ONTARIO – Debbie Folden knows Ontario voters have entrusted her with a great responsibility.
“Now I have to earn it,” said Folden.
The longtime Ontario resident defeated incumbent mayor Riley Hill and Councilman Eddie Melendrez in the Nov. 8 election. In the most recent vote totals, Folden claimed the mayor’s spot with 1,124 votes. Melendrez finished second with 960 votes and Hill got 773.
Folden has no previous government experience.
While the victory wasn’t necessarily a surprise to the local business owner, the scale of the victory was, especially the margin between her and Hill.
“I figured it would be a close race. But I figured he (Hill) would have a lot of the same people who voted for him last time. So, I was shocked because he has been around longer than I have been,” said Folden.
Folden is focused on living up to her campaign promises and ensuring she does not let her supporters down.
“I want to make sure I can do what I say I am going to do. I want to make sure people get what they voted for,” said Folden.
She traces her election to an urge by voters for a decisive change. Folden will lead the city of about 11,000 people as an unpaid volunteer. She takes office in January.
“If I can make it a better place I am willing to go out there and give it my best shot,” said Folden.
One of Folden’s most important goals, she said, is to discover “what I can do to help make Ontario a better place to live.”
“I am very passionate in what I decide to do and I follow through. I love this community, especially the people,” said Folden.
Folden said she believes the city traveled off course politically over the past few years.
“Unfortunately, I think we lost a lot of really good department heads,” she said.
That’s why, she said, one of her first tasks will be to meet with city employees and gather their input. Then she wants to meet with the members of each city committee to listen to their concerns.
“I will hear them out, then find out what the community needs and wants actually are,” said Folden.
Folden said she also wants to be approachable.
“I work for them (voters). I want to look toward a goal of finding solutions,” said Folden. Public safety is a priority for Folden. She said the city’s crime and homeless situation needs to be resolved.
“I think we have a homeless situation and lot of people are unhappy about it,” she said.
Folden, 59, said the city’s homeless challenge, though, must be dealt with in a methodical, positive way. Folden said she can’t deliver an answer to the homeless problem yet but plans to work with city leaders and the community to find a solution.
“I want to learn how to get the homeless into a warm, safe places and get them off the streets,” said Folden.
Folden, who owns Advantage Financial Credit Service in Ontario, said her ability to listen will be one of her most important tools as a mayor. Ontario, she said, is important to her.
“The people are the best part,” she said.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]
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