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La Liga de Las Americas

At-Large Council candidate Bob Vásquez:
has deep roots in Latino community

By Alan Abrams
La Prensa Senior Correspondent

Born in Toledo, raised on the East Side, and a graduate of Waite High School, Bob Vásquez, Democratic candidate for an at-large city council seat in next month’s primary election (September 13), is a familiar face in the Latino community.

While this is Vásquez’s first political campaign, he has been endorsed, to date, by the Lucas County Democrats.org and the Toledo Firefighters Local 92.

A member of Toledo’s Hispanic Affairs Commission (HAC), Vásquez’s roots run deep in Toledo Latino history. He is a member of la familia Alvarado, one of Toledo’s first Latino families, which includes educators David Alvarado and Richard Cervantes. Vásquez is the son of  Primo Vásquez and Susan Alvarado. David Alvarado is his uncle and Cervantes is his cousin. Both are among his staunchest supporters in his campaign.

“My mother died when I was young and my father, with the help of our extended family which included my grandmother and my aunt, raised four boys. The youngest of us was only two weeks old when our mother died” says Vásquez, who was the second oldest of the four.

His brothers, Lou, Mike and Brian, are all Toledo Police Department officers. Lou Vásquez has been on the force for 25 years. Their father often accompanies Bob Vásquez to community functions.

La Prensa asked Vásquez why he didn’t pursue a career as a police officer as well. Vásquez holds an Associate degree in Law Enforcement Technology and a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, as well as a Masters in Public Administration—all three earned from the University of Toledo.

“I was heading that way,” recalls Vásquez. “My uncle, David Alvarado, helped me get a job in 1973 with the Ohio Youth Commission as a Youth Street Worker. I counseled youth who were on parole and were living in their community, and worked with groups of youth in neighborhood hangouts. So I was actually dealing with some of the same problems except from a different perspective—I was working in the social work arena rather than in enforcement.

 Toledo School Board candidate Robert Torres (L)
with Bob Vásquez (candidate for Toledo City Council)
and Anita López, Lucas County Recorder.


“But my brothers and I talk to each other and we understand what the other is doing to help our community. This has been my life’s work, and I have been able to gain a perspective of these problems from both sides. I realize how lucky we are, and we always support each other.”1

Vásquez worked in the Toledo Regional Office of the Ohio Youth Commission until he became a caseworker at Lucas County Children Services in 1975. He was promoted to Supervisor of Foster Care in 1984, managing a foster care network of 200 foster homes and 400 children. He became the agency’s Casework Supervisor in Jan. 1986 and held the position for a year before taking a position as Program Manager at St. Anthony Villa for Boysville of Michigan.

Vásquez supervised the residential treatment and day care programs at St. Anthony Villa for six months before being named the agency’s Regional Director/Executive Director. He worked with a $2 million budget and supervised a staff of 80 professionals.

In Dec. 1989, Vásquez became Regional Director of the Ohio Youth Advocate Program, and in Jan. 1992 was promoted to Assistant State Director. He was responsible for a $10 million budget and 75 employees. He held the position until Jan. 1996 when he assumed his current position as Director of Special Projects for The Twelve Inc.

The Twelve Inc. is a $5 million nonprofit serving children and families with seven offices, including one in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Vásquez has concurrently served as Executive Director of The Twelve for Children and Families of Florida since April 2003. He has also been a part-time instructor at the University of Toledo since autumn, 1998.

This reporter asked Vásquez about the significance of the name of The Twelve Inc. Vásquez explained that the group began in Massillon, Ohio, a city rich in Ohio football lore. “A priest of one of the local parishes wanted to find a way to give back to the community, so he invited people to attend a meeting in his church. Twelve showed up, all of them football players. At first, they helped the elderly in the community. But then the priest was contacted by the Ohio Youth Commission which had heard about their good work, and asked the priest if they could become more formally involved in social services.”

Vásquez’s career shows that same type of commitment. His motivation is apparent by the number of committees on which he serves in addition to HAC, These include the Lucas County Levy Committee, the Toledo/Lucas County Board on Homelessness, and the Civic Hall of Fame Committee. 

“I have a background of dealing with issues,” says Vásquez, “and I was encouraged by others to step in at the forefront and take a more active role in the political scene. That’s why I am running for Council.”

If elected, Vásquez sees himself as being more than the “Latino Council member.” He explains that, “My role is to be an advocate for the entire community not just the Latino community. The Latino community has many leaders, and I do not presume to be a leader of that community. I will be an advocate for the community at large.”

Vásquez sees his educational background, especially his Masters in Public Administration, as adding to his qualifications for the Council position.

“I really like the city of Toledo,” he says. “I am a supporter of the city, and I have quietly worked behind the scenes to make the city better. The motto of my campaign on my election signs is ‘Toledo Can Be Better,’ and I believe that it is a positive approach.

“Whenever I am away traveling on business, I am always happy to come back home to where I raise my family and where I was raised. I appreciate the opportunities Toledo has given me, and I want my two sons—if they choose—to be able to find jobs in Toledo, if they decide to raise their families in Toledo,” Vásquez says.

Vásquez and his wife Kathy have been married for 24 years. They are the parents of Stephen, 23, and David, who is 21.

Vásquez says the foundation of his campaign is the city’s neighborhoods. “The community is made up of neighborhoods. People have to feel safe that their neighborhood is the kind of place where they can raise their families.

“I support the plans for development of the marina district and the arena. But people in Toledo are also concerned about whether their basic services are going to continue to be delivered—things like streets, water lines, police, fire, and other emergency services. Neighborhoods don’t decline when people make them vibrant.”

On the important issue of jobs, Vásquez says it is important that the jobs Toledo can provide are the jobs that are needed for people to work here.

“We have to make sure our resources are allocated for small businesses as well as large ones. We are doing a good job of continuing to keep the large corporations in Toledo, but most businesses in Toledo, especially in our neighborhoods, are small businesses, and we have to think about them as well.”

Vásquez says, “People are also concerned about education, and although Council does not have any jurisdiction over the school system, I would, as a councilman, use my influence to work with all concerned about the quality of education. That’s because I believe education is the way to opportunity.”

Looking back to his childhood growing up in his East Toledo neighborhood, Vásquez says he is thankful to his family for the way in which he and his brothers were raised.

“My father raised me; my older brother, along with our relatives, took care of me. My grandmother could not speak any English, she only spoke Spanish, and I grew up with that as my first language.  I do not take the credit for how I turned out and for my accomplishments in life. The credit all goes to my family.”





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