MILTON-FREEWATER — Sworn in Monday night, Jose Garcia is the newest member of the Milton-Freewater City Council. He also is Milton-Freewater’s first Latino member on the board.
Garcia, 57, said he applied as soon as he heard about the opening. The 40-year resident has been wanting to do something like this for a few years, but now he said he has the time and courage to do it.
He fills the Ward 3 position vacated by the departure of Jeff Anliker, who resigned in March citing health reasons. Garcia, voted in by the board in June, will serve on the Council through 2020.
Milton-Freewater City Manager Linda Hall confirmed that Garcia’s appointment represents the first time a Latino has been on the City Council, to her knowledge, and the City Council will decide whether the appointment meets its stated goal to establish a Hispanic advisory group or liaison for the community.
Milton-Freewater has a Latino population of nearly 50 percent, Hall said, citing the 2010 census.
Garcia said he first wants to learn how everything with the Council works, and he wants to make an impact on the city, though it is too early for him to say exactly what that might be.
“I want to learn as much as I can,” he said.
Garcia is a lead custodian in the Unified Milton-Freewater School District, and he coaches soccer at McLoughlin High School, Central Middle School and year-round for kids ages 5 and up.
Garcia, born in Mexico, said he left his family around the age of 16.
“I ran away from home and ended up in this beautiful town in the winter,” he said.
Upon arrival, Garcia began working in agriculture, pruning trees and picking apples. He said he worked diligently to earn promotions, a principle he still holds today. Garcia said he tries to work toward self-improvement, and he welcomes challenges.