In two months — Nov. 3 to be exact — Delano-area voters will cast ballots (or mail them in!) to fill positions on the Delano City Council and the boards of the Delano Joint Union High School and Delano Union School districts.

Three incumbent City Council members and four newcomers will compete for the three positions.

Incumbents are Grace Vallejo, Joe Aguirre, and Joe Alindajao. Also seeking Council posts are Jaime Mendoza, Carlton M. Lennon, Salvador Solorio-Ruiz, and Veronica Vasquez.

For the two seats on the high school board, Arnold Morrison and Jesus Cardenas are seeking re-election with Ray Arvizu also seeking the position.

Incumbents Frank Herrera Jr. and Suzanne Villaruz are joined on the elementary school ballot by Margie Luque-Felix, a recent retiree of the district.

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Grand Marshal Mario Nunez for the Delano Harvest Holidays fall festival will not have the usual fanfare for his selection, but he has won the hearts of many Delanoans for his service to the community.

Nunez was born to Delores Aguilar Ojeda (deceased) and Mario Nunez, Sr., on Aug. 6, 1970, in Bakersfield. He has several siblings. Paternal grandparents, both deceased, are from Mexico and maternal grandparents, both deceased, are from Texas.

Nunez grew up in Weedpatch and attended Vineland Elementary School and then Sunset Middle School. When the family moved to Bakersfield, he attended Fairfax Elementary and for two years high school at Foothill, where he played football and ran track. His parents worked in the dairy business and moved to Los Banos, where he took part in both sports as a junior before coming to Delano for his senior year and playing football and graduating in 1998.

He attended Fresno State, where he gained his AA degree in architectural engineering. Tired of moving, he decided to make Delano his home, plus he had met his wife, high school sweetheart Deyanira Azua Nunez, at Delano High. They were married April, 1992, and have two children, Roman, 28, married to Ruby Reyes Nunez with one child, and daughter Kayla Nunez Nichols, 23, married to Terry Nichols and also with one child.

Mario was lead at Sears Logistic Services from 1992 until hired by the city of Delano. He always had a passion for law enforcement as a child and wanted to be a police officer. In December 1995 he was hired by the Delano Police Department, and in January 1996 he began his law enforcement career with the city of Delano Community Correctional Facility. He was employed as a police officer by the city for 25 years. Most recently he has been an investigations sergeant. Duties have included being an advisor for Delano Police Explorers, K9 officer 16 years, narcotics officer, SWAT, and field training officer.

In 2004 Mario was honored by Kern County Law Enforcement Foundation as “Exceptional Officer of the Year” and in 2006 and 2008 honored by the foundation as “Community Police Officer of the Year.” In 2007 he received the Delano Chamber of Commerce “Community Service Award, Man of the Year,” in 2010 he was honored with the Delano Youth Foundation “Special Achievement Award,” and in 2012 he was named “Grand Marshal” for Delano Cinco de Mayo.

In 2000, he began coaching Delano Bengals youth football because his son, Roman, really enjoyed playing sports. The team started with about 70 players and no cheerleaders. The program now has over 350 footballers and cheerleaders and has grown from two to six teams. He still coaches with the Bengals and has also coached with Delano Little League and through the parks and recreation department, coaching basketball, baseball and football.

Mario set up the police department’s first National Night Out in 2001 and has been involved in coordinating every National Night Out event since then. In 1996 he took over the Police Explorer program and has expanded the yearly “Shop with a Cop” program from 10 kids to more than 250 kids every year.

He says that if it were not for programs like “Shop with a Cop” and community food giveaways that his family would have struggled financially to put food on the table. He remembers his parents finding odd jobs to make money and buy food for the day, including walking on the side of roadways picking up recyclables, selling candy apples, or cleaning people’s houses/yards. He said he jumped at the opportunity to help and give back because he has been blessed and taught well by his parents.

Mario began helping Claribel Gutierrez a few years back with her soup kitchen without walls or a food pantry. In March 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic and many families in the local community struggling to make ends meet, he and Claribel joined forces and began getting food and monetary donations. They now have two food pantries and continue to work together for the betterment of the Delano-area community. They currently distribute food to about 300 families on a weekly basis.

Nunez may be introduced at the Zoom presentation of the Delano Harvest Holidays Queen’s Scholarship Program Sept. 19 and will be there to help distribute takeout meals at the annual Grand Marshal/Queen’s Barbecue on Saturday, Oct. 10.

A writeup on Nunez and photos of the 10 queen candidates will be the focus of the 32-page souvenir program that will be distributed free to the public starting in early October. Just call me, Gary Girard, 725-8803, to arrange to receive a book celebrating the 75th Delano Harvest Holidays.

The Harvest committee is to meet the evening of Sept. 8 to finalize upcoming events, especially the barbecue, for which $15 tickets are being sold through this month.

The pre-sale-tickets-only event honors the Grand Marshal and the Queen and her royal court.

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St. Mary’s Catholic Church continues to have a well-attended Sunday 7 a.m. Mass, to which vehicles enter the St. Mary’s School grounds and are directed by about eight ushers to their parking places of 12 rows about nine cars deep.

Recent Mass services have had about 100 vehicles enter the grounds for the Sunday morning Mass.

Father Loji Pilones recently was honored at Mass for celebrating his 34th year as a priest, starting with his priesthood in the Philippines.

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