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By Miriam Raftery

November 26, 2019 (Lemon Grove) – The Lemon Grove City Council will hold a special meeting on December 2 at 6 p.m. to interview applicants to fill vacancies on the City Council and Planning Commission.  A wide range of people have applied for these positions, bringing a diversity of skills and backgrounds. 

Here are summaries of each applicant's primary qualifications and aspirations:


Yadira Altamirano:  Owner of Zion Transport LLC, Altamirano says she has lived in Lemon Grove for 12 years, founded several companies, is on the board of the Mount Vernon Educational Foundation, is a leader in homeless ministry, and supports the Lemon Grove sales tax initiative. According to her application, she wants to assure the gas tax is used to fix roads, create a pedestrian friendly downtown, have more businesses invest in the city, support access to recreational activities for children and support existing and new community events.

Evelyn Andrade:  Andrade and her family recently bought a home in Lemon Grove. She is development director with Climate Action Campaign and has also been a court-appointed special advocate with Voices for Children and an execuive committee member of Sierra Club San Diego. She has been a website developer and software engineer. She previously ran for Santee City Council. She says she can hit the ground running as a councilmember to seek solutions to pressing issues including the budget deficit. She, too, supports the sales tax measure and wants to see more development projects and small businesses in Lemon Grove. She also wants to assure that the city drafts a strong climate action plan

George Gastil:  A Former member of the Lemon Grove City Council and Lemon Grove School Board, Gastil teaches history at San Diego Sate University.  He previously served as the city’s representative to the East County Economic Development Council and was active in efforts to put the sales tax measure on the ballot. His top priority is to strengthen the city’s financial position with a stable budget that reflects priorities and vision. He also wants to involve residents as stakeholders in policy discussion and to make progress on economic development, safe streets, the Connect Main Street vertical park and more. In addition he wants to support a strong voice for the city in regional decisions on housing, transportation, waste water and more.

Melanie Lucero: A lifelong Lemon Grove resident, Lucero has studied public administration at SDSU and previously owned a locksmith shop, also working at the Social Security Administration, as a school bus driver, and as a program director at a nonprofit. She has been active in the Lemon Grove Heal Zone. She says she has worked with housing and food insecure individuals while at the nonprofit, collaborating with CalFresh, SD Hunger, the SD Housing Commission and other agencies. She wants to address the homeless situation so that no one is living on the streets, improve streets and have traffic laws enforced. 

Kamaal Martin:  Martin works with California Charter Schools Association in project manager and holds degrees from the University of Oregon in history and international studies. He has taught political science in the San Diego Community College District and as government relations specialist with the County’s Regional Airport Authority was nominated as 2016 innovator of the year. He’s also been district director in the state Assembly. He is board chair of Project New Village and has been active in many community activities including Somali Youth United, San Diego Diplomacy Council, East County Homelessness Task Force, Community Emergency Response Team, Lemon Grove Community Garden and the NAACP among others. He supports the sales tax initiative. He also holds certificates from Homeland Security (FEMA) and more. He wants to prioritize public health and safety, invest in infrastructure, improve the quality of life in Lemon Grove and support local businesses.

Walter Oliwa:  A special education teacher’s aide in the Lemon Grove School District, Oliwa is also chair of the Lemon Grove Community Garden and alternate member of the Lemon Grove Advisory Committee. He holds a B.A. degree in psychology and a master’s in marriage and family therapy.  He’s lived in Lemon Grove for 28 years with his family.  He wants to serve honestly and preserve the city’s incorporation for the remainder of the term to fill the vacancy left by Councilman Matt Mendoza’s resignation, but says he would not be interested in running for election when the term ends.

Gerald Selby:  A former member of the Lemon Grove City Council, Selby is program manager with the City of San Diego’s Economic Development Department, where he oversees responsibilities from the former Redevelopment Agency agreements.  He previously worked in redevelopment positions for City Heights, Imperial Beach, National City and thee Centre City Development Corporation. He is vice president of Youth for CalSouth, the state affiliate of the U.S. Soccer Federation, and is also a sports official for local high schools. He has served on Lemon Grove’s Redevelopment Oversight Board, the city’s planning commission, and the Lemon Grove School District’s citizens bond oversight committee. He wants to listen to everyone,make collaborative decisions to guide the city in an efficient and effective manner, enhance solvency and maintain Lemon Grove’s status as a city while enhancing strong citizen engagement.

Nhu Tran:  Tran works for San Diego Gas and Electric managing over 200 community partnerships. Tran worked for 19 years for the Padres in external affairs and community relations, has chaired San Diego Grantmaker, and is past president of the Lemon Grove District PTA. Tran has a B.A. in sociology and business management from SDSU and is a graduate of the East County Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program. Tran wants to be a voice for citizens who care about the community, the quality of life and the future outlook of the city.  Goals include amplifying community events, engaging citizens and prioritizing public safety.


Evlyn Andrade:  Development director of the Climate Action Campaign, Andrade says she has ben active in local governments across the region and has knowledge of land use, housing and environmental issues. She has also overseen budgets of up to $6 million at Climate Action Campaign and previously was manager of the Center for Public Health Practice and Office of Diversity at the University of Berkeley School of Public Health.

Richard Cortepassi:  Quality control manager at Smart Safety Group, he has also served on the Lemon Grove Task Force for Main Street Promenade, Safety Improvement and General Plan, and is a member of East County CET. He says he has a working knowledge of regulatory, construction planning and test reports, inspection and contractual requirements.

Miranda Evans:  Economic development specialist with the City of Chula Vista, she has experience in planning, land use, the California entitlement process, interpreting zoning code provisions and other relevant experience.  She says she is familiar with the city’s guiding and regulatory documents including the General Plan and others.

Shanae James-May: Community planner with Thrive Lemon Grove/HEAL Zone, she  She is a volunteer doing social media as outreach coordinator form Lemon Grove Community Garden including organizing a multi-cultural event.  says she has been through the planning and building process on her own home.

Cherry Kendall is an auditor with the federal government (DCAA) ahs has done audits and taxes for business and nonprofits as a CPA for six years.  She believes her experience as an auditor with the federal government evaluating contractor costs and proposals as positioned her for an advisory role to the community.

Melanie Lucer: Lucer lists herself as a “domestic engineer” as well as life-long Lemon Grove resident, homeowner, family person and former small business owner. She studied urban studies at SDSU specializing in transportation and has served on the Golden Hill Community Development Corporation. She has been a Girl Scout Leader, church volunteer and worked with Lemon Grove HEAL Zone.

Walter Oliwa: A special education teacher’s aide with Lemon Grove School District, he as worked as a licensed marriage and family therapist for 35 years and is now semi-retired. He chairs the Lemon Grove Community Garden and has been an alternate member of the Lemon Grove Advisory Committee.

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