Ivan Valdes sat comfortably with one leg crossed over the other, sipping his morning coffee as he spoke casually of his days as a Marine and his family’s journey to settling in Maitland in 1995.
Behind him, a shelf brimmed with small model motorcycles and photos of family and friends. A few feet away from where Valdes reclined in his black office chair that Wednesday morning, nearly a dozen framed smiling faces huddled in front of a Christmas tree. Half of them are family. The other half are clients.
Valdes likes to bring people together. Sometimes that starts at his office, Elite Financial Partners in Maitland.
“A lot of my clients are my best friends,” Valdes said. “We spend one or two nights a week socializing with people I already do business with.”
Now he’ll have to see if his ability to build friendships in business translates into his new role. This Maitland resident is about to start a new chapter in his life, venturing into city government as a Maitland City Council member.
Valdes ran unopposed for Mayor Howard Schieferdecker’s vacated seat earlier this year and will be sworn in Monday, April 25, along with Council members Phil Bonus and Linda Frosch, who were re-elected unopposed.
After working as a managing partner at his financial firm for more than 15 years, Valdes will hold his first position in city government. The idea to run for councilman formed after he attended a City Council meeting for the first time in a few years.
“It just seemed very divisive. It seemed like a government that wasn’t working together,” Valdes said. “We as citizens think things just automatically happen but it takes a voting process to get done. So I thought I should get involved in the process.”
For the past few weeks, Valdes has been sitting on the City Council dais, providing input and voicing concerns. His only restriction, since he hasn’t been sworn in yet, has been voting on matters with the other members of Council.
A few of Valdes’ fellow Council members said they’re looking forward to using his financial expertise for some of the city’s more contentious issues, such as ongoing pension disputes with police and firefighters.
“We don’t have any financial people on our Council right now,” Schieferdecker said. “I think he’ll bring additional expertise, especially during these times, when there’s so many things going on with the economy and with these city budgets.”
With his background, Valdes feels comfortable that he can help honor the promises and commitments made to the police force and fire department in a feasible way, not at the expense of citizens.
“I need to make sure we don’t choke the city financially in order to provide for firefighters and policeman,” Valdes said. “I owe it to the city of Maitland taxpayers to use their money wisely, to invest wisely and to protect their resources.”
Valdes’ goal while serving his term is to help the city keep the promises that were made. He hopes to make small incremental changes that will protect those promises.
“If I get nothing else done than accomplish that during my term, I think I’ll walk away pretty satisfied that I’ve made a contribution,” Valdes said.
Friend on dais
Phil Bonus, a fellow councilman and longtime friend of Valdes, looks forward to their time in office together.
“He’s a great guy — I’m sure he’ll work his hardest to learn, understand and make informed judgments,” Bonus said. “I say that intuitively because I’ve known him for a decade and I know that’s the kind of guy he is.”
Both avid motorcycle enthusiasts, Valdes and Bonus met through mutual riding acquaintances and have been riding together ever since. Even Valdes’ wife shares this favorite pastime and rides along with them.
“We go all the time. We haven’t missed a bike week in years together,” Bonus said. “He’s one of my favorite riding companions.”
Bonus has known Valdes and his family for more than 10 years and spoke highly of all his “character to burn,” referring to his military-influenced traits.
“There are so many Marines in Ivan’s family, you could probably put together a small platoon,” Bonus said. “They are some of the most delightful, strong-willed American patriots I’ve ever met.”
Originally, Bonus was surprised when he heard that Valdes was running for councilman. Valdes never held a board position, served on a committee or had city government experience prior to running, which shocked Bonus.
“Ivan is brand new to government and is taking a seat, other than mayor, basically at the highest office. That’s unusual,” Bonus said. “If I had my preference, Council members would come up a little bit through the ranks.”
Regardless, Bonus has faith in his friend’s capability of succeeding as part of the Council. “He’s a very fast learner and does his best in everything, so I’m confident he’ll cycle up fast.”
Councilman-elect Ivan Valdes gets sworn in to office at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 25, in the Maitland City Hall Council Chambers. The public is invited. For more information, contact the City Clerk’s office at 407-539-6219.