Rather than create a Hispanic advisory council or liaison, the Milton-Freewater City Council appointed its first Latino city councilor at a meeting Monday.
Jose Garcia, a custodian at Freewater Elementary School and a local soccer coach, was the only person to apply for the vacant Ward 3 seat after former Councilor Jeff Anliker resigned in April.
Introducing himself to the council, Garcia said he had originally hoped someone else from the Latino community would step up to join the council. He coaches the McLoughlin High School and Central Middle School boys soccer teams, and also runs soccer activities during the winter and summer.
While soccer is a year-round job for him, Garcia said he wanted to set an example for the children he mentors and found time to dedicate to the council.
“I’ve lived here my whole life and I’m proud of it,” he said.
City Manager Linda Hall shared some warm words about Garcia.
“If you are not familiar with Mr. Garcia, at least by name, you’ve evidently been living underneath a rock for the last several years,” she said. “He’s a renowned soccer coach and a great leader of young men, in my opinion.”
Despite Hispanics and Latinos comprising nearly half of Milton-Freewater’s population, the council was entirely made up of white men prior to Garcia’s appointment.
Councilor Steve Irving said Garcia would fill an important role on the council.
“We need that outreach and connection,” he said.
The council had made establishing a Hispanic advisory committee or liaison a goal, but with Garcia’s appointment, Hall said that goal was now met.
Hall said Garcia would be sworn in at the council’s July 9 meeting. His term will run through 2020.