Community Development Remembers Mayor Gunter

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News Date: 
July 3, 2020
Mayor Gunter helps break ground at Moongate Plaza

Mayor Joe Gunter embodied great leadership especially needed during these turbulent times. Mayor Joe, as he is affectionately called, always cared for others, maintained a consistent moral center while allowing his views to evolve, told it like it is, and always put Salinas first. Our department was fortunate to work closely with the Mayor and because of his involvement was able to advance many critical projects. For example, the Mayor advocated for more robust code enforcement, pushed for continued improvements to permitting and customer service, advocated for small business support, shepherded the West Area Specific Plan through the entitlement process, and was one of our best promoters for the Census.

Perhaps his most enduring legacy is his advocacy for all Salinas residents even the most vulnerable amongst us and his unyielding support for sensible housing policy and affordable housing.  The Mayor was instrumental in gaining support and funding for the Economic Development Element, Alisal Vibrancy Plan, Chinatown Revitalization Plan, and regional Farmworker Housing Study. As the Chair of the Housing and Land Use Committee, he guided the City’s investment in the Haciendas development (191 units of family and senior housing) and Moongate Plaza (88 units of permanent supportive housing). The Mayor also was a champion for those experiencing homelessness. As Mayor and a member of the Leadership Council for the Continuum of Care, he advocated alongside Supervisor Alejo for a permanent, 24-hour shelter with wrap-around services for our homeless residents which is now under construction. He also promoted the development of the Chinatown Navigation Center and Downtown Streets Team based on best practices from other communities. He appointed a Small Business and Economic Recovery Taskforce to assist businesses safely re-open and recover from mandatory closures due to the coronavirus. 

Although no words are adequate to express our condolences to the family, friends, and community for the loss of this great man, we know that generations of Salinas residents will benefit from his legacy.

The Mayor was always supportive of Community Development Staff and was close to many in the Department who honor him in their own words below:

“Joe has been in my life since I was approximately 10 years old, as he was my softball coach. While he was a Detective for the SPD, he was part of the committee for the City Employee Recognition Dinners, handling all the BBQ coordination. Joe always helped in every way being a true city employee team leader. As the Mayor, he was always involved in every aspect of this community.  He was a true leader, mentor, confidant, and friend. We were lucky to have Joe Gunter in our lives and community and he is greatly missed.” – Kristy Parker

“The City of Salinas has lost an exceptional man.  Our thoughts, prayers, and sincere condolences go out to Mayor Gunter’s family and friends. He will always live in our hearts.” - Ana & Araceli Jacinto

“The Mayor was always available to do something related to the 2020 Census, and he even mentioned it at an unrelated meeting, and emphasized its importance. I also remember the last time I saw him was while he was recording a PSA for the 2020 Census for the Beach and KWave radio stations.” – Adam Garrett

“At my very first meeting with Mayor Gunter, I sat quietly while my bosses took the lead. When they were done talking he looked at me and said, “What do you think?” He really had a way of making people feel seen. Every time residents spoke at City Council he made sure they knew how much he valued their input. Our community has lost a champion and a great leader.”– Monica Gurmilan

“Mayor Gunter always had an open door and open heart for everyone.  Just knowing him and seeing how he lived his life with so much integrity, honor and selflessness. We all should learn from him and never forget him. God Speed.” – John Falkenberg