One by one, potential Republican mayoral candidates decided not to run for mayor. It was December, only four months until Election Day, and the city was without a GOP candidate. That's when Gloria Cardenas Cudia, a decades long community leader, former school board member and grandmother, emerged to answer her party's call.
"You say to yourself, ‘well you know what, maybe it is my turn,’ so I'm going to step forward. I have no money. I have no team, but you know what? I have a lot of passion. I care about this community. I'm going to go for it and do the best I can," Cudia said.
With that, Cudia's campaign was in motion. Without a little in her campaign bank account and few ads, Cudia has instead campaigned more on a grassroots level, stocked not with dollars, but with a hard working team.
"There is a need for a huge some of money, but on the other hand, if you go out there and work it, volunteer, it could pay off, so we'll know on Tuesday," Cudia said.
Cudia made history on Rockford's School Board as the first Hispanic elected member, and later its board president. She says serving during District 205's desegregation turmoil ingrained in her the importance of having an open door policy and an open mind.
"That experience made me tough, tough to the point that anything that comes at me I can look at it, study it, you know, gather around some good people, and make some decisions," Cudia said.
Cudia also points to her leadership background as an appointed commissioner of the park district. As mayor, she says one of her biggest challenges is to clean up the city, to look as pristine as a golf course.
"As you look around, don't you want to see beauty around you? Don't you want to see flowers? Cleanliness? Don't you want to be safe when you're driving around the community? That's what I want too," Cudia said.
Cudia admits she was disappointed by what she describes as poor city planning and discussion with citizens during the pursuit of a the hog processing center Trim-Rite to Rockford. She says the company stopping negotiations emphasized the city's need to partner better with its residents.
"Communication, that's what it's all about, because when you do that, it shows a respect for their opinion. After all, it is the citizens who hired me, so don't you think they should have a say so?" Cudia said.
And win or lose, Cudia promises one thing: while her campaign might be nearing its end, there is no end in sight for her efforts to make Rockford a stronger community.
"The difference is I'm going to be here win or lose, I'm going to be in this community, I'm going to continue to volunteer, I'm going to continue to do my small share to make this community better," Cudia said.
A goal Gloria Cardenas has carried with her for decades, a goal which has propelled her to step forward and run for the Forest City's top position.