Tom Silva, the president of the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District (GJUESD), is seeking a spot on Galt City Council in the November general election, and he recently spoke to the Herald about his goals if elected.
Silva said he wants to prioritize transparency and accessibility; improved government budgeting; public safety; and homelessness, particularly aid to homeless veterans.
Also in the race for three council seats are Galt Vice Mayor Paul Sandhu; Galt Mayor Shawn Farmer; Galt City Council Member Rich Lozano; and Tim Reed, chair of the Galt Public Safety Committee.
Silva said that, as a retired member of the U.S. Army, he wants to join Council to support veterans.
“Currently, because we don’t have any active veterans organizations in Galt — we don’t have the VFW, we don’t have the American Legion — I don’t feel that the veterans of this community really have a voice that can advocate for them,” Silva said. “The main thing that motivated me to run is that I am the only one running that is a veteran, and if elected, I would be the only sitting council member who is a veteran. That mattered to me, and that’s why I chose to run.”
Silva served 33 years in the California National Guard, with 27 years on active duty. In 2006, he started a yearlong deployment to Iraq, where he worked as an operations noncommissioned officer. During the deployment, he was awarded the Bronze Star.
After retiring, Silva said he realized that “when you’re built to serve, there is no off switch.” This led him to get involved in his children’s education by serving on various district committees before being elected to the board of education. He has served as president for the past two years.
Silva said it has been “extremely challenging” for the board to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when state regulations limited local control of the response.
Silva said he is especially proud that GJUESD was one of the first districts in the county to restart in-person instruction because he “knew that learning from home was not the best condition for our students.”
If elected to Council, Silva said he wants to emphasize transparency and accessibility for constituents. He said he has appreciated hearing Galt residents’ thoughts and concerns since announcing his candidacy and said he has acted similarly on the school board.
“I was always willing to meet in person, on Zoom, on the phone, whatever it took so that people could express to me what their concerns were,” Silva said.
Silva said he wants to improve the city’s budget to ensure there is enough money for services, such as parks and recreation, and landscaping. He said he can bring to bear a background in business administration and accounting to solve budget issues.
“That’s part of what good governance does, is figure out solutions to problems like that, and for me that’s a strength because I have the ability to look at budgets, to study them, to see where there’s room within a budget to move revenues around in places that they need to be.”
Silva said he appreciates that voters will have a say on the 1-cent general sales tax that Council has voted to put on the ballot. He commended Council’s resolution that explains its intent to use the revenue for parks and rec, a “wise” move that he said would inform future council members’ choices.
Public safety will also figure on Silva’s agenda if he is elected. He said the issue of safety came to the forefront at the school district in May, with the Uvalde school shooting. The school board worked with Galt Police Department to decide whether to increase the number of school resource officers.
“During those conversations, it did seem that the chief himself had some concerns about not being a fully staffed, fully funded police force,” Silva said. “So again, that’s an issue that, as I dig deeper into the budget, I’m going to be asking those questions: Do we have enough? If not, where are we going to get the funds to make sure that we have the police force that this community deserves?”
A final area that Silva plans to address is homelessness, which he attributed to governmental policies, as well as to drug addiction, mental illness and economic difficulties. In particular, Silva called it a “tragedy” that there are veterans experiencing homelessness.
“I would fight to make sure that they (homeless veterans) are getting the services that they deserve,” Silva said.
In a follow-up email, Silva said he values veterans’ issues “because the debt of honor that we owe those who have served our country can never be marked ‘paid in full.’”
A native of Tracy, Silva first enlisted in the National Guard in the 118th Maintenance Company in Stockton and served on the same unit as former Galt High School teacher Tom Champion. He has 10 children and six grandchildren.
Silva also works full-time at his alma mater, University of the Pacific, and takes part in a cycling group with fellow members of Horizon Community Church. The group does a yearly charity ride along the California coast, traveling 360 miles over six days. He said the ride has raised money to dig water wells in Nicaragua and to build a bridge in the country of Lesotho so children could get to school.
Silva explained why Galt residents should vote for him for City Council.
“As I said before, I’m running because there’s no veterans on the City Council, so I think, if it matters to you that there should be a veteran on the City Council, then I should get your vote.”