By Amy Young, November 2018 issue. Meet the rest of the Class of 2018 here.
Steve Gallardo’s life is peppered with outstanding achievements, like being a Senator. He also came out as gay to a group of reporters back in 2014 in the Senate Caucus room. He was a State Representative, a House Minority Whip, and a constant champion of human rights. His interest in political activity goes back as far as he can remember. “I’ve always had an interest in politics. I remember being fascinated with it in high school and even then, I knew I was going to be involved in public policy in some way shape or form.”
It has always been his goal to be a voice for the underserved. “Even as a legislator,” he told us, “I was the loudest voice, like in the legislature against the infamous SB1070 which unfairly targeted all Latinos regardless of citizenship status. In 2006 I was the chairman of the successful ballot initiative to create a state minimum wage in Arizona. In 2013 I introduced a series of bills to enhance the rights of LGBTQ persons by ending the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, and ending the state’s preference of married persons over single persons in adoption. In my first year as a Maricopa County Supervisor, I was instrumental in creating a workplace policy to protect LBGTQ county employees.”
His latest endeavor as part of the Latino Pride Alliance is the inception of Phoenix’s first Latino Pride Festival, which he saw as an opportunity for the Latino community to come together as one. “LGBTQ and allies,” he said, “and people who have never been to a Pride event and probably never would have attended one. This is an opportunity to celebrate our diversity, to be part of a celebration, and to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month and the LGBTQ members who are a part of that history.”
Beyond that, Gallardo sees an important mission: connection. “We need to connect our community to the services they may not even know exist. I often talk about how our families face tremendous challenges, economically and socially. We need to do what we can to tear down the barriers faced by the Latino community, along with the additional struggles of the LGBTQ community. These are real issues that need to be addressed as a society. We need to work with families and children. So, mainly, I was prompted to do this festival for multiple reasons; mainly to bring our community together to celebrate diversity, our culture, and to help the members of our community that are struggling.
If it seems like Gallardo is tireless, it’s only because it is true. “I am not one to sit and relax,” he told us. “I’m always thinking of ways that I can pull together partnerships and fix a problem. I have a driving need to want to leave the world a better place than I found it.”
When he does get some downtime, he loves spending time with his mom and his dog. “I have a chihuahua/daschund mix named Toby. My mom lives nearby, and she is Toby’s daycare provider. It is a great arrangement. I get to see my mom frequently, and Toby gets plenty of attention.”
Echo: What felt successful and challenging about taking on this new festival?
Gallardo: The overwhelming support from the get-go was overwhelming. Individuals and businesses reached out to the Latino Pride Alliance asking to participate. I had a meeting in Los Angeles several months ago regarding their attempt at a Latino Pride event and they had a lot of problems with pushback. I thought that would be a big challenge here, but so far it’s been very positive. Local schools, businesses, social services agencies and more are participating.
Echo: Are you already thinking about the next one and how it will grow?
Gallardo: Yes, everyone that has worked tirelessly on this venture all has the constant thought of, what are we going to do next year? How are we going to make it bigger and better? I think the community expects there to be another Latino Pride Festival.
Echo: Can you tell us any of those hopes or plans for the event in years to come?
Gallardo: We want it to grow. We were limited in the number of booth spaces we could have; vendor and social services, so the main thing we’ll need to start searching out is a larger venue. We want to see our Pride Festival as an opportunity to tear down the barriers that prevent people from participating; like transportation and resources. We want to be able to provide a festival with top entertainment. We’re proud of the lineup we have this year and our goal is to make sure that each year builds on the prior; that we expand the services and program information, keep a top entertainment lineup, retain the family feel of the event and make sure that everyone has a great time and feels welcome.
Echo: What goals do you have, in your career, that you are still looking forward to tackling?
Gallardo: As our state continues to grow by leaps and bounds we have a responsibility as elected officials. I will continue to identify the needs of families, which includes healthcare, housing, family acceptance. Whatever the issue, I want to take it on. Phoenix is like any other big city. As we continue to grow, the challenges continue to grow. I want to be able to tackle social and economic issues at the root of the problem and help families succeed.
Echo: What changes have you seen in Phoenix throughout your life that you think make it an interesting destination?
Gallardo: As a city, we have a plethora of opportunities for visitors including sporting events, resorts, arts and culture, perfect weather, hiking, a gateway to nearby historic destinations like Route 66, Bisbee, Mt. Lemmon, the Grand Canyon, and Snow Bowl, etc.
Echo: How do you think the city can grow?
Gallardo: As we grow outwards sometimes the inner-cities are the ones that are forgotten. We have empty lots and boarded up apartments. We need to grow by infilling our cities and restoring our neighborhoods. When neighborhoods face challenges, we shouldn’t throw away the neighborhood. We should put our heads together, maximize our resources, work together, and fix the problem. Successful city growth will happen with infilling blighted areas.
Congratulations to the Class of 2018! Meet the rest of the inductees here.