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Community leader and former human resources manager Sondra Betancourt joined the race for City Council District 2 this week, ready to face a growing field of competitors including business leader and former City Councilman Rob Kerth and incumbent Sandy Sheedy.
Betancourt, a second-generation Sacramentan, said she remembers when the north area of the city was vibrant with many active businesses, churches, schools and neighborhood associations. It is something Betancourt said she would like to see revived not just in her district but throughout the city.
“I see the big picture for the city,” Betancourt, 59, said Monday. “We need to grow and be inviting to businesses, but it has to be smart growth. It has to be done in a way that benefits the whole city.”
Betancourt said that, in addition to encouraging smart growth for the city, her priorities on the City Council would include a focus on public safety and education.
“If we asked anyone in the city, ‘Do you feel safe to go for a walk outside your door?’ I don’t think people would unanimously say, “Oh yeah, I could do that,’ ” she said. “If people don’t feel safe in their city, why would they want to be here?”
Education opportunities for the city’s youth – especially raising literacy levels – is a vital component of a strong city, she added.
“There is so much talent in our community, and we should be encouraging that from an early age and developing it,” Betancourt said. “It starts with elevating the level of literacy in our schools.”
She commends the mayor for his Stand Up initiative, and said she hopes to support the effort and expand it – along with similar programs that benefit youth in the city – if she is elected to the City Council.
“I would never say (Sheedy) hasn’t had some accomplishments during her tenure,” Betancourt said, “but I think it serves the city to have fresh eyes on issues. I think it’s time to ask, ‘How can we make things better?’ ”
Betancourt brings to the race 38 years of experience with the State Personnel Board and the Department of Transportation – positions that required extensive knowledge of government organization and an eye for finding the right “fit” for any position, Betancourt said.
“I think I am a good judge of character,” Betancourt said, “and I know what it means to develop and implement policy.”
“She has the community in mind in everything she does,” Judy Kovanda, former Sacramento Community Service Officer, said Tuesday. “She has basically been a public servant her whole life, and she has fought hard to get things done in her neighborhood when elected officials have ignored the community.”
Kovanda a 16-year veteran of the Sacramento Police Department, has known Betancourt through her community work as president of the Ben Ali Neighborhood Association.
“The businesses in the area love her, and the residents love her,” Kovanda said. “She is dialed in to what is going on in the city, and what is important to her is simply what is important to the city in general, not just her community.”
Sheedy could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Betancourt will make her official candidacy announcement Wednesday and said she plans to begin fundraising immediately.
Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Pres. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.