"He Was a Voice of Civility"
By Chris Levister –
When late Colton Mayor David Zamora declared a “new beginning” to city politics during his first State of the City address Thursday, July 7, he would not know the impact his legacy would have on the city for years to come.
Zamora, who was elected less than a year ago after working for the city for nearly three decades, died Thursday afternoon when he had a heart attack and crashed into a pole, while driving from his home to City Hall. He was 56. He is survived by his wife, Sarah, a former city councilwoman, three daughters and four grandchildren.
“He was a loving family man and tireless public servant,” Zamora family members said in a statement announcing the Friday memorial service. “He was a voice of civility. He wanted to change the tone and show the public that even people with differing views can work together.” The single-car accident occurred on La Cadena Drive in Colton in San Bernardino County. Zamora was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
City Manager Rod Foster praised Zamora's service to the city, noting that in Zamora's first state of the city address, the mayor was optimistic about a "new beginning" for the city.
"We are confident that his legacy will be well-served by the city continuing in the spirit of his leadership," Foster said.
In the speech, Zamora highlighted the hard work that city leaders and employees had done in just a matter of months to help rescue the city from insolvency, building the city reserve from $50,000 to nearly $1.9 million.
"Once upon a time Colton was the city everyone looked up to," he said to a standing-room crowd of more than 60 city employees, residents and visiting officials from neighboring towns.
"However, somewhere in the past we lost focus of who we were supposed to be serving. Nonsense became the language of Colton politics."
Now, "transparency, mutual respect and a commitment to getting the job done right the first time is our objective and goal,” he said, praising City Council members for putting aside political differences to balance the city budget, build a reserve fund and roll back utility rates.
Zamora became mayor in November after serving on the board of the Colton Joint Unified School District for 13 years. His last position with the city, before being elected mayor, was as Colton's community development director.
He was born Jan. 9, 1955, in California and attended Cal State San Bernardino, where he earned undergraduate degrees in sociology and social science and a master's degree in public administration.
Zamora was remembered as a uniter and dedicated public servant Friday night in a candlelight vigil attended by about 150 people in front of City Hall.
“Our hearts are broken, but our spirit and hope for the future of Colton is not,” said Councilman Vincent Yzaguirre.
“He was a passionate advocate for education,” said Elsa Aguilar, president of the umbrella PTA group for the Colton Joint Unified School District and organizer of the vigil.
“During his mayoral campaign, some supporters urged him to twist arms and knock heads,” said Colton businessman Jim Dressler, he didn’t and he won.
“He believed he could replace acrimony with civility. He did and he won.”
“Faith in government had just collapsed,” said David Toro, a councilman and longtime friend.
"Within seven months he was able to balance the budget, bring lower electric rates and negotiate a deal to keep the city's public safety in house.”
“He always put students first,” remembers Colton Joint Unified Superintendent Jerry Almendarez, but he also supported parent organizations and employee groups.
“He got such a charge out of reading to kids from one his favorite books ‘David Gets in Trouble,” Almendarez said. “Even after transitioning to mayor he took pride in returning to our schools inspiring students to achieve anything they want.”
Around the Inland region those who served with Zamora - say his biggest impact was his quiet but determined advocacy.
“You couldn’t resist his big smile,” said Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren. During his State of the City speech he was so proud of the progress made in Colton. For better or worse, he was as tenacious in rejecting polarized politics as in promoting regional collaboration. He said I want to have a team spirit on my council and throughout the region. When redevelopment agencies came under attack by the state, he was right there fighting for what he believed in.”
For 12-year-old Kelli Armida Valenzuela, the real Zamora moment of his impact wasn’t the State of the City speech. It was on a chilly night last February when a “stranger” came to her rescue.
“I fell off my bike,” she said holding a candle during Friday’s vigil. “My knee was bleeding. I was crying. He helped me up and made sure I got home safely but not before he scolded me for not wearing a helmet. My mom said ‘that was the mayor’. Now I always wear a helmet,” said Valenzuela “so, I guess you can say it was a nice scolding.”
The Zamora family released a statement Sunday thanking the public for its prayers and outpouring of support.
“We appreciate your words of admiration & love for our dad and are happy that he had such a positive impact on so many lives.”
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