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Former principal seeks Aguilar's city council seat

Ex-Sunnyside High School Principal Bill Gant says he has entered the race for Sunnyside City Council Position #4 with no hidden agenda. Sunnyside Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar, who is completing her first term of office, wants to continue serving the community.

Aguilar and Gant will face each other for the seat in the November General Election.

Aguilar, who has mixed feelings about her first experience with elected office, is ready to take on the challenge of going four more years in the council spotlight.

"It has been an exciting four years with its share of challenging moments," said Aguilar.

Aguilar said support from the community encouraged her to file for the council. "I wasn't going to run again," Aguilar said.

"As soon as people heard that, they kept calling me. They wouldn't hear of me not filing for re-election," she said.

Aguilar has received heavy criticism for her efforts to have city documents translated into Spanish for the community's large Hispanic population. "Now, we have a number of documents being offered in Spanish," she said.

Aguilar drew community support for her efforts in going to the public seeking their questions and concerns.

She also spearheaded community outreach meetings where citizens had opportunities to meet city employees, as well as police and fire safety officers. "I believe in taking it to the people," she said.

Aguilar also believes the controversy she raised as a result of her actions has been good for the community.

"The controversy gave the community a chance to discuss what is of interest to the residents," she said.

Aguilar, who works for the Washington State Migrant Students Data and Recruitment Office as a data management specialist trainer, feels there are still many areas in city government which need to change.

One area where she wants to solicit citizens' input concerns the future development of the community. "We need to educate the public and to ask for their opinions as the city begins its strategic planning for the future growth of Sunnyside, especially of the Monson property," she said.

Aguilar, who has always prided herself on listening to the community, said she will continue to put the needs of the community first.

"I think we have to remember we are elected to speak for the people, but first we have to listen to what they want - what all the people want," she added.

If re-elected, Aguilar wants to see the sidewalk rehabilitation program return, as well as the anti-gang DARE program, and to see a revitalization of the city beautification program.

Meanwhile, Gant, who is now the executive secretary for the Yakima Valley Interscholastic Activities Association, says he just want to get involved in city government.

"I have no hidden agenda items," Gant said. "I just want to give something back to the community which has always been so good to me and my family," he explained.

Gant, who ended more than 30 years of employment in the Sunnyside School District when he retired in 1994, has continued to be a leader in education, both on state and national levels.

"Most of my work has had more to do with education than community service," Gant admitted.

"I feel it's now time for me to get involved in service to the community," he said.

Gant said he decided to run for public office after having watched the city council's actions over the past several years.

"I've been watching and I feel I have something to contribute," he said.

Born and raised in Sunnyside, Gant raised his own family here. He began working for the Sunnyside School District in 1964 as a classroom teacher. He became a principal in 1970 at Outlook Elementary School. But it wasn't long before he became the Sunnyside High School assistant principal and athletic director, a position he held until 1984, when he was hired as the building principal.

Gant believes his years of management experience gives him a good understanding of how the process works.

"I feel that a city council acts as a governance board with its responsibility being to the citizens it represents," Gant said.

Saying an effective city council member does not micro-manage the city, Gant said council members do have a hand in establishing broad goals for the community and for the orderly growth and maintenance of exiting services.

"We can not assume to know more about the intricacies of running the complex city business than those whom we have hired to manage those details," he said.

Gant said he believes in sound fiscal management and answering citizens' questions. He also believes in the establishment of unified city codes and standards to which all people are held accountable.

"I believe in fairness and consistency in this process," he said. "This is critical in our rapidly growing community," Gant added.

"I see the diversity of our community as a strength. I would never support any policy or request that could act as a divisive influence or be detrimental to our community," Gant said.

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