Ron deHarte, the president of Greater Palm Springs Pride and chair of the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission, will seek to replace Geoff Kors on the city council in November.
He will be seeking the District 3 seat after Kors announced at last week's city council meeting that he would not run for a third term on the council.
District 3 currently runs south of Vista Chino and north of Ramon Road. The Movie Colony, Old Las Palmas, Sunrise Park and Baristo are among the neighborhoods in the district, which also covers the east side of Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs.
A draft map of how the districts could be redrawn that several councilmembers expressed enthusiasm about would expand District 3 to include all of downtown Palm Springs and the Tennis Club neighborhood, which is currently part of District 5.
DeHarte officially announced his candidacy at an event Tuesday morning at Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs, telling a small crowd of city residents and officials that he was launching his campaign in the community “because I care about our hometown vitality and livability.”
“I’m running because I’m a resident who cares about keeping Palm Springs unique and believes we can have safe streets, sound economic development, a robust tourism economy, and accessible housing while being a leader in sustainability,” deHarte said.
According to his LinkedIn page, deHarte, who is gay, has been part of the leadership of Greater Palm Springs Pride, the organization that puts on the celebration, since 2010, and served as president and CEO of the organization since 2012. He advocated for moving the celebration back downtown from the Palm Springs Stadium, which occurred in 2014.
He has also served as the co-president of the United States Association of Prides, which supports LGBTQ pride celebrations nationwide, since 2019.
In Palm Springs, deHarte serves on the Palm Springs Police Chief's LGBTQ Advisory Committee as a member of Main Street Palm Springs, the Community Leadership Council and the City of Palm Springs Business Transition & Re-entry Task Force.
He has also served on the Community Development Block Grant Citizens Advisory Committee and the Palm Springs Public Library strategic planning process, which helped to establish direction for the city library. He is on the board of directors for Safe Schools Desert Cities.
Professionally, deHarte is the CEO of the deHarte Group, a marketing and event production agency, since 2003, and is also the co-founder of Frontera Investments, an investment data, analysis and forecasting firm.
Announcement includes long list of local endorsements
While deHarte expects his campaign to fully ramp up this spring, he has already been endorsed by several prominent community figures, including Kors, Mayor Lisa Middleton and councilmember Christy Holstege.
The Palm Springs Police Officers Association, former Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes, Crystal Fantasy owner Joy Meredith and Palm Springs Women's Jazz Festival founders Gail Christian and Lucy DeBardelaben have also offered endorsements.
Kors, who has represented District 3 since 2015, touted deHarte’s experience at the event Tuesday, noting his “ability and willingness to listen to all sides” before making key decisions.
“I can’t tell you how thrilled I was, as I was thinking about not running again, to talk to Ron and know that he wanted to run,” Kors said. “As someone who plans on living in District 3 for many more decades, I couldn’t think of a better person to move into this role next year than Ron deHarte.”
Middleton offered similar praise for deHarte on Tuesday, calling him “a man who has demonstrated his ability to reach out from the LGBTQ community to the broader community that’s a part of Palm Springs.”
“I cannot think of anyone who is better qualified than Ron to take over and follow the incredible leadership that District 3 has received from Geoff Kors,” Middleton said.
The Palm Springs City Council could see a substantial amount of turnover after this year's races. Districts 1 and 2 also will hold elections, and the incumbents for those seats — Grace Garner and Dennis Woods, respectively — have not publicly announced whether they'll seek re-election.
Additionally, Holstege is running this year to represent Assembly District 47 in the California Legislature, meaning another member of the council also could be on their way out. Middleton had planned to run for a local state Senate seat this year, but due to redistricting, she decided to wait until the end of her council term in 2024 to make a bid.
DeHarte discusses homelessness, College of the Desert plans
With the Palm Springs City Council recently identifying its priorities for this year, deHarte offered a glimpse of the top issues he’ll focus on if he joins the council in 2023.
Regarding homelessness, deHarte told The Desert Sun he doesn’t have “the magic ball” to solve the issue, but he has the commitment and drive “to help move solutions forward,” noting his support for the city’s recent plan to turn a property in northern Palm Springs into a facility to help individuals who are homeless.
“As a resident, I encouraged the navigation center to move forward,” deHarte said. “We need a facility like that so we can provide the wraparound services for those who are homeless in our community … It’s not the end solution, but it’s a great step forward for our city.”
The District 3 candidate also seemed closely aligned with the current council’s position regarding the College of the Desert, which has drawn criticism for what council members describe as a lack of communication and progress regarding a long-proposed campus in Palm Springs.
“I don’t think I could be any more clear: The message to the (college’s) Board of Trustees is they’ve got to get it done, and we are going to be relentless until that campus is built,” deHarte said.
He has also been outspoken on human rights issues, recently expressing criticism of Desert X and issuing a statement on behalf of Greater Palm Springs Pride taking issue with the arts organization's decision to hold another exhibition in Saudi Arabia.
"I support the belief that art transcends a lot of political issues," he said. "However, when art supports and attempts to bring credibility to an entity widely condemned for human rights abuses in a country where 50% of our own residents would be condemned to death, it is not right.
"Married men and interfaith sex are punished with the death penalty. We do not support the city of Palm Springs endorsing or funding practices enabling the efforts of Desert X."
DeHarte said he first thought of running for city council while working on community projects with the late George Zander, who was assaulted in a 2015 incident in Palm Springs that was later determined to have been a hate crime. At the time, however, he did not yet feel ready to be a politician and instead focused his energy on local nonprofits that have provided empowerment opportunities for youth and raising awareness of the diversity of Palm Springs.
It remains to be seen whether other candidates will emerge to run in District 3, but deHarte said he has not heard of anyone else seeking to enter the city council race so far.
Palm Springs’ municipal election this year is set for Nov. 8.
Paul Albani-Burgio covers breaking news and the City of Palm Springs. Follow him on Twitter at @albaniburgiop and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tom Coulter covers politics. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tomcoulter_.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Palm Springs Pride President Ron deHarte to announce run for city council