GUSD board president in council run
Fred Tovar, a first-time Gilroy City Council candidate and current president of the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education, says he seeks to bring a spirit of inclusion to the city’s legislative body.
“My biggest asset is I collaborate with people—no matter what end of the spectrum they are on. I want to ensure everyone is part of the process, whether it’s about land use or transportation. It can be a long process, but we owe it to the members of our community to make sure everyone is involved,” said Tovar, during an interview in downtown Gilroy on Aug. 20.
“We may not agree, but we can work together to get to a decision we are both happy with. I love to talk things through with everybody.”
Tovar said he’s not one to make “rubberstamp” decisions. During his eight years on the school board, he’s pushed for more discussion during meetings and further inquiry.
“I’m not a micromanager and I believe in the talent we have, but if I have questions about something in our packet, I will go straight to the source and ask.”
It was during his tenure on the board that saw the updating of aging facilities, new school construction, the successful passage of two school bond measures and inclusion of prestige programs like the Biomedical Science Academy at Gilroy High School and K-12 Spanish Dual Immersion Program.
While talking to Tovar, the phrase “raising the bar” came up repeatedly. During his time on the school board, Tovar said he championed policies that pushed students and the district to do better.
Born and raised in San Jose, Tovar moved with his wife, Patricia, and their two kids, Jordan and Ciarra, now 21 and 18 respectively, to Gilroy 10 years ago to be closer to his parents, Teresa and Carlos Tovar.
Tovar has worked at the Stanford University School of Medicine for the last 15 years and is currently the director of student affairs and assistant director of admissions for the Stanford University School of Medicine Primary Care Associate Program.
In this dual role, he supports students as they make their way through school and reaches out to prospective students, including those from underrepresented communities in rural areas like El Centro, Bakersfield and Salinas.
“I want to build collaborations with counselors, different school administrators, but I also want to expose kids to the idea that they too can go to Stanford,” said Tovar, who each year invites a group of 30 to 40 Gilroy students to the university campus.
Does his homework
“Fred is a straight shooter,” said GUSD board trustee Mark Good, at Tovar’s campaign kick-off event last week at The Golden Goddess, a new spray tan salon in downtown Gilroy owned by his niece, Alexis Tovar. Tovar’s City Council candidacy has been endorsed by the entire GUSD board. “What he says in public, he says in private also.”
Good, who is running for re-election to the board in November, called Tovar a “hard-worker” who listened and used good judgment.
“There is a lot of reading and research that goes on when you are sitting on a board or city council, and you have to do it competently, which he does,” said Good. “He always does his homework, talks to people and then votes for what he thinks is right.”
‘We can do this’
Over DJ music at the salon, Tovar’s campaign manager, Art Barron, offers the lowdown on the next couple months.
“This is going to be a grassroots campaign,” he said. “We’ll have volunteers getting out the vote, registering new voters, knocking on doors, fundraising.”
Barron, who helped Tovar with his first successful run for the school board in 2008, said they also plan on holding a number of events or speaking engagements so the larger Gilroy community can learn more about Tovar, who has already received endorsements from Mayor Perry Woodward, Councilmember Peter Leroe-Muñoz, and Rebeca Armendariz, a city planning commissioner and founding member of the Community Agency for Resources, Advocacy and Services, which this year presented Tovar with a Community Champion Award.
“Fred is for smart growth and is a big supporter of our downtown businesses,” said Barron. “He wants to work with all small businesses and help new ones get started.
“He will be the voice of the community,” Barron added.