Ernesto Olivares of Santa Rosa City Council has won one of this year’s North Bay Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.
Tell us your story and that of your organization:
I was born in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. My parents Jose C. Olivares and Maria Luz Olivares brought their family to the United States when I was 3 years old. I am the middle of 7 siblings. I like to say that while we lived dirt poor in Mexico (our house actually had dirt floors), my parents provided us a better life of poverty in Colusa, CA where we worked as migrant farm workers. My father first came to California as a young boy and had the opportunity to go to school in Fresno where he learned to speak English. He later returned to California as an adult to work under to Bracero Program.
As a young boy, I believed I was destined to work in the fields all my adult life. The only difference is that I wanted to be the person operating the heavy equipment, not the one handpicking the crops under the hot sun.
The summer before my senior year I was working with my father in the orchards preparing for the harvest. It was that hot summer that my father told me that he wanted me to go to school; that I didn’t have to be farmworker like him. He was the first person who told me that I could be anything I wanted to be.
I chose a law enforcement profession and have been a public safety professional since 1976 and a public servant for more than 40 years. It was my father’s commitment to civic engagement that keeps me committed to public service.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?:
After years of discussion and negotiations we, the annexation of Rosalind will be come a reality by the end of this year. I am proud to have served on the City/County Roseland Committee for the past 9 years. Key to the success of this annexation has been to well organized community outreach efforts by City staff to help the Roseland businesses and residents understand the benefits and impacts of this historic action.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?:
My most proud achievement was when I was elected by my peers on the City Council to be the Mayor of Santa Rosa in 2010. What was significant about this achievement was that my mother was able to experience it. The honor of holding the Office of Mayor as my parents’ son was a greater sense of achievement than being the first Latino Mayor in our City. It was the look of pride in my mother’s eyes when I told I was the Mayor that I will not forget. She never tired of telling her friends that her “Mijo,” her son, was the Mayor of Santa Rosa.
What is your biggest challenge today?:
Homelessness. Santa Rosa and many communities across the country continue to struggle to find long term solutions to homelessness. In Santa Rosa, we have made a strong statement that homelessness is a community-wide issue that requires the entire community to support our goal of ending homelessness. The key to doing this is to get our homeless residents into permanent homes though a Housing First model supported by a strong system of coordinated entry. This is a big shift from traditional approaches, but one that evidence shows can be successful. The challenge has been educating service providers and the community about the benefits of this model. In short, it moves us from an approach that merely enables homelessness to one that ends homelessness.
Santa Rosa City Council
100 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa 95404
Residence: Santa Rosa
Education: Bachelor of Science, California State University, Long Beach