HEMET CITY COUNCIL
I interviewed Joe Males, Commander of the American Legion Post 53 in his Hemet offices on one of our city’s hot and humid days. While I was sweltering, Joe seemed as calm and cool as a cucumber. I would know why. He is very organized and seems to know the meaning and intent of every word spoken. From my viewpoint, he is a very organized and determined person.
Q. What most qualifies you for the office of councilman?
A. What qualifies me is my ability to lead. I believe everything I’ve ever been involved with, I have been a leader. I learn quick. In the Marine Corps, except for Lance Corporal, I got all my promotions meritoriously from the Marine Corps Commandant because of my leadership. I have owned my own business for 22 years. I was CEO, CFO, Salesman and Marketing Director. I had 7 employees. I made sure they were paid, had insurance and were taken care of. I arrived here at the Legion, and after two months, I became First Vice-Commander. Now I am the Commander. This post was in shambles. It was terrible with no money in the bank. They were talking about closing the place down. Now we have tens of thousands of dollars in the bank and had it not been for COVID-19, we would be doing even better.
Q. In your opinion, what does the city of Hemet need?
A. Take a good look at Hemet. This city needs someone who can lead it into prosperity. There are the homeless everywhere, drugs and gangs. They need a strong leader and I know what I’m going to get out there and make necessary changes. I want our city to be different. I want it to be like it used to be where the elderly can go out into the street without being afraid that someone is going to mug them. I don’t want somebody else’s son to be murdered on a parking lot like mine was.
NOTE: Joe’s son, a U.S. Marine, was stabbed to death on the parking lot next to the old Elite Night Club on downtown Harvard Street and no one has ever been arrested for his murder.
Q. How long have you lived in Hemet?
A. Fifteen years.
Q. When did you decide you ought to get involved with the Council?
A. It has often crossed my mind and especially after my son was murdered in the middle of town. I get along with everyone. I don’t push my weight around. I can work with anyone despite our political affiliations. I have a heart that wants to be associated with good people. I love people and that’s it. The death of my son nearly killed me. I was at that time recovering from a liver transplant in October. I wished it had been me that died, not my son. I was a wreck. After 4 years in the Marine Corps, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, coming back to his home to die the way he did. I have great empathy for families who lost a husband or son in war.
Q. What do you think can be done about the ever-increasing homeless situation in Hemet?
A. We can’t just whisk them off to another city and ignore them. We have other groups around here who work with the homeless. We need to put money into something, maybe buying a building exclusively for that purpose and creating beds for them. However, housing alone will not solve the problem. Many of them need mental care. I’d like to meet with the hospital and see how we could partner in getting treatment for the mentally ill. I’d like to see us also sit down with those folks who are currently working with the homeless and see what ideas they have. I’m not someone who only comes up with ideas. I like to get people to sit down with me and talk and figure out what we can do when everybody contributes his or her piece to come to a joint solution where we all pitch in. It should be a community solution because it is a community problem.
Q. What could the city council have done that they haven’t?
A. My feelings are that some of them are more interested in something else. We need to stop prioritizing. Everyone has to be on the same page at the same time. It continues to be worse because everyone isn’t working together. If they worked diligently at trying to get problems resolved, the situation wouldn’t be as bad as it is.
Q. Karlee and Mike get shot down when they make suggestions.
A. Because of Measure U. Look what happened there.
Q. The good old boys’ syndrome?
A. Exactly. That’s what has to cease. I mean, if I can get in there with people who want change, like Karlee and Mike want, we can become the majority and things will start to happen in this city.
Q. People with money always seem to have the upper hand.
A. I’m not controllable. They tried that here at the Legion and it doesn’t work that way with me. I’m a Marine Corps veteran and I’m a warrior. I’ve always considered myself a warrior. I’m not an “I” man; I’m a “we” man. Together we can get things done. I can’t do it by myself and if I have the right council members with me that believe in what I believe in like Karlee and Mike do, we can get things done, but we have to become a majority for that to happen.
Q. Understood. It can’t be one-sided all the time.
A. Right. I believe in diversity, and this is a non-partisan position. In my veteran’s committee that meets once a week, we have two republicans and two democrats. My finance officer is a democrat and Jake Alexander is a democrat. I work with them all the time. I don’t care what party you’re with. Party doesn’t matter to me. I don’t believe in all that nonsense. We need more people who are willing to work with others despite party affiliations. I want to bring jobs to this community and I believe if we all get together and come up with a plan, that will happen. Before I started running, I became Commander of the American Legion Post 53 in Hemet I went to see all the new buildings coming up over in Pernis by the Riverside National Cemetery and I would take pictures of the help wanted signs. I posted the following on my web site: “There are jobs here. There’s no reason for you to be home. Get a job.” I want to call on businesses and try to get them to bring jobs here. I know we don’t have a freeway, but we have plenty of access to this valley. We need to cut back on liquor stores and gas stations. We need real businesses that hire people and I’m talking about 100 or 200 new jobs at a time. Manufacturing jobs. It is not my habit to sit behind a desk. I believe in getting out and dealing directly one on one with these companies. I won’t be sitting around and bragging about being a city councilman. I work hard at everything I undertake and always have. I was adopted at four. My dad is Caucasian and my mother is Mexican. My dad came from a farm in Missouri and mom from a farm in Texas. They come from hard-working stock and I am a product of that kind of upbringing. I once asked my mother why I was adopted. She said, “Because you were wanted. Your birth parents might not have wanted you, but we did.”
Q. How do you feel about virtual or on-site schooling during the COVID pandemic?
A. I know it is serious. Look at all the stats and you’ll come to the conclusion that kids should be in the classrooms. Schools should be open. That’s my opinion. People who are vulnerable to becoming sick should stay home. And maybe avoid family members that might become infected. You know people are dying from depression because of being confined in their homes and not being able to get out. Some are even committing suicide. These things are happening. Listen to the experts, although even they disagree on some things. Using common-sense is not bad advice.
Q. What are your thoughts about the median up and down Florida Avenue in Hemet?
A. It ruined a lot of businesses. I’ve attended some city council meetings where small business owners were complaining how it was costing them a lot of business and look at our parade? It can’t be held on Florida Avenue anymore because of the median. It won’t be able to take place on the city’s main street anymore. That median has ruined downtown Hemet. That’s one reason I hope I win. We can start straightening up the city of Hemet and restore it to a city instead of a mess.
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