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By Miriam Raftery

May 2, 2019 (El Cajon) – The vacancy left on the El Cajon City Council by the resignation of Ben Kalasho has generated strong community interest.  Applications have been received from 22 residents, all seeking to fill the seat. They range from prominent individuals including a former mayor to community activists, members of the planning commission, and a retired police officer who received a Medal of Valor. They bring a diverse range of views and visions for  El Cajon as well.

The City Council will interview applicants at the May 14 meeting at 7 p.m.  Earlier, at the 3 p.m. meeting, Council members will discuss procedures for choosing the next Councilmember, who will fill the at-large seat held by Kalasho until the 2020 election.

The applicants are, in alphabetical order, are listed below along with highlights from their applications:


Richard Agundez Jr.:  A retired El Cajon Police Sergeant who served for 30 years, Agundez received the department’s Medal of Valor for stopping the Granite Hills High School shooting in 2001. He was also named S.W.A.T. officer of the year in 1998 and Hispanic Officer of the Year in 2000 He is currently a commissioner on the City’s Personnel Commission.

He’s also coached football at Grossmont and El Cajon Valley high schools, as well as serving as an active community volunteer in many organizations, including serving on the board of Stoney’s Kids.  His experience include serving as a D.A.R.E.*(Dru Abuse Resistance Education) instructor.

His three highest priorities to address are homelessness, traffic, and youth drug education. He would categorize the homeless to attack problems based on their situations. He wants more traffic enforcement officers to improve safety. He also wants to promote education of young people to stay off of drugs.

Key quote: “I am an honest man with an impeccable reputation. Integrity is a part of my life that is present in whatever I do.”


Jo Alegria:  Currently a board member and former board president at Cajon Valley Union School District, Allegria has previously worked as a paralegal, student care supervisor at Dehesa school, and customer service at Hartford Insurance. She holds an Associate of Arts degree and a paralegal studies degree.

She is also active at th East County/San Diego Pregnancy Care Clinic and is a deaconess at Shadow Mountain Community Church, as well as a board member at the Boys and Girls Club of East County foundation.

Her highest priorities would be homelessness, civic engagement and youth programs. She has participated in Chamber task forces and wants to seek out communities that have had success in addresses help for the most destitute.  On civic engagement, she wants to give youth more opportunities to be involved and understand the value of service.

Key quote:  “It would be my honor to serve alongside this current council and  mayor; to further implement my strengths and continue a strong relationship with the school district. To instill a deeper sense of community for all.”


Juan Barajas:  Barajas is a child support officer with the County of San Diego.  He is also an administrative assistant with McPharlane & Mechanical Engineering Consultation and an instructional assistant at San Diego Unified School District. He holds bachelor of science degrees from San Diego State University (SDSU) in business and administration of criminal justice.

His community involvement includes Boy Scouts of America and the Benchley Weinberger Foundation.  He also holds multiple licenses and certificates including as a shelter manager with the County and from the San Diego CERT academy, among others.

His highest priority issues are homelessness including encouraging families to be self-sufficient and improving monitoring and data analysis,, business development and addressing lack of public trust in safety, including redesigning public outreach for the police department.

Key quote: "I want to contribute my management andl eadership skills to improve the lives of the residents of El Cajon."


Humbert Cabrera:  President of Cabrera and Associates Inc., Cabrera is a former El Cajon Citizen of the Year.  A graduate of the East County Chamber of Commerce Leadership program, he has also received a “Project for California’s Future” certificate and received honors from the Lemon Grove City Council, County Board of Supervisors, Congress and the State Legislature.

He has worked on the city’s deemed approve alcohol ordinance and the Measure D charter city amendment. His community experience includes serving as past president ot El Cajon Rotary Club, on the board of the Salvation Army, on the Chamber’s government affairs committee, and other nonprofit work.  He has also helped less fortunate children get supplies and clothes for school.

His highest priorities would be homelessness, cleaning up the city, representing needs of all citizens including minorities and bringing more jobs and businesses by working to reduce “overburdening” regulations and taxes.

Key quote:  “Serving the citizens of the community and representing their needs. Accomplishing this through team work and proud freedom. This is why I would like to serve.”


John Richard Campbell:  A retired U.S. Navy Captain, Campbell served as commanding officer of two ships and as an engineer on three vessels. He has owned and managed multi-family properties in El Cajon and elsewhere and held a real estate brokers license operating Campbell Investment Properties for 15 years. He has a masters degree in real estate from National University and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from John Brown University.

His has served as president of the San Diego County Apartment Asssociation and served on the El Cajon Personnel Commisison. He is also past president of the Kiwanis Club of El Cajon Valley.  He previously ran for council in 1996.

His top priority is homeless but he pointedly states, “I would not support activities such as feeding stations, etc., which  serve to enable the homeless to continue their life style and behavior.” Other priorities include housing but he says, “I have a problem with public funds going toward brand new housing for low income residents.” He prefers to see funds used to subsidize rents for those in need.  He also wants to revive the Neighborhood Watch program in the city.

Key quote:  “I shall pledge to not seek election to this seat in 2020 so as to create a level playing field for those who file at that time.”


Margaret Carlson:  Carlson is a retired teacher in the Cajon Valley school district who was also an elected delegate to the National Education Association conventions..  She holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in education and also served 10 years as a Parks and Recreation Commission.

She helped organize the International Friendship Festival in El Cajon and has participated with First Lutheran Church to help clean up the city with the “I Love a Clean El Cajon” campaign, also sponsoring El Cajon speech and debate at Greenfield and Emerald middle schools, as well as serving on the Ladies Auxiliary for El Cajon Am Vets. 

Her top priorities are bringing another hospital to East County, assuring high quality performances at the East County Performing Arts Center, providing more creation and activities for seniors, encouraging more Neighobrhood Watch programs and reinstating the “Crime-free multiple housing” program for all rentals in El Cajon.

Key quote:  “More public forums regarding city concerns – safety and emergency information.”


Estela de los Rios:  Executive Director of CSA San Diego,  a fair housing agency, de los Rios holds a B.S. degree in sociology from SDSU and an AA degree in business.  She has taken numerous leadership courses including the University of California Leadership Program and has familiarity with CDBG grant funding and the city’s housing element.  She has managed budgets including federal, state and local contracts and has written grants that funded. 

She is a member of the East County Homelessness Task Force. She has also provided community outreach on issues affecting low-income people. She chaired the East County census in 2010 and has chaired the Welcome Newcomer network comprised of 50 organizations.  She has served on a national level on human trafficking and women’s issues, has been involved in the United Nations, and currently serves on the Police Chief of El Cajon’s advisory board.

Her top issue priorities are homelessness, lack of veterans and senior services, and the health and safety of residents.  “There are models to address the mental health issues and health issues of our homeless and to train them for jobs,” she says, adding that veterans and seniors are being displaced due to mobile home park rules and regulations, an issue she aims to resolve.

Key quote: “While state and federal offices hold a lot of power and influence, local governments have the ability to try new ideas and easily see the impacts of these policies.”


James Elia:  A former candidate for state Assembly, Elia is business development of Ace Parking in California.  Formerly a board member with the Neighborhood Market Association, he worked on legislation.  He has attended college, studying finance services and insurance.

He says he brings “years of business development, economic development and business relations skills to the Council.”

His top priorities are public safety, homelessness, and affordable housing.  He says he has a “robust plan” for all three of these issues.

Key quote: “I have always cared about serving my community. I also feel as a Chaldean American, we need representation in the city of El Cajon.


George Glover:  A Vietnam veteran and current a records specialist with the El Cajon Police Department, Glover has also served as senior IT manager at Oracle Corp./Sun Microsystems.  His experience includes management, people and budget skills. He has also attended training seminars in the computer industry including personnel management, contract negotiation, project and budget management, hiring and termination laws, and more. He also has small business experience as owner of the Wrangler Family Barbecue.

His community experience includes serving on the city’s Veterans Commission and on the East County Homeless Task Force.  He was named the city’s Veteran of the Year and organized a Veterans’ Day event.  He is also in the American Legion and served on the Chamber’s veterans roundtable. He ran for council in 2016.

His top issues include business, homelessness and public safety. He touts fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget, as well as finding new businesses to expand the tax base. He also wants to see the city promote hiring and training of veterans, noting that 10% of the  city’s population are vets.  He also wants to revive the Veterans Memorial project. He views homelessness as a multi-pronged problem that requires different approaches depending on each individual or family’s situation. He voices concern over the growth in crime including gang violence.

Key quote:  “The person appointed should strive to move the current agenda forward.”


Stephanie Harper:  Harper worked as a D.J. and wedding planner for 14 years, a job she says taught her how to “read people and really listen to the needs of others.” She has been a customer agent for Omni Cheer and holds a paralegal certificate from Mira Costa College. 

She previously ran for Council  in 2016 and has volunteer in the “We All Count” of the homeless, also serving as co-president of the East County Democratic Club for two years.

Her top priorities are homelessness, protection, and budget spending.  “If we could stop the wasteful spending, we would be able to address the other problems” she says, adding that she opposes executive raises.

Key quote:  The citizens need someone who will listen to them and then act on it. They need a voice who will fight for them.  This city needs change. I am a fighter and that’s what I will do for them….fight.”


Mark Jamil:  A software engineer with Edge Technovations, Jamil creates interactive games to track student learning and helped develop a war zone security/safety siumulation for the World Bank Group to train workers traveling to war-torn nations. He has also worked as an adjunct professor at SDSU, teaching courses in computer science, business and information technology. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science and has also worked at Quadrant Studios, T3 LLC and Lockheed Martin.

His volunteer work included volunteering as a personal trainer for Special Olympic disabled athletes and serving as president of the Arabic Club at Grossmont College. A father of three, he grew up in El Cajon. He says his most important skills are analytical skills, a strong science background, management experience, and through a family business, real estate and financial experience.

His top priorities are fiscal growth including attracting businesses that can offer higher wages, maintain a healthy budget that addresses the pension liability problem, and education including promoting STEM courses at all levels.

Key quote:  “El Cajon is now a multi-generational home for us and I feel that it’s time to give back to our city, but mostly I want to make sure that my boys have a good childhood here in El Cajon.”


Dolores E. Landers:  Now retired, Landers worked for 32 years in a medical field, including Sharp Community Medical group locally, doing coding and billing.  She has attended Council meetings under Mayors Bill Wells and Mark Lewis, and says she understands how the Council operates. She holds an A.A. degree from Westchester Community College in New York.

Mother of four boys, she has been active in Little League.

She did not list any issues as priorities, but instead says “If the city of El Cajon still believes in the statement YOU CAN’T BEAT CITY HALL, ask yourself why?... Elected councilmembers are just that, ELECTED…You have the PEOPLE’S CHOICE not who fits in to the Council way of thinking.”

Key quote:   She objects to city department heads also having positions on the Successor Agency/Oversight. “I feel this is a CONFLICT OF INTERST since Resolution come from this agency.”


Mark Lewis:  Lewis serviced as Mayor of El Cajon from 1998 to November 2015, when he resigned. He also served as Councilmember from 1992-1998.  From 1978 through 2011, he was also Waste Management Coordinator for the County’s department of Public Works Landfill Management.  He holds a B.A. in speech arts from SDSU.

Lewis’ application is very brief given his many years of service to the city. He lists no outside civic or charitable activities.

His priorities are “servicing the public” and “homeless.” 

Key quote:  Asked why he wants to serve on the Council and what strengths he brings, Lewis lists “public service” and “City Council experience.”


Amanda McGimpsey:  McGimpsey has a decade of business experience including higher education and construction. She has worked as Assistant Director of Content Marketing for a higher education company, where she managed a team of writers and editors producing digital content for 11 public universities. She previously was  Senior Marketing Specialist at the NewSchool of Architecture & Design, working with the city of San Diego on events promoting STEM education.

She has consulted on marketing and operations plans for the East County Homeless Task Force. She is now completing a Master of Public Education at SDSDU with emphasis on research on homelessness.

Her priorities are to increase neighborhood safety including focusing on youth and recreation programs, supporting economic development to develop a campaign showing why El Cajon is an attractive location for small business owners, and addressing homelessness by creating connections with nonprofits, as well as building a culture of collaboration among councilmembers.

Key quote:  “As a homeowner and previous small business owner, I am invested in the success of the city.  I would bring my connections with the community, a strong understanding of public administration and the role of city government as well as a decade of business experience.”


Daniel McNamara:  A field leader at Chipotle Mexican Grill, McNamara has 20 years of experience as an operational leader including two at an executive level. He is responsibility for 10-20 locations with 250-500 employees. He previously served in the Navy and is a husband and father.

He led a community project to renovate the East County Transitional Living Center and has been committed to helping with refugee resettlement through his church, as well as feeding the hungry and working with the International Rescue Committee.  His community service includes Boy Scouts of America and he participated in the 2000 U.S. Census.  He reads 100 books a year and calls himself a “lifelong student.”  He is now pursuing a degree in business management at UCSD’s extension.

He says the cities priorities come from the “passion, vision and needs of its people.”  He believes in keeping a balance between strength of the economy, social and cultural conditions, planning and building.

Key quote:  I have always been called to service and followed that call to the highest level I could…I also believe that my values, ethic, insight, empathy, vision and drive make me fit to represent my city and its people.”


Juan Carlos Mercado:  A Deputy Sheriff with San Diego County since 2007, Mercado has previously worked as a truck driver and carpet care business owner.  An Iraq War combat veteran, he served as a captain in the U.S. Army from 1989 to 2001.  He as a B.S. in criminal justice from SDSU.

He is founder of the nonprofit “Deported Veterans of America” and has actively fought for the rights of veterans.  He has also served as vice president of the Barrio Logan Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and authored the book “Fate of a Deported Veteran.” He is fluent in Spanish and German.

His priorities are to aid the homeless and create affordable housing, provide free or low cost education and trade school training for jobs, and help single mothers including domestic violence victims with daycare, school, work and mental health.  He also wants to improve roads and infrastructure, and provide substance abuse rehab.

Key quote: “Jobs, jobs, jobs!”


Michelle M. Metschel:  Metschel is a department specialist at a local defense contractor with an AA degree in Liberal Arts with emphasis in journalism from Grossmont College.  She has previously chaired and served on the board of trustees at First United Methodist Church in El Cajon and as a board member of the Emmaus Community, as well as head musician.

Her top priorities are homeless/crime, housing, and bringing large employers to El Cajon to provide employment. She supports rotating nightly shelters and investigating the potential for a One Stop Shelter for the homeless that would offer beds as well as social services, employment counseling, storage of belongings, showers and washers.  She also wants to see a housing fair.

Key quote:  “My strengths are business management (30+ years in administration, research skills, listening, and a willingness to find solutions that are a win-win for all involved. I try to be results oriented when faced with a problem.”


Abraham Muheize:  Muheize is co-owner and founder of the San Diego Kings basketball team as well as handling marketing and community outreach for attorney King Aminpour.  A native of East County, he has an associates degree from Grossmont College. He attended Montana State University on a football scholarship, studying communications and studied Liberal Arts and Central Washington University with a minor in communications.

He created a nonprofit, Alumni United, to educate and inspire youths with athletes, entrepreneurs and motivational speakers.  He has raised funds for El Cajon Valley High School and recently joined the El Cajon Lion’s Club.

His top priorities are homelessness, marketing and drugs. He wants to train a better homeless task force, provide marketing through social media and events to “help bring the city together,” and work to prevent drug use in youths.

Key quote:  “I have a lot of passion for the city of El Cajon and would do anything in my power for it…I believe with being young and having influence in El Cajon [I] could create a lot of change and bring more people together to make our city one of the best in the world.”


David Phillip “Phil” Ortiz:  Ortiz serves on the city’s planning commission. He is the owner and CEO of New Earth Energy Specialists Inc. and previously served as military college advisor at Ashford University, where he received a master’s degree in Organizational Management with emphasis in public administration. He also holds a B.A. in Criminal Justice Administration from SDSU.

He is a board member on the East County Chamber of Commerce and a founding member of the El Cajon Community Clean Up Group. He’s served on the Forrester Creek Committee and is a home pastor at Foothills Church

His top priorities are public safety, including making retention of officers a priority, homelessness, including partnering with local organizations and having metrics to determine programs effectiveness, and having a balanced budget plus revitalization and incentivization to build on vacant lots.

Key quote:  “I have studied city government, volunteering in my city and have been keeping up with most of the city business that has been occurring for years. With my experience, understanding and passion, I would help navigate El Cajon to its fullest potential. 


Anthony Sottile:  Sotille serves on the City Planning Commission and has had five years as chairman. Semi-retired after 40 years in the insurance business, Sottile has also served as an Army reserve medic, real estate agent, chief financial officer at a church, school administrator and Latin teacher of a private school, as well as pastor of a small home church.  He has attended City College, Grossmont College and SDSU.

He is former president of a local Toastmasters International Cub.

His goals would be wise planning for strong businesses, community health, and quality of life for all citizens. He views homelessness as “primarily a moral issue” and believes most homeless choose the lifestyle with invites “squalid conditions” that will “bring a city down.” 

Key quote:  My vision for the City of El Cajon is generational for every citizen, child, grandchild, and their progeny..I would work on bringing unity to El Cajon.”


Nancy Wilson:  A family law attorney with her own practice, Wilson has also worked as a licensed real estate agent and in her father’s cabinet business. She has a B.A. from CSU in English and Political Science, as well as a law degree from the University of San Diego. 

She has done charity work with Ronald McDonald House through Alpha Delta Pi Sorority and served as president of a condominium’s board of directors for 10 years.

Her top priorities are homeless, seeking to strengthen programs, as well as code enforcement and volunteer efforts to address blighted properties. She also wants revitalization, noting that some restaurants and other businesses have left El Cajon.

“I see changes in the community that are negative, that I hope to impact.”


Steven Craig Wood:  An estimating manager at A.M. Ortega Construction Inc., Wood has previously worked for PAR Electrical Contractors as a project manager and as a manager at Longs’ Drug Stores. He has a B.A. in English from SDSU with a minor in Spanish.

His community efforts include serving as vice president of the University Honors Program at SDSU and as an elder and board member at Faith Presbyterian Church. 

His top priorities are to see completion of development projects in a timely manager, tackle municipal cleanup and redevelopment to emulate the success downtown in areas such as Jamacha from Main to I-8 and Broadway from Jamacha to 67.  He also is concerned about homelessness and poverty, including the working poor; he hopes to advocate for partnering with the county and neighboring cities to address those issues, as well as supporting mixed use and in-fill development as well as improving transit access.

Key quote:  “I would like to join the City Council in order to leverage my skills in analyzing complex problems and explaining complex technical solutions to help our City be the best it can be for our neighbors.”




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