This candidate profile is one of many Patch will be running in the months ahead leading up to the June primary election.
If elected to the 67th State Assembly District—which includes Murrieta—this November, Lake Elsinore City Councilwoman Melissa Melendez would most likely find herself in the minority in Sacramento.
As woman and a conservative Republican, it is expected Melendez would be outnumbered by male Democrats in the state legislature if she gets the nod. ( to read about the other candidates running in the race for the 67th District.)
But she doesn’t see that as a reason to stay home.
When asked why she decided to make a run for the seat, Melendez gave the conservative Republican’s pat answer: To save the California.
“Taxpayers and businesses are under assault by Sacramento. I’ll fight to stop runaway spending, cut taxes, repeal overbearing mandates, and make our State competitive again,” she says on her campaign website.
Melendez is a married mother of five children who served 10 years in the Navy. , also had a Navy career and currently serves in an active naval reserve unit. He also works as a public affairs manager for the Transportation Security Administration.
With her military background, its no surprise Melendez believes the state needs to be more efficient, streamlined and tough on spending.
“There’s a whole class of invertebrates in Sacramento and they need to go,” she said during a recent interview. “I’m not a sheep, but I know how to work with a team to get something done.”
Melendez’s experience as an elected official, however, is short: She is currently serving in just her first term on the city council, which began in 2008. Prior to her elected post, she founded her own transcription business –- a job skill she picked up during her military career as a Russian translator in intelligence, she said.
But now her business is on a hiatus.
“I had to put that on hold,” she explained. “This economy has taken a toll on a lot of people, including me.”
Melendez has advocated for small businesses in Lake Elsinore, partly as a result of her own experience, she said. A quick search on her business reveals it’s based out of state. Melendez said California stifles small business owners.
The business fee waiver that she pushed for ran through Jan. 31, 2012. According to city staff, during the 2010-11 fee waiver period, 71 businesses took advantage of the $72 incentive.
Public safety has also been a foremost priority during her tenure with the city, Melendez claimed. While serving on the city’s budget committee, Melendez voted against her own budget because she said police cuts were too deep.
Melendez has not always been on the side of public opinion, however. She backed the highly controversial after a slew of raucous public hearings on the matter.
The Temecula-based quarry would have created jobs in a region that’s been particularly hard hit by unemployment, Melendez contended.
“It’s very difficult to oppose it,” she said of the quarry that was widely criticized by area residents and prominent Temecula leaders.
In a move that surprised some, earlier this month at a Lake Elsinore City Council meeting she voted against a resolution to support the City of Ontario’s bid to gain local control over its airport from operator Los Angeles World Airports.
When asked during the recent interview why she voted against the resolution, she said she didn’t have all the details on the issue.
“Getting the full story is helpful in making a decision,” she said, accusing city staff of only providing “one side” on the matter.
Melendez is a savvy political contender. She has charisma, intelligence and instinct. When asked about raising a young family while holding office, Melendez didn’t skip a beat.
“We’re a public service family,” she said. “We always tell our kids, ‘Be leaders, don’t be followers. Don’t complain, do something.’ I can’t pound that into their heads. I have to lead by example.”
She didn’t waffle when asked why her children are not attending public school in the Lake Elsinore Unified School District.
“My kids are in Catholic school because we are Catholics. We don’t make apologies,” she said. “It’s not a reflection of the public school system. This is a very good district,” she said of the LEUSD, stopping short of fully endorsing the state's public school system.
“I think the California education system needs some work. There are absolutely places they can make cuts,” she said of education budget woes. “Put money into the classrooms, reward good teachers, and get rid of the bad ones.”
Melendez believes cuts across most sectors are possible by “digging in” and trimming waste. For example, she supports cracking down on illegal immigration by first cutting “enticements” such as education and healthcare, and secondly by building a bigger fence on the southern border and adding more agents to man it.
The money to pay for it could be found, Melendez said.
“I know there are ways to cut spending,” she argued.
Melendez is not big on any social programs.
When asked about the high cost of a college education in the state, she said, “Nothing worth getting is free. This isn’t a Socialist society.
“I’m still paying for my master’s degree,” she continued.
Melendez has also slipped up. Last June, while serving as Chair of the city’s Redevelopment Agency, she publicly admitted she failed to disclose months earlier that she and her husband had purchased a second home in the city, near their primary residence, inside the redevelopment area.
“I simply didn’t know,” Melendez said of the disclosure requirement mandated under state law.
With just over three years experience as an elected city official, what happens in June if the state primary doesn’t pan out for Melendez? Will she file to make a re-election bid in Lake Elsinore?
“I don’t know. I am undecided,” she said. “I don’t think people should be growing roots. But then again, there is something to be said about continuity. Ask me again in June.”