Clarksville, TN – Born in Philadelphia into a military family, Valerie “Val” Guzman would spend most of her childhood traveling the world. As most “military brats” understand, it’s hard to put down roots when your family changes duty stations every couple of years.
But Val Guzman put down roots in Clarksville 20 years ago with her husband Catarino “Cat” Guzman, and today she’s the newly elected Ward 5 Clarksville city councilman.Quite an accomplishment for someone, who as we say, “ain’t from around here.”
” My husband, Cat, encouraged me to run. I wouldn’t do something like this without his total support. Candy (former councilman Candy Johnson) and I are friends and she supported me, but when she told me she wasn’t going to run for re-election, I decided this was the time to do it. I think everybody needs to be involved in their community. I don’t think you can stand on the sidelines and complain if you’re not willing to get involved to make a difference” said Guzman.
Guzman is employed as an administrative coordinator for Publix and her husband, an Army veteran, works as a training coordinator for Bridgestone. They have three children, Monique, Christopher, and Isabella.
What was your impression of Clarksville city government and the political climate here?
“I really didn’t have an opinion at first, I just try to stay real. I didn’t always believe everything I would hear. I understand there’s a dynamic in this city, but I want to study all of the issues, and vote what I believe is right. I know I won’t please everybody, but I’m going to do the best I can to vote in the best interests of all of Clarksville, not just my ward. Clarksville is my city, and I want it to be the best it can be for everyone” said Guzman.
What are some of the issues you’re most interested in and what would you like to do to move this city forward?
“There are a lot of zoning requests that come before the city council, and I have to get a handle on all of that. I want to become proficient in understanding ordinances, procedures, and the workings of city government. Traffic is also a problem that I’m concerned about and I want Clarksville to be more “green.” ”
What’s your opinion of Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan. Do the two of you get along?
“She’s always been nice to me, and I think she’s a nice person, but we’ve not had many opportunities to get to know each other. I’m sure that will change. I don’t know all the ins and outs of the mayor’s office. She has a tough job, and I look forward to seeing what her vision for Clarksville is.”
During the January council meeting, your first, the council had to deal with two controversial zoning requests. A large group of concerned citizens attended the meeting, and were not very happy with the decision by the council to postpone the vote on their issue. Were you intimidated sitting up there on the council when all of that was going on?
“I really wasn’t. I only got a little nervous when I looked out and saw my family. My parents were there, so it was a big deal. I studied both of those zoning requests in question, and went to both of the areas that were involved. I voted against the Grove Apartments rezoning because there’s been a lot of problems there, over 500 police calls alone, and the nearby residents are sick of it. I think the council should have voted, especially since all of those people came to the meeting and were expecting a vote. They were very upset and I don’t blame them. I wasn’t in favor of Haynes Street rezoning either.”
There has been criticism over the years that builders and developers in Clarksville have too much influence with the city council and they get what they want, is that your impression?
“I don’t have an opinion on that. Like I said, Clarksville is my home and I’m going to do what I think is best for everybody involved. I will rely on the experts to give me the information I need, then I will vote accordingly.”
You’re now on a city council that has been divided, and at times, very contentious and upset with each other. Where do you think you will land on this council?
“Like I said, this is my city and Clarksville has been very good to me. I will do what I think is best for Clarksville. I’m not interested in who’s “side” I’m on. The most important thing is, I don’t want to disappoint the people who voted for me. I want the people I serve to believe I’m working hard, and for my city to believe I’m doing the best job I can do. That’s what I’m most nervous about. I don’t back down from anybody, and I stand for what I believe is right. Only time will tell.”