By Heidi Simmons –

Travel along the California freeway system and green highway signs give the direction to Indio — the roadway identifier to the CV.  Incorporated in 1930, it is the oldest city of the valley and has the largest population at 79,000.


Famous for it’s outdoor entertainment, they call themselves The City of Festivals.  There are colorful and interesting events nearly every month of the year that draw thousands of people into the valley and their city.   Indio is also the second county seat of Riverside.  It has all the major government offices that mirror those in the City of Riverside.  Though it’s the valley’s oldest city, it is still building it’s future.



Indio voters do not elect a Mayor.  Council members rotate into the position yearly by seniority.  After two years on the council, Elaine Holmes just started her term as Mayor in December.  “It feels so great to be in an integral place to help the community and be a part of moving it forward,” said Holmes.


With 35 square miles there is room to grow.  “We have property for expansion in every quadrant of the city,” proudly boasted Holmes.


North Gate, an 81-acre mixed-use development site was purchased by the Chandi Group, which has already started working with the city to bring in a hotel, apartments, a gas station and other business.


The county is spending $350 million upgrading and building more facilities.  The first law school in the valley, California Desert Trial Academy College of Law, just received its accreditation and is renovating a building in Old Town.  In the next three or four months the East Valley Detention Center expansion begins and will bring in high paying jobs and improvements to infrastructure.


The city is currently lining up contracts for Varner Road and Jefferson Street improvements.  Funded by the city, it will be ready for the new Jefferson Street Interchange project that is scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2014.   The new overpass and ramps will create direct and easy access to the city.


When the economy turned, Indio made it their focus to meet the basic needs of the city.  Their priorities: to keep the city clean and safe.   But their vision has always remained the same; they strive to be a city for education, entertainment, and a place for retail and commerce.


There is an intergenerational approach to the community.  Having the largest population of young people, the city invested in a state of the art teen center located caddy corner to the high school.  The city’s Senior Center has a program that mentors teens.  The city values its youth and sees the importance of providing quality education and opportunities. City leaders trust their young population will become a skilled work force and smart consumers.  College of the Desert East Campus is under construction and will be done this year.


First time City Manager, Dan Martinez was born and raised in Indio.  At the job for just two and half years, he came to the city after 24 years of public service with Riverside County.  He is thrilled to be serving his community.  His parents still live in the city and it was his mother who told him about the position when it opened.  “This is more than just a job.  I take a lot of pride in what I’m doing,” said Martinez.


Martinez believes Indio’s success comes from a team building perspective.  “Our greatest attribute is that we have established a strong management team that works with a cohesive city council,” said Martinez.  He points out that although council members each have strong opinions and don’t always agree, they have respect for each other and put the needs of Indio first.


An “all in the open” approach is important to Martinez.  He has established a seven member Citizen’s Finance Advisory Committee to oversee Ballot Measure 10, the utility users tax.  They identify areas of need, set priorities and make recommendations.  Martinez has monthly budget meetings with the city council to keep everyone on the same page.  “Open dialogue makes it easier when tough decisions have to be made,” said Martinez.


Gloria Franz is the president of Indio’s Woman’s Club and member of Indio’s Planning Commission.  Raised in the CV, she believes it’s important to be involved in the community.  “City council and city staff has to know what we need and want as residents.  Come with a positive attitude that benefits the community and that helps everybody,” said Franz.  The Indio Woman’s Club celebrates 101 years of philanthropic service.


The Indio Chamber of Commerce will be hosting its 27th annual Southwest Arts Festival this month, drawing 100,000 visitors.  It will generate nearly 20 percent of the chamber’s budget, which helps fund chamber educational programs, government affairs and mixers.  With 438 members, their goal is blending commerce with culture.


Joyce Donaldson, President and CEO of Indio’s Chamber of Commerce has spent the last three and a half years revamping and updating the chamber to meet the coming needs of Indio.  “We get forty to sixty visitors a day asking questions about our city,” Donaldson said.  The chamber runs the Visitors Center as well.  “We have made the chamber office, logo and website more vibrant which is indicative of the new spirit.  We have a terrific staff of people who are excited about what we are doing in the community,” she said.


Donaldson recently submitted an application to the U. S. Chamber of Commerce for Indio’s accreditation.  To be recognized, there is a set of standards that must be met and is reviewed by a committee.  It is a detailed and rigorous application covering nine areas from governance to benchmarking.  Donaldson feels confidant Indio will qualify and be acknowledged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


The city has maintained a balanced budget for three years.  They are seeing recovery with growth of sales tax revenue and are working to put those furloughed back to full time work.  “We’ve come through recovery — slow, but we’ve identified our needs and made priorities.  Sticking to a plan will be a challenge, but we want to grow at the same pace as the economy,” said Martinez.


There is confidence, energy and excitement that runs through those involved with the city.  Indio is focused on the future.  It was once the hub of the CV — and may soon be again.





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