Armendarez Starting With 4 Experienced Figures As He Fleshes Out Second District Supervisorial Office Team

Less than a month after Jesse Armendarez’s November 8 electoral victory over Luis Cetina in the race to fill the Second District supervisorial position for the coming four years, a few details have emerged about how he will staff his office.
Of major note is that reports are Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren is to have a prominent staff position in the Second District once Armendarez is sworn into office in January.
In addition, Neil Derry, who served as Third District supervisor for four years until he left office a decade ago, is to come in and guide, for six months or thereabouts, Armendarez’s assumption of the Second District reins from outgoing Supervisor Janice Rutherford.
Armendarez appears determined, at least initially, to rely upon old hands in taking on the supervisor’s role, ones who have considerable governmental experience, notably in elected roles.Moreover, beyond the higher profile show horses of Warren and Derry, he has reached out to two work horses with experience within governmental operations. Cindy Dalton, who has extensive nuts and bolts experience with the rudimentary of governmental paperwork and documentation, is one of those and Naseem Farooqi, a journeyman middle managerial functionary within local government, including at the county, is the other that has been identified thus far.
So, while it appears that Armendarez will move on from the staff that Rutherford employed during her 12 years in county office, he so far has not committed to hiring anyone who does not have extensive experience or a proven track record in local governmental operations.
“I’ve been in close contact with the county administrative office,” Armendarez said. “We will have a well-experienced staff to immediately begin working to bring proven solutions towards the issues impacting our communities.”
Armendarez’s intended hiring of Warren in January is by no means surprising and is understandable on multiple levels. Warren can be considered Armendarez’s political mentor. Quite possibly, he would not have arrived at his current position without her intercession some eight years ago, followed by another key boost six years ago.
A real estate professional both based and living in Fontana and a successful one at that, Armendarez more than a decade ago demonstrated a willingness to put up his own money in backing local political candidates. As a businessman in Fontana, that meant Armendarez gravitated toward Warren, who had been in office since 2002, when she was appointed to replace Mark Nuami on the city council when he had been elected mayor midway in his second term on the council. In 2004, Warren was elected to the council in her own right and reelected in 2008. In 2010, she successfully vied for mayor and would go on to be reelected in 2014, 2018 and again last month. Warren, who is San Bernardino County’s most prominent African American Republican officeholder, has long advocated the sort of aggressive economic development policies that Armendarez as a real estate professional espouses. He early on was counted among Warren’s many generous donors.
Warren’s political reach extends virtually everywhere in Fontana, including the school board. In 2014, there was a perfect marriage between her desire to control or at least maintain a degree of influence over that panel and Armendarez’s growing political interest. She supported him in a run for the school board. Her guidance and support and Armendarez’s willingness to utilize his own personal wealth to fuel his campaign proved a winning combination.
In 2016, Warren’s determination to prevent her two rivals on the city council, Councilman Jesse Sandoval and Councilwoman Lydia Salazar-Wibert, from establishing an effective bulwark against her domination of the council created once more an opportunity for Armendarez to advance. Again with Warren’s guidance and the application his own money, Armendarez launched himself another couple of rungs up the political ladder by defeating Salazar-Wibert in that year’s city council election. For the next four years, Armendarez was a solid member of the ruling coalition on the Fontana City Council Warren controlled.
In 2020, Armendarez reached for the brass ring when he ran for Fifth District Supervisor, but it eluded his grasp. He finished in second place in the March 2020 primary, qualifying for the run-off against then-Rialto City Councilman Joe Baca Jr in the November election. Thus, Armendarez was not able to run for reelection to the Fontana City Council in November 2020, as he was engaged in a political slugfest with Baca. Ultimately, Baca, a Democrat, prevailed in that contest, as Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 5-to-2 in the Fifth Supervisorial District, which at that time stretched from mid-San Bernardino in the east through all of Muscoy, all of Colton, all of Bloomingon, all of Rialto and more than a third of Fontana in the west.
In 2021, however, the county’s electoral map was redrawn in correspondence to the 2020 Census, and all of Fontana, including Armendarez’s neighborhood, was placed into the Second Supervisorial District. This gave Armendarez a rare opportunity to run for the board of supervisors twice in two years. He did so, placing second among five candidates in the June primary and then engaging in a hard-fought campaign against Luis Cetina in the fall campaign. Though Cetina had bettered Armendarez by roughly three percentage points in June, Armendarez outhustled and outlasted him in November, prevailing with 48,025 votes or 53.63 percent to Cetina’s 41,516 or 46.37 percent.
Aside from the political connection between Armendarez and Warren, the institutional knowledge that Warren brings to the table will be of value to the Second District, Armendarez believes. Warren, in addition to leading Fontana since 2010 and being on the council since 2002, has lived in Fontana since 1992, a year after she went to work in the City of Upland. Warren was an employee in the City of Gracious Living for 25 years, retiring as the assistant public works director there in 2016.
There is precedent for a member of the board of supervisors employing a former city council colleague as a member of his staff. Such was the case when Fourth District Supervisor Curt Hagman hired Ed Graham as a field representative and a policy advisor. Hagman and Graham were members of the Chino Hills City Council in the early 2000s, prior to Hagman’s election to the California Assembly, which he left in 2014 upon being termed out, whereupon he successfully vied for the board of supervisors.
Derry was a member of the San Bernardino City Council when he successfully vied for Third District supervisor in 2008, defeating incumbent Supervisor Dennis Hansberger. He remained on the board of supervisors for one term, and was displaced by James Ramos in the 2012 election.
On Tuesday, the board of supervisors is to consider a six-month contract with Derry “to provide support services to the newly elected Second District Supervisor as a director of transition, effective November 28, 2022, through May 28, 2023, for an estimated cost of $89,205 [at a] salary [of] $55,079, [with] benefits [of] $34,126,” according to the board agenda. The documentation accompanying the agenda item pertaining to Derry’s hiring states, “Contractor shall be employed as a director of transition for the newly elected Second District supervisor of San Bernardino County. Contractor shall have the following duties: A. Principal assistant and advisor to the supervisor on legislative, policy, and regional district issues; B. Provides overall direction and coordination of district staff; C. Such other duties as may be assigned by the appointing authority, or designee.”
Cindy Dalton, who has for some time worked in an executive secretarial capacity under Chief Executive Officer Leonard Hernandez, is transferring to the Second District’s office to head the secretarial and clerical staff there. According to the item pertaining to Dalton that will go before the board of supervisors on Tuesday, December 6, the supervisors will consider an “employment contract with Cindy Dalton to provide support services to the newly elected Second District supervisor as an executive secretary, effective November 28, 2022, for an estimated annual cost of $152,203 [with a] salary [of] $81,078 [and] benefits of $71,125. Contractor shall have the following duties: A. Provides general administrative support to the supervisor and executive staff; B. Relieves the supervisor of administrative detail; C. Manages the supervisor’s appointment calendar; D. Manages clerical and secretarial support functions for the office; E. Such other duties as may be assigned by the Second District supervisor.”
Word is that in January, at the same time that Warren will be brought in as an Armendarez staff member, so too will Naseem Farooqi, to whom the Armendarez campaign turned as campaign manager after Armendarez finished in second in the June Primary.
Farooqi, who has worked in the private sector, was most recently employed in government as the director of public and legislative affairs with the West Valley Water District.
According to Linked-In, Farooqi worked for former San Bernardino County Fourth District Supervisor Gary Ovitt as policy analyst. He has been involved in a number of political campaigns, including managing those of Ontario Mayor Paul Leon. Farooqi has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal State San Bernardino and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of La Verne.
Armendarez told the Sentinel, “It’s clear our residents want proven leadership to make our neighborhoods safer and address the homeless crisis. I look forward to working collaboratively with my colleagues on the board of supervisors, public safety leaders and community groups. I am humbled by the support for our grassroots campaign.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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