is very important to her to get a variety of people’s input on issues. The wide ranges of people that she has discussed issues with are small business owners, residents of Riverbank, friends, and relatives in a vast age group from old to young.
“I really felt strongly about getting all kinds of ideas and suggestions before I went in and made a vote,” stated Cruz. “I spend a lot of time gathering information from other people and what they want to see happen.”
She also said that council members need to be knowledgeable about the issues that come before them.
“There is a lot of reading and a lot of research that needs to be done before the council meetings,” she explained. “You have to vote on these things so you’ve got to know what you are voting on.”
Cruz works a full time job as a high school teacher at Beyer in Modesto and is a department chair on campus. With a full time job and the city council meetings as well as running her election, Cruz expressed that she was exhausted by the November election date and truly glad that it is over.
“It will be nice to have four years which I think is a good amount of time to see some things through and get some things done and it gives me enough time to settle in and not have to worry about running another election,” said Cruz. “I am really enjoying it so far and I am looking forward to another four years.”