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ON RUNNING FOR COUNCIL: STEVEN BILDERAIN
"Many can relate to me, my kids are their kids age, I have tattoos, I was one of them and on social media."
Note: Our interview with 1st District Council member Steven Bilderain is the first in a series of articles, “Running for Council”, demystifying the process of running for City Council. Council seats in districts 3, 4 and 5 are up for election in November 2022 with nomination papers due in mid-August. We will be publishing a "How to" on running for Council in May.
Combat veteran and City Council member Steven Bilderain served in the Marines for 20 years, settling in Twentynine Palms while still on active duty. Bilderain first ran for office in 2016 when the Council elections were “at large” making him the 2nd most recent member of Council (Mayor Karmolette O’Gilvie being elected two years later in 2018). A resident of Harmony Acres since 2011, Bilderain ran unopposed in Council District 1 in 2020. He is up for re-election in 2024.
Cindy Bernard: Why did you decide to run for City Council?
Council member Bilderain: I decided to run for Council to see if there was a hold up in progress and if a difference could be made. For years I have heard people complaining about the City and as always no one ever did anything to try to make change –– just complainers. Once I retired from the Marines at the end 2015, I was now eligible to run for an elected position, so instead of complaining I ran for a seat on the Council. I went online for ball park dates for when the nomination papers were due and made appointments with the sitting members back then for their perspective and experience. I was interested in the toll it puts on family. Then I made an appointment with the City Clerk to get more information on the requirements to run and other details and documentation needed.
Once I had all the information and I believed I had a chance to make a difference, I submitted my application.
In 2016, you were a first time Council candidate and relatively new to the City. What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was I didn’t know City policy or California procedures. City Government was a lot different than Military command structure and process. The first 6 months was a lot of reading and research on every topic and learning new acronyms. Also doing research on past topics that had been voted on prior to me and were still in the process of completion.
What was the most successful component of your campaign?
I believe my age and social media were big reasons for my success. I was close to 20 years younger than the Council members at the time and even those running in 2016. I was a new name, but not new to the City. Many can relate to me, my kids are their kids age, I have tattoos, I was one of them and on social media.
What would you do differently if you were campaigning in 2022?
I wouldn’t do anything different but I do have a lot more knowledge on City issues and I understand how things work now. I’d be able to give better educated answers than I could back in 2016. I was raw and eager to get things done, but didn’t really know how to go about it, now I know and am still just as eager!
Any tips for residents thinking of running for City Council?
If anyone is interested for running for Council, please do it for the better of the whole city, and not your personal agenda! The City has more issues than those right outside your door. There are isolated neighborhood issues, however the City as a whole is every Council member’s responsibility. You need to be about the people of the city and what is better for the City and progress. There will be times you may not personally want to agree on something, but in the big picture of things it’s the best thing for all. If you can’t handle that, don’t apply! If you can’t come to terms that your opinions are not facts, you will have a hard time dealing with the position. You have to have tough thick skin, people will attack your decisions and sometimes even you as an individual. You’re like an umpire –– your call will make some happy, some mad!
But if you believe in your decision and believe you are doing what is right for the people and the City AND can handle the negative, then run for a seat. Stop complaining to your friends and on social media and do something about it!