Gonzales, Calif.: Living the Gonzales Way

California’s Salinas Valley is one of America’s most bountiful agricultural regions. Gonzales is one of the valley’s smaller towns with fewer than 9,000 people. The population is overwhelmingly Hispanic and Latino at 94% with a third of residents under 18. But this small town thinks big and people here take pride in what they call “The Gonzales Way,” An ingrained belief that everyone can contribute to the well-being of the entire community. “Gonzales Grows Green” was established in 2009 as a sustainability initiative for the community of Gonzales. The “Gonzales Grows Green” was our idea to sort of capture sustainability and make it fit our culture. Around the city of Gonzales we have solar panels that provide power to our facilities. Major piece of our economic development was our Gonzales agriculture industrial business park. Taylor Farms is the largest employer in the city of Gonzales, and so I think that it’s been a really important and dynamic relationship. The city of Gonzales partnered early on in the sustainability initiative. We spent time going into the Taylor Farms plant with them to identify how they were managing the waste stream. Gonzales is an incubator and our companies can go and scale up these programs and projects. It’s become part of our DNA. Youth Council is our structured established connection to our youth. They’re so important to the city because They’re able to convey the youth perspective to city leadership. This community reads to me so that’s why I want to pay it forward to them and I did so by joining the Youth Council. Being a youth commissioner, I sat in the city council meetings, and I actually had a seat at the table with them. They’re very supportive of what we do. It’s never, “Oh, she’s young.” She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” For me as the mayor it’s one thing to say that the youth are our future and it’s another to teach them to give them the tools that they need to really engage in our community. With the Friends, Families and Neighbor Playgroup we’re reaching not only the children and getting them ready for kindergarten. But we’re also reaching the parents and the caregivers and giving them resources so that they can make sure that they’re getting them ready for school before they get started. I truly believe that we need a community to do that and one person can’t do it alone And we need those providers somewhere that where they can go and also network and build community amongst each other. That’s “The Gonzales Way.” How do we support all of our community members from our oldest to our youngest? For us, “The Gonzales Way” also means investing in our people? Gonzales’s strength is the fact that we value community and we just get it done.

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