Sunnyside's newest city council member is no stranger to public service. Before being recently appointed to Sunnyside City Council, Paul Garcia was a member of the local planning commission, a position he held for more than four years.
One of the reasons Garcia first got involved in city government was because he saw it as a way to make a difference.
Garcia, who used to live on Saul Road, said one day a developer came in wanting to built more than 50 houses on a 15-acre plot of land in a neighborhood comprised of single family homes on lots ranging from three-quarters of an acre to five acres in size.
"The density proposed in this proposed development was not compatible with the exiting neighborhood," Garcia said of his then Saul Road home.
Garcia said when the development was proposed many of the people living in the area went before city council and the planning commission to voice their concerns.
"The development was eventually not approved, but I learned an important lesson and that is that you need to get involved and fight for the things you believe in," Garcia said.
According to Garcia, it was awhile after the proceedings that he was asked if he would be interested in serving on the planning commission. Garcia said he took the position because he felt it would be a good opportunity to give back to the community.
When the position came open on Sunnyside City Council, the 1976 Sunnyside High School graduate, decided it was an opportunity he could not pass up.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," Garcia said.
He added that he received encouragement from several people, which made his decision to throw his hat into the ring that much easier.
"The main reason for applying was my belief that I could make a positive contribution because of my experience as a member of the planning commission," Garcia said.
So far, Garcia, who was sworn in during the Aug. 23 city council meeting, has found the entire process to be a little overwhelming. He noted that he still has a lot to learn when it comes to how the city functions, adding that he is getting hands on experience when it comes to the entire process.
"So into the frying pan I go, and with the help of the city manager, city staff and fellow council members I will survive," Garcia said.
When it comes to issues facing the city, Garcia said he feels it's important that the city focus on bringing new businesses into the community, as well as completing the city's Growth Management Plan.
"Developing the diversity present in our city for the benefit of all its residents is another area of interest," Garcia said.
As far as some of the recent changes that have been made in the city, including the move to a four-day work week, Garcia said he finds it encouraging that the city is willing and flexible enough to try to find ways to improve service to the community and reduce costs.
"The four-day work week benefits the city and its employees," Garcia said. "But in the long run the citizens will be the ones to determine its effectiveness."
Garcia is a life-long resident of Sunnyside, who has been married for 26 years and has three children. He works as the quality surveillance supervisor for Framatome-ANP Inc. of Richland, a company that manufactures fuel assemblies for commercial nuclear power plants in the United States and abroad. Garcia has worked for the company for 26 years.