What are some of the things you would like to accomplish if elected?
My long-term mission is to effectively collaborate with the residents and elected officials of Desoto to ensure a safer, healthier, more attractive, and prosperous tomorrow for our city. As a young African American man, it is my civic duty to fully participate in the matters that affect our city. I want to utilize my profound people’s skill to unite our city for the betterment of all residents. Identifying the challenges in our city is not enough, I aspire to be part of the solution and be a vehicle for the changes we desire to witness.
I will work tirelessly to ensure our city adopts an effective and sustainable development plan that will successfully entertain Desoto’s growth. I will advocate for environmentally conscious ambitious developmental plans that are progressive in nature. Our residents should be an integral part of the process as stakeholders, and I will make opportunities available for their participation.
In the next two years, one of my primary focuses will be in bridging the gap between the community and the law enforcement. I will accomplish this by establishing robust community policing that will address most issues before the need for 911 is initiated. In addition, I will bring back our youth Explorer program that allows for young residents between ages of 12 – 17 to work hand in hand with our police department. Additionally, I will create effective collaboration with the department to hold community engagement events that will foster and cultivate healthy relationships between the groups.
Understanding that our residents are the most important part of our community and aligning our actions to that acknowledgment, I will start my tenure with a small but important gesture in accordance with that fact. I will propose an adjustment to the current order of the agenda at the city council meetings. Moving the community awards to highlight residents and announcements to inform them right before executive session to encourage their participation in the totality of the meeting which in turn will bridge the gap between elected officials and their constituents. Attendance will trend in the positive direction as the gaps get narrower.
It is no secret that small businesses are pillars of our community as their contribution ranges from economic prosperity to elevating the overall well-being of a society. I will put plans in place to assist the growth of small businesses in our city. I will create a conducive environment for existing businesses to flourish and allow for conditions to attract more strong small businesses to our city. I will collaborate with owners to create programs for our Desoto ISD students to allow them to be educated about business ownership and function.
What made you want to run for this office?
A wise man once said “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” As I listened to these words it resonated with me and lit a fire under my feet to not talk about the change needed, but to run towards it. I decided to run for Desoto City Council for many reasons, but one of the main is to ReUnite us. There are so many challenges that our city is faced with today, and so many groups working against each other. If we could all just come together at one table, with one mission, one agenda, and ReUnite we could get towards our tomorrow, today. Desoto, we must ReUnite, but to do so we need U!
What are some of the most important qualities that a city council member should have?
Accountability and Transparency
Simply put, it’s the golden rule we were all taught- Teach people the way you want to be treated. While I am not an elected official, I desire to be told the truth and the truth to be broken down for me to understand. I desire to be able to ask questions when I have them. Transparency and accountability go hand in hand. If either is lacking, the people of Desoto are affected the most. Elected officials must understand that we, the people, have entrusted them to be our light in the dark. They enter doors that we don’t. Therefore, when the door shuts behind them, we need to feel like we were present too. As residents of Desoto, we want to be seen, our voices heard, and our city thriving. because if they are we know we will get the information, reasoning, and our voices will be heard. Remain available and vocal.
What are some of the ways you are involved in the community?
Acts of service is a value that has been instilled in me since a very young age. In addition, the satisfaction from fulfilling my social responsibility and giving back to my community is second to none. I started my service in the church where I was part of all programs that are committed to serving our community. As a teenage young man, I was also part of the explorer program with a police department learning to be a productive member of our society.
Below is a partial list of my civic community engagements for the last five years.
2021-Current: I have been the only owner on the HOA board of a new development (Summit Park II) in Desoto. I am committed to serving my current and future neighbors by staying engaged and effectively communicating with them to address concerns and find viable solutions. I am a firm believer that cultivating our young people is the number one priority if we desire a better tomorrow. When I am elected as a city council member, I will make youth enrichment and engagement one of my priorities. Some of my civic engagements are reflections of that belief. 2018-2020: I mentored the youth in the Dallas Big Brothers Big Sisters program providing guidance. 2018-Current: I have been working with juniors and seniors at the Boys & Girls Club of DFW to add to their skill set and become better young adults. 2020-Current: Teaching single mothers and senior students the importance of credit and providing free credit repair. Finally, 2022- Current: Educating via webinars interested individuals how to invest in land/properties through Tax Deed Auctions in the state of Texas.
Discuss your top three priorities.
School Board-To maintain the momentum, I will collaborate with Superintendent Rodgers to build on the great strides she is achieving. Identifying and admitting the existence of a problem is the first step into providing the most appropriate solution. I would be remiss if I do not address the elephant in the room: the safety of our ISD students, shortage of security officers, reliable student transportation, and outside threats.
I will attend school board meetings and build relationships with the school board to foster a healthy working collaboration. If methodically approached, all problems are easier to handle. Elected officials must be transparent, hold themselves accountable, and conduct themselves with utmost integrity. My campaign values are designed to address such challenges presented in this question.
Communication/Transparency- Ensuring that the staff, elected officials, and residents of Desoto are all on the same page. I want to encourage our residents that their voice does matter, and there is no such thing as a “bad” question. I want everyone to feel informed, understood, and involved every time they leave a city meeting, every time something is presented to them or council, and anytime they voice their opinions or questions.
Development/Developers- Our great city is on the move, and I want to ensure that we are working with the best developers and that we are working with a fair share of minority developers as well. I also want to ensure that we are not just brining any and every piece of development into our city, but vetting through each project and informing the residents of the why we need such development and why we chose the developer.
I bring a strong background in development projects as I have led commercial and multi-family projects for many years across our nation from coast to coast, Seattle to New Jersey. I believe such projects are some of the major items that our city needs and is attempting to attract. My deep understanding of this specific business combined with my leadership and communication skills will allow me to wisely negotiate on behalf of our city. I will be the bridge between the developers, the city staff, our residents, and the council members. I can play a key role in understanding the various options available and making better and informed decisions for our city.
I have a track record of distinguished problem-solving acumen that I have been recognized for and awarded by fortune 500 company, Lennar, the number one single and multi-family home builder in the country. I tend to think outside the box to identify Innovative approaches to problem solving. I will utilize all resources at my disposal to provide creative solutions to all challenges facing our city.
How long have you lived in the city and what experience do you bring to the role that you feel sets you apart from your opponent?
My family and I chose to build our home in Desoto in 2019, and completely moved in 2020. Desoto and conduct myself with utmost professionalism: All residents of Desoto will have full access to my office, and I will eliminate all obstacles and red tapes that hinder this open-door policy. I will utilize creative ways to collect feedback from the public and stay always engaged.
I would like to congratulate my opponents for deciding to serve our community in this capacity. I encourage more participation in the affairs of our city in various capacities. I stand out as a candidate for many reasons, some covered in the answer given to the previous questions.
To name a few of my promises: my messages are clear, my office will adhere to open door policy, I am accessible, I will hold myself to the highest standards, I will be completely transparent, I will collaborate with all stakeholders, and I will carry myself with integrity. Here are some of my promises to Place 2.
a. I Promise to facilitate and foster effective, inclusive, transparent public information and engagement: The residents of Desoto deserve to be fully included in the affairs of their city. I will use verbal and written materials via all appropriate communication platforms to communicate and connect with the people I am elected to serve. Effective, two way and closed loop communication will be an integral part of my office. Residents of Desoto will not only learn from me all new planned developmental projects and business initiatives, but their input will be considered when considering exploring such opportunities.
b. I promise to be consciously responsive, hold myself accountable to the residents of Desoto and conduct myself with utmost professionalism: All residents of Desoto will have full access to my office, and I will eliminate all obstacles and red tapes that hinder this open-door policy. I will utilize creative ways to collect feedback from the public and stay always engaged.
c. I Promise to provide guaranteed exceptional service to the residents of Desoto by securing wins in deals. I will negotiate on behalf of my residents to secure the best possible deals on all transactions. I will utilize my negotiating and persuasive acumen to win for our city.
d. I promise to think outside the box to identify Innovative approaches to problem solving I will utilize all resources at my disposal to provide creative solutions.
When making decisions, how do you determine what is in the best interest of the city?
Communication! I intend to overly communicate with the residents of Desoto and allow them to give their input. I will communicate the “why”, the “what”, and the “when”- which will allow all use better insight on the direction of the city. This practice will continue throughout my tenure if I can win your vote this election.
Please describe how you would react to a situation in which the Council voted 4-3 to approve a very contestable issue and you were on the dissenting side.
I would have already expressed my reasoning for my vote, but I would reiterate to my fellow council members the reasoning behind my decision. I would ensure that I communicate what this means for the city and ask my fellow council members to express their reasoning to agree to such contestable issue. Life isn’t about always agreeing- it is more about how you respond in disagreement! The City Council represents the entire city, and we need to ensure when we are casting our vote as a City Council member- we remember that vote is more than just our voice.
If you could change one thing in our zoning code, what would it be and why?
I would implement a process that would review the needs of the city every so often- to ensure that current zoning codes are what our city is needing. Currently, we have several developers, owners, and companies submitting for deviations due to our zoning codes not being updated- even though our residents and staff are encouraging such businesses. It is important that we review and audit the current zoning of each parcel in our city.
How do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process in our town?
My conversations with various stakeholders including Desoto city manager, council members, and residents revealed that one of the main challenges to the function of our city is communication. Fortunately, communication is one of my strongest soft skills and I will utilize it to facilitate the flow of information between residents, council members, and the staff. I will facilitate and foster effective, inclusive, transparent public information and engagement. The residents of Desoto deserve to be fully included in the affairs of their city.
I will use verbal and written materials via all appropriate communication platforms to communicate and connect with the people I am elected to serve. Effective, two way and closed loop communication will be an integral part of my office. Residents of Desoto will learn firsthand from me all new planned developmental projects and business initiatives and their input will be considered when exploring such opportunities. I will be consciously responsive, hold myself accountable to the residents of Desoto and conduct myself with utmost professionalism: All residents of Desoto will have full access to my office, and I will eliminate all obstacles and red tapes that hinder this open-door policy. I will utilize creative ways to collect feedback from the public and stay always engaged.
What would you do to improve communication between city officials and the public?
Tentatively, I will be holding monthly hybrid (in person and/or virtual) community engagement meetings to update residents on current ongoing city businesses, inform them about important dates and upcoming events, and most importantly to allow a flow of information [questions, concerns, input, comments] from the residents to elected officials.
All my actions are designed to encourage residents to fully participate in the affairs of our city to bring about changes in the right direction. I will create a conducive environment where residents could speak up when something is not clear, or they do not understand it and an environment where officials make it their duty to explain each item until needed. I am reminded of one African proverb called Ubuntu that says, “I am a person through other people, my humanity is tied to yours”. In my understanding, it means I must be at my best for my neighbor to be at his/her best and vise-versa. If my community engagements are attracting attendance from other Place areas, it will be an honor as that is a testament to the work, we are doing at Place 2. We/I want our Place to be a role model that all other areas are trying to imitate [imitation is the highest form of flattery]. I am the biggest proponent of collaboration and information exchange at every level to raise the bottom line in a coordinated manner. I want to make it known that all elected officials are to serve the entire city.
Have you ever changed your mind on an issue after hearing the arguments of the opposing side? If so, what was the issue and why did you change your stance?
Yes, it is important to hear all sides of an argument to make a logical decision. I was against our company developing in a gentrified area because I disagreed with building luxury apartments in an area where the neighbors couldn’t afford to live there. I was afraid of the neighbors potentially losing their homes, due to property taxes. However, after I heard from our company’s land directors, they shared that we would be making this project 45% low income, providing a safe zone for students after school and so much more. I immediately changed my mind, and this project was built in Chicago in 2018 and to this day has assisted over 5,000 students to graduate.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Desoto, thank you! Thank you for this amazing opportunity and I believe together there is nothing we can’t do. I ask that you cast your vote for change and vote Gilbert Graim Desoto City Council.