Acquanetta Warren

Josh Dulaney, Staff Writer
Created: 11/03/2010 06:44:18 PM PDT

FONTANA – She’s a history maker.

Councilwoman Acquanetta Warren became the first black mayor and the first female mayor of this city, with a blowout victory over five opponents on Tuesday. Warren took 54.72 percent of the vote.

Her closest competitor in a turnout that saw 21,870 ballots cast for mayor was Bobbi Jo Chavarria, who earned 13.98 percent of the vote.

Warren fielded congratulatory phone calls and e-mails from friends and family throughout the county and country on Wednesday.

“Can you believe this?” Warren said. “This is really something.”

With campaign signs still standing in front of her Village of Heritage home, and neighbors stopping by to wish her well as the city’s next mayor, Warren reflected briefly on life lessons handed down by her late father, before she looked ahead to the various challenges facing the city.

“My mother and father are from Birmingham, Ala.,” she said. “They came out here with nothing. Every day he told me nobody can stop you from what your dreams can be, and I’ve lived that my whole life.”

The City Council in 2002 appointed Warren to the dais. Voters elected her in 2004 and then again in 2008.

Warren, who is deputy director of public works in Upland, served as co-chairwoman of the city’s General Plan Advisory Committee and chairwoman of the Village of Heritage Development Landscape Committee, prior to her appointment to the council.

Before she came to Fontana in 1993, Warren gained experience working for Los Angeles 8th District Councilman Robert Farrell, and in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office as a member of the Youth Advisory Board.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science/urban studies from Occidental College.

Warren fought a tough campaign in which she took on challengers who called her a racist for supporting Arizona’s immigration laws and a pro-developer politician who disregards the city’s poorer residents.

Warren saw a bit of irony in the accusations, as Fontana for decades was branded a broke town and a hotbed for the Ku Klux Klan.

“A lady called me this morning and said, ‘I never thought I would live to see this day,’ that not only an African-American, but a woman would be mayor,” Warren said.

Warren also applauded Councilwoman Janice Rutherford’s victory over 2nd District Supervisor Paul Biane, noting that Rutherford joins 5th District Supervisor Josie Gonzales, a former Fontana councilwoman.

“What does that say about Fontana?” Warren said. “The days of the backwoods are over.”

Warren’s victory combined with Rutherford’s win means the council will need to either hold an election or appoint two vacant council seats.

In all likelihood, the newly shaped council – which includes veteran John Roberts and newcomer Michael Tahan, who each stormed to victory on Tuesday night – will choose to begin the appointment process shortly after they are sworn in on Dec. 8.

Warren said the process will be open and fair as the city’s leaders seek to build on the accomplishments of the council over the past decade.

“I’m going to outreach throughout the city and listen to people and their concerns,” she said. “But at the end of the day, after all the campaigning I did, I have a clear charge from the citizens of Fontana to move forward.”

Warren said a big part of moving forward will be pushing through the Duncan Canyon Road interchange, a gateway project along the 15 Freeway that she says will bring businesses and jobs to the city.

Public safety is a top priority for Warren, who said needed projects include the Police Department’s building expansion and Fire Station 71.

She also said modernizing Valley Boulevard will be key.

“That’s going to be a major priority for me,” Warren said. “It’s going to take some years, but we’re going to get there.”

Warren will follow Frank Scialdone, who is stepping down after taking over the mayor’s office from Mark Nuaimi, who left earlier this year to become town manager of Yucca Valley.

The council appointed Scialdone, the city’s former police chief, who at the time was a councilman, to fill Nuaimi’s spot.

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