A man with deep roots in the Inland Empire, George Aguilar has spent a large portion of his life serving others.
“We need to work together,” Aguilar stated. “There’s a lot of stuff we can agree on. Let’s focus on those things. That’s how we’re able to get stuff done.”
The value of helping residents of the region was instilled in Aguilar, 62, from an early age. His family owned the Esperanza Market on the westside of San Bernardino, a place prominent leaders like Cesar Chavez and Robert Kennedy would visit.
“It served as a community center for the area,” he said. “I was always taught to help people–those who lived in our community.”
Aguilar spent 28 years as the Director of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and was the youngest and first Chicano President of the water board. He was instrumental in passing through key projects that have helped San Bernardino County residents receive adequate water supplies.
“We laid the foundation,” Aguilar. “We knew this horrible drought we’re experiencing was coming. So we built the facilities we needed to store ground water and rely on water sources from other parts of the state.”
The experience of sitting on the water board is the reason Aguilar was asked to sit on Colton’s Utility Commission a few years ago. Aguilar claims his involvement with the board has contributed to decreasing utility rates and to the improvement of infrastructure.
“We had some of the highest rates,” he said. “Our commission, I’m proud to say, helped implement things. Now we have among the lowest [electricity] rates in the state.”
In addition to his water and utility experience, Aguilar is the President of the League of United Latin American Citizens Inland Empire chapter of the Chicano Latino Caucus of the Inland Empire. He’s also been a youth sports coach and works as a realtor.
“I’ve helped over 6,000 people buy houses,” he said. “And it’s helped me a lot when I’ve placed signs for elections.”
Aguilar confirmed that he continues his involvement in politics and community organizing to help build a stronger and well informed voter base.
“I think there’s a big lack of people understanding the importance of voting,” said Aguilar. “The other thing is knowing to vote for the right people. [People shouldn’t] vote for people just because they know them, or because they’re cousins, stuff like that. It’s important to look in depth and realize who these people are and why they want to be elected.”
The changing course of American politics saddens Aguilar. Many of the issues of racism and inequality are beginning to resurface, he said.
“I thought we were going to be in a point where we overlooked their color,” Aguilar said. “We’ve gone back 50 years.”
Nonetheless, the longtime philanthropist said he is committed to continuing the fight for civil rights. One of his priorities is helping DACA recipients receive amnesty.
“A lot of these students don’t know Spanish or have never been to Mexico,” Aguilar expressed. “America is the only country they know. It’s important to help them out.”
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, IECN is featuring a notable group or individual each week.
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Colton Courier - El Chicano - Rialto Record