Luis Del Toro
City Council: 2015
Photo Credit: Elite Images
Elected office held and how long in that office: I was elected in 2015 and will be up for re-election again this November in 2019. I’m hoping to earn a 2nd term on council representing the city of Dubuque.
Why did you run for office? I ran for office back in 2015 because I felt our city was headed in the wrong direction and not addressing the pressing needs of our community. Our community was experiencing a rise in shots fired cases, our city debt was exploding and nearing the debt utilizing ceiling and citizens voices were just not being heard any longer. I wanted to change that and bring our citizens voice back to the council table and ensure that we were addressing the needs of our community while securing a future for our children that did not involve carrying a burdensome debt load nor continued to put strain on our elderly and retired members of our community to keep up with continued rising city rates and taxes.
Was your Latino heritage an asset or a detriment to your campaign? I didn’t play a role either way in my election bid. Heritage or race never a part of my campaign as it solely focused on the issues and the needs of our community and who best could address them. I knew I would become one of the first Latino councilmembers of our great city of Dubuque but that was never a factor nor motivation in running. It was 100% about wanting to be the voice of our citizens who for too long, had seen their voices ignored.
What advice would you have for an aspiring Latino elected official? Be true to who you are. Don’t buy into special interests group influencing efforts and remain independent in your thinking and decision making. In a world of political extremes, we’ve lost sight of the fine art of compromise and seeking out solutions that are in everyone’s best interest….not just a select few or group. If you take the time to stay engaged in your communities, positive change can occur. At the end of the day, its not about what race or heritage you are but rather what your vision is for the community you live in that will make all the difference. Iowa is a state where being personable matters. You need to be willing to put in the work and get out and meet with constituents face to face and most importantly, care enough to listen to their concerns if you aspire to be an elected official.
What do you enjoy most about serving in elected office? I enjoy representing our citizens and being part of the progress our city continues to make. There is no greater feeling than knowing you have helped a family or community member.
What surprised you most about being an elected official? I was surprised with how restricted council members are in deliberating matters outside of the council table. At times, it’s difficult to be a solitary voice on some issues but still need to find the inner courage to push forward and to try to convince others to see your perspective within only a brief 5-10 minutes discussion at the council table prior to voting. I to this day still feel for citizens when we were unable to help them with their concerns despite feeling it was the right thing to do only to have a lack of majority council members feel the same way. It’s difficult to weigh the voice of your constituents with the voice of the overall community at times on certain matters, especially when you get to know so many constituents personally. I always try to walk in their shoes and understand the perspectives of all involved. No vote is an easy vote and some votes stick with you emotionally longer than others.
What do you hope to achieve in office or what were you most proud of accomplishing? One of the proudest achievements was being able to have an overdue and needed change to our public input process advocated for and changed. Previously members of our community could only speak before council at the end of the meetings and they could not speak to any action items that had been on our agenda that evening. I advocated for a change that would allow citizens to not only speak earlier during our meetings but also that we eliminate restrictions on what topics they could speak on behalf of. It took 6 months into office but that change occurred and I felt like that started to make our community feel more included in our city government decisions. We needed to restore trust within our community in city government and this was a much needed step in in the right direction in doing so. It was very important to me that we restored that trust that had been fading in prior years.
What is your favorite thing about the community you serve? It’s hands down the citizens of this great city of Dubuque. This is a hard working community, an award winning community with a lot of history and pride. This community is amazing and though we may have some challenges to address, everyone is always willing to support worthy causes and to help their fellow citizens when there are times of need. Even when differences may exist, this community always finds a way to come together. As a city, we’re open about challenges we face and yes we have some work to do in some areas, like any other community does, but we continue to see public and private partnerships work together to make our community one of choice that families like my own, proudly call home.