By Elijah McKee
September 20, 2022 (Lemon Grove) — “The squeakier wheel gets the oil, right? If you come out and say ‘Hey, this is what we need,’ and you’re persistent, things start to change, remarked ” Jessica “Jessyka” Heredia about virtual access to city meetings. She personally live-streams Lemon Grove City Council meetings on Facebook, while calling for an investment in an official video record.
In an interview with East County Magazine, Heredia reflected, “I get lots of views so I know it’s something that should be done and could be done. And I believe it will be done as a result of me coming and doing that. I’m going to continue to advocate for that regardless of whether I’m elected or not.”
Heredia officially qualified for the ballot last month, and is now one of five candidates vying for seats on the Lemon Grove City Council this election year. She runs a business in El Cajon that has been in East County for 24 years, sat on the City's Community Advisory Committee (CAC) and the Business Improvement District, and runs the Lemon Grove Support Local social media pages.
Given the four-year term lengths for councilmembers in Lemon Grove, Jennifer Mendoza is the only current official whose seat could be challenged this year. However, Councilmember Jerry Jones decided to retire after nearly 20 years as a councilmember, creating an open seat and the possibility for two new faces to join the dais.
For elections within San Diego County this year, every active registered voter will automatically be granted a mail ballot. They will begin being sent out on October 8, and early voting via ballot drop boxes will begin October 10. All in-person poll centers will be open from November 5 through Election Day on November 8.
In the Lemon Grove field, Councilmember Mendoza has announced her bid for reelection and is the only incumbent in the race. The other four candidates include Heredia, as well as Blanca Brown, Stephanie Klein, and Alysson Snow. East County Magazine sat down with all five women for in-depth interviews in order to learn more about them and their campaigns. Watch for profiles of all five candidates to be posted in our Communities section for Lemon Grove.
On top of her volunteer media work, Heredia also played a large role in the inaugural Citrus Festival this past summer. The event raised funds for the Recreation Center, which is now undergoing a promising pilot program for free public access on Saturdays.
Building from the ground up on initiatives like these comes naturally to Heredia, who began her hair salon studio in Lemon Grove off of word-of-mouth. After 24 years, she has 500 past and current customers and many regulars.
“It was a matter of my work ethic, and my creativity, and my attention to detail that got me here,” she reflected.
A self-employed businesswoman, Heredia sees parallels to running a city. To her, the two roles are not the same but not completely separate either. She hopes to bring her business motivation and smarts to the city budget. She had a taste of that kind of work while serving an appointment on the CAC, which focused on giving a recommendation on the budget for fiscal year ’22-’23.
Over the years, Heredia has noticed large sums of money being spent on projects that sometimes are not completed. She hopes to help increase the City’s follow-through with a more mindful development approach.
She also has her eyes set on the downtown business district. Her ideal path forward is to help make it as appealing as possible to local and regional neighbors through cleanliness and safety. She emphasizes how this will help shops with their image, draw more people to Lemon Grove, and inspire more businesses to plant roots here that will fill in the unused areas of the City.
“With a little bit of paint, a little bit of love — we could revitalize that,” she described.
Grant money for existing businesses would help, as well as a faster permitting process for new applicants. As the admin of the LG Support Local Facebook and Instagram, she has her finger on the pulse of these issues.
“I spot like businesses and I help them advertise, get their word out so they get new customers,” she said. “And I’ve seen people from other communities are starting to like that page.”
The regional traction she sees growing online excites her.
“I find that a lot of people in Lemon Grove go to La Mesa to shop,” said Heredia, who grew up in the nearby City before moving to Lemon Grove. “We want to bring La Mesa into Lemon Grove to shop.”
Read on for more highlights from our conversation with Jessyka Heredia.
Why are you running for elected office? What drew you into this race?
After the last lockdown, I wanted an outlet for how to get out of the house a little bit, and find a way to give back to my community. I saw on the internet a group of people getting together to pick up trash and do volunteer work in the streets. And I thought that sounds safe, it’s outside. I went ahead and showed up one day, and I started going more often and meeting more people. I could see that our City needed the help with that specifically, but I started to see other things that I thought we could do better.
I just decided that I have a lot to offer, so I wanted to put my hand in the race. I had served on the CAC which actually gave me a little bit better insight of how the government worked, and how the budget was processed and created, and how we spend our money. That sort of reiterated to me that I had some gifts to give.
I’ve built a lot of relationships along the way in Lemon Grove. I think people trust me and I bring integrity to the table. They know I’m a hard worker, they see it. I run a business and I rush right over to come and record those meetings for everybody.
How might you approach a sales tax to bring more funding to the City?
I can definitely see myself getting behind a tax increase. I feel part of the problem with the reason it didn’t pass was that there wasn’t a lot of confidence in the community towards how the money was being spent. I feel the same way, but I am not opposed to increasing the sales tax if I felt that it would be going to the things that matter to my community.
We can’t do anything about that at this time, our hands are kind of tied. So let’s clean it up first, let’s make it look good, and then that kind of warrants that a little bit more, people are a bit more happy to do it. And maybe while the sales tax is low, we start to get La Mesa to come in, and then once you’ve started to increase that sales base, you raise the tax and then you’re making a lot more revenue for the city.
What is your vision for the future of Lemon Grove’s zoning and development?
It’s all a case by case basis when it comes to zoning and projects, but I always like the multi-use — retail at the bottom, living at the top — especially in our business district. I hate to see us tear down businesses to build only apartments that don’t give anything consumer-wise back. People want to shop local. They want to be able to walk out of their house over to the little market, get some produce or whatever they’re looking for. People crave that, so I say it makes good sense to try to keep in line with that more than getting rid of the businesses to put in housing. I think that we can do both.
I’d like to see the zoning be consistent too. Because I feel like sometimes developers get a little bit more leeway than the mom and pop, who are really like the backbone of our community. Even though the big box stores generate a lot of sales, it’s those little shops that really make a community have a culture. I think that’s the part we should be developing more.
What do you think about disincorporating the City of Lemon Grove?
I would like to see the City succeed without going unincorporated to be honest with you, and I’d like the chance to be able to help that happen. I think what happens in city government a lot of the time is people serve a long time into these council positions, and they become kind of complacent to progress being stalled. When you get new blood in there, you revitalize maybe the way money is being spent, and it’s a different approach.
24 years ago when I started a business, business didn’t look like it does today. You had to be fresh, you had to be innovative. And I think I bring that to the table. I’d like the opportunity to get in there and see what we can do with a new concept, and a new timeline and a new mindset, and hopefully we can make it work.
Then if we can’t, I’m not opposed to unincorporating if that meant that my community would get better services and better parks. These are things that we might essentially be missing out on because we’re not managing our money for the community.
If elected, how would you feel about collaborating on the City Council?
I’m very open to collaborating. I’ve been trying to encourage that, I think that’s what we’re missing. On the CAC, I feel that I was a good partner in all of that. I wasn’t there to create waves, I was there to get a task done.
Instead of fighting your community you should be fighting for your community, as a city. That’s a small ask when you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on more government, as a government, but you’re not giving your community even a small rec center.
What is something about Lemon Grove you wish more people knew about?
My favorite thing about Lemon Grove is that it is generational living here. There are people that have been here since the 1800s. Their family origins, you know, still here. That’s something you don’t see in a lot of towns. These people love Lemon Grove and they don’t leave it, despite what it looks like or how they feel about the city government.
I just feel like it’s a good time in Lemon Grove and you can feel it, you can feel the energy is changing. The people who have lived here forever are teaming up with the young generation, and they’re all coming together for the greater cause in the middle.
So I look forward to joining forces with everyone out there and just making it better — making it the town that we want it to be.
For more details on Heredia’s campaign, visit her website. A full list of relevant dates from the Registrar of Voters can be viewed here, and for information on when, where and how to vote in the Lemon Grove election and other local offices, explore www.sdvote.com/.