DOWNEY - With more than 100 community leaders, city officials, and residents looking on, Councilman Fernando Vasquez was sworn-in as the 46th mayor of Downey on Tuesday night.
The 34-year-old councilman, who was elected in 2010, was administered the oath of office by his fiancÃ© Donna Noushkam.
Echoing themes of economic growth, quality of life, and community engagement, Vasquez reaffirmed the city's commitment to the Healthy Downey initiative by introducing an array of new 2014 community events, including a "Tour de Downey" bicycle race.
"Folks, we're going to have a big Downey bike day with a 30-mile route for experienced cyclists and a five-mile route for those who want something smaller," he said. "But we want to promote active living and encourage people to spend time in Downtown Downey."
Vasquez said he will also advocate a bicycle-sharing program modeled after a similar system in Denver. The program will allow users to pick up and drop off bicycles as often as they like at designated stations throughout the downtown area using their credit cards as currency.
The incoming mayor also said he hopes to host a FIFA World Cup viewing party for the community on June 22 when the United States soccer team faces Portugal.
"Soccer is very popular in our community -- and I see a lot of communities come together for these games," he said. "We're very fortunate that the U.S. plays Portugal on a Saturday at noon."
Vasquez's other community-building events include an international food festival, highlighting Downey's strong Mexican, Cuban, Greek, Lebanese, Argentine and Brazilian communities, summer sunset rooftop events, such as movie screenings, and a music and arts festival.
"We want to rebrand the city as a regional hub for arts and culture. There's been a huge push for the arts, it's one of the city's strengths," Vasquez said. "Cities like Long Beach and Santa Monica are known for their arts communities, but in Downey, we have a lot of talent. We need to support them."
In addition to the new events, Vasquez said he plans to hand out Mayor's Healthy Heart awards to local hospitals, nursing facilities, doctors, coaches, teachers, and trainers who are making a difference in the community.
Vasquez also pledged to embrace new technologies such as solar power on public facilities, online water bill payment options, and social media for means of community engagement.
"Managing city funds responsibly, business and economic growth, running city operations smoothly, maintaining a high quality of life, and engaging our citizens...anything proposed [by the council] has to meet these priorities," said Vasquez. "We will continue to have a balanced budget and a healthy reserve so we can weather any storm in the future."
Citing it as a quality of service issue, Vasquez also strongly reaffirmed his commitment to maintain the Downey Fire Department.
Before Vasquez's swearing-in ceremony, outgoing mayor Mario Guerra gave a final address, highlighting the accomplishments of the Healthy Downey initiative, which motivated him to lose 84 pounds over the course of 2013.
During his tenure, Guerra facilitated Walking Wednesdays, Walk to School Day, National Night Out, and Dia De Los Muertos, which was attended by 4,000 people.
In 2013, Downey became an All-America City and a sister city to Roscommon County, Ireland, the birthplace of the city's namesake Governor John Gately Downey.
Guerra also touted the groundbreaking ceremonies for The View apartment complex, the Downey Gateway food court, and the Promenade at Downey, which will create 1,500 permanent jobs once completed.
"I'm looking forward to working with Mayor Vasquez. When I leave, I do get a different office," Guerra said drawing laughs. "But we're in good hands -- Fernando has a great vision."
********** Published: Dec. 12, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 35