Newly appointed Riverbank City Council member Leanne Jones Cruz has experienced two regular city council meetings since she was appointed on Sept. 26 and has settled into her spot on the dais comfortably. Jones Cruz has been appointed to fill the open seat left after Dotty Nygard resigned in August for the remainder of the term ending in November 2014.
Jones Cruz is a fourth generation Riverbank native and has a long standing history with the town. The families of her mother and father are both from Riverbank, after her great grandparents settled there years ago. Although she has lived all over the world, Jones Cruz states that Riverbank has always been her home. She returned to Riverbank 10 years ago and has been involved with the city ever since. Several of her friends and family have worked in the community, own businesses, or have been involved with city politics.
“I remember talking to my cousin and we were downtown at Pizza Plus and we were all eating and our friends co-owned the place, so we were all chatting and I realized we are the family now; all of our parents are getting a little bit older, we are the ones that are the business owners, and the ones that have children that are going to school in the community so we are the ones that are going to be here and pass this town onto our kids,” stated Jones Cruz.
Never having run a campaign before, Jones Cruz was a bit nervous and a bit hesitant at first. Then she explained that it was a matter of wanting to be involved with what is going on and getting out there by jumping in with both feet. Her first campaign experience was in the November 2012 election when she ran for a vacant council seat. She didn’t win then, but that didn’t stop her from being interested in the business of the city.
She had still been attending council meetings regularly, budget advisory meetings, and staying involved with issues within the community.
Being involved with the Dog Park Task Force prior to the council appointment, Jones Cruz would like to continue that project and she feels very strongly about getting some budget issues resolved.
“So I think getting the budget under control and having a town that we live in where we can be sustainable is important,” said Jones Cruz. “We need to be able to sustain ourselves and think about that when we are doing planning and getting more business in here, so that’s another key.”
Currently Jones Cruz works as a Special Education Teacher and teaches Algebra to all ninth through 12th grade students at Beyer High School in Modesto. The students she works with have learning disabilities and are required to pass the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Examination) exam like all the other students.
Jones Cruz said she realizes that she has a duty to the community and every decision made by the Riverbank council will have an effect on the community and possibly the children in the future. She takes this responsibility very seriously.
“All of a sudden it just kind of switches from being someone out in the audience that has a couple of comments to say to an involved feeling like you have some responsibility,” added Jones Cruz. “What we do now, how we do and decisions that we as a council make now will affect us way down in the future and so that feels like a huge responsibility to me.”
Although Riverbank is a small town Jones Cruz believes there is enough business to have a successful downtown and Crossroads.
“Crossroads really helps us sustain our budget, with that said we still have a place for downtown,” said Jones Cruz. “Downtown is vital to us and there is so much room for growth.”
Jones Cruz would like the Riverbank community to know that she will be their voice and that she feels very strongly about that.
“Even if it may not be something that I believe in, I really feel the people need to have some say,” said Jones Cruz. “They may not always know the background but they need to be heard.
“That is my job so that’s what I will give people in this town. They can be heard through me.”