SCLPC Policymaker Profiles

Policymaker Profile: Mary Jane Sanchez-Fulton – College of the Desert

Mary Jane Sanchez-Fulton has received numerous state and national award for her advocacy in higher education. Recently honored by NlWB women of Excellence -2017. Served as the first Latina Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Desert Community College District. She is the CA representatives for the American Association of Community College Trustees, Board member of Riverside County RDA Oversight committee for the city of Indio and Desert Hot springs. She has served for over 15 years as professor/educator for local universities and community colleges. Strong corporate background, principled thinking; a person who continues bring new vision to the future of College of the Desert.

Who was your political mentor – someone who guided and supported you – someone who prepared you for public service. What kind of advice did they give you that was the most important/useful to you?

Interesting question. At the time I began to run, there no other Latinas in office. I had no political mentor, because in the back of mind I didn’t want to owe anybody anything. However who truly inspired really was my mom who motivated me because she said I couldn’t win because I was too honest and nice and because I cared. So I ran to prove her that integrity still exists.

What was the one thing no one told you about being an elected official that you wish you’d known before you were elected?

The one thing nobody told me – How expensive it is to get elected and re-elected.

Describe a project you spearheaded or supported that you’re proud of. Why was it successful and what did you learn from it that helped you be a better policymaker?

As the youngest trustee member, and first Latina elected as chair, there are many projects I have spearheaded in my 1st term as elected. My top 4 that I am most proud are about access.

  1. Creating Community College Tuition free to Coachella valley residents.
  2. Creating a new and free bus line to the college, so students can go to work and school. 
  3. Creating A food pantry for my students.
  4. Building a new Campus for the underserved community and the city.

As an elected official you must balance your job, your duties as an elected official and family obligations, not to mention trying to find personal time for yourself. How do you balance all these duties and obligations?

You can’t really balance anything as an elected official. As an elected you automatically make personal and financial sacrifices. The secret is hard work. Secret to success is having family members that support your dreams, not sabotage them. And that you truly have a passion to serve.

What was the most memorable day of your life?

Most memorable day of my life: Getting married to a man that believed and supported me and not belittled my political aspirations and attending Women’s Conference in Beijing, China –  ” A woman’s right is a human right.”

Policymaker Profile: Denise Menchaca – San Gabriel City Council

Denise Menchaca was elected to the San Gabriel City Council in March, 2017. She was raised in Alhambra, California where she attended local public schools. She attended the University of Southern California, having earned a Bachelor degree in Accounting. She has over 30 years of working in both the public and private industries.

She was named the Congressional Woman of Distinction for San Gabriel by Congresswoman Judy Chu, the Golden Apple by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and Volunteer Rookie of the Year by the American Cancer Society. Menchaca has been married to John Menchaca for 30 years, raising their four children, Vanessa, Michelle, Roxanne and Michael Menchaca.

Who was your political mentor – someone who guided and supported you – someone who prepared you for public service.  What kind of advice did they give you that was the most important/useful to you?

My political mentor was Lee Freeman, 14 year School Boardmember and past President of the San Gabriel Unified School District. During his tenure, Lee was the quarterback in a Bond drive that took us from a dream to a reality….the reality of becoming a Unified School District with upgraded School facilities including the building of our very own 4 year High School. Lee provided me with sound advice: To be a person of action and not just words. He reminded me that there’s no substitute for the power of door knocking and hard work. Lastly, there was no amount of old guard endorsements or money that will help get you elected unless you personally got out there to meet the voters. These are lessons I still remember after years of being politically engaged.

From left: George Carney, Menchaca, Florencio Briones,and Erik Sanchez.

What was the one thing no one told you about being an elected official that you wish you’d known before you were elected?

Being able to serve one’s community in a very meaningful way is a fulfilling experience like no other.  If you think your elected officials should go in a different direction, this is your chance to discontinue sitting on the sidelines and make an impact. Too many times individuals get discouraged by those small groups who are disagreeable about contentious issues. Overall, I have learned that most people are open and willing to listen and work toward a mutually agreeable solution. Let’s not forget that this is our Community. We must all do our part to influence the course of action that will benefit, in some cases, generations of families.

Describe a project you spearheaded or supported that you’re proud of. Why was it successful and what did you learn from it that helped you be a better policymaker?

The San Gabriel City Council is responsible for hiring two individuals: the City Manager and the City Attorney. As the newly elected City Council member, I learned at my second meeting that this Council will be hiring both a City Manager and City Attorney in less than 6 months. My priority now is to move ahead swiftly and effectively in the search process to fill these two key city positions. We will be retaining an executive-recruitment firm to help fill the vacancies. There will be additional meetings and much preparation including advertising, recruitment brochure and both community and staff surveys. This is just the beginning of the challenges and successes that lie ahead during my four year tenure.

As an elected official you must balance your job, your duties as an elected official and family obligations, not to mention trying to find personal time for yourself. How do you balance all these duties and obligations? 

I engage people I trust in achieving work-family life balance. I have regular discussions with my husband and children about their observations, opinions and complaints regarding my career commitments and civic involvement. I reach out to friends who give me sound advice and are encouraging. Most importantly, I realized that the perfect balance between work and family may not take place at all times—and that’s normal.

What was the most memorable day of your life?

Aside from the birth of my 4 children, one of the most memorable days of my life was getting elected to the San Gabriel Unified School Board in 2005. There were 3 incumbents seeking re-election and I was the lone challenger. On Election Day, I was the top vote-getter with the second being my political mentor Lee Freeman, who was so genuinely elated with the results. To-date, I have yet to witness a political leader demonstrate such a sincere and selfless reaction when their names have also been on the ballot.

Policymaker Profile: Belen Bernal – City of South Gate

Bernal participates in the 2015 Latino Policy Forum at Cal State-LA.

South Gate Council Member Maria Belen Bernal started her career as a representative for Assemblyman Marco A. Firebaugh, who represented South Gate in the state legislature. As she learned more about Southeast Los Angeles communities, her commitment and enthusiasm to be of service to others grew.
A graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Council Member Bernal also holds a Master of Business Administration from California State University, Long Beach.
Council Woman Bernal was born in East Los Angeles and has been a resident of South Gate for 29 years. She was raised on the West side of the City and attended Stanford and Montara Avenue Elementary schools, South Gate Middle and South Gate High School. She resides in South Gate with her husband Juan and their two children.

Who was your political mentor?

I decided to run for elected office in March of 2009 when a co-worker, and South Gate resident at the time asked me to consider running for City Treasurer. She stated that it would be great to have someone who was raised in our community, earned a degree, and had decided to stay local; run for office. After thinking about this for a few weeks I decided to meet with Council Members who I met during my time as a field representative for Assembly Member Marco A. Firebaugh years prior. I was fortunate to have the support of four, out of the five council members, and decided to pursue this opportunity to serve and learn more about my community and local government.

I soon reached out to an old work colleague, Edgar Aranda, who worked as a political consultant. During this early stage of my political involvement, Edgar provided a much needed introduction to what a campaign process entailed, and explained how voter history and patterns were important to consider. I sincerely appreciate his support, and honest guidance very early on.

After serving as Treasurer for six years, I was asked by an outgoing Council Member to consider running for a seat on the City Council. At the time, Mayor Henry Gonzalez extended his full support, and held various conversations about how the campaign process for this position would be much more extensive. Given Mr. Gonzalez’s 25+ years of service as a local City Council Member, I trusted his intentions as a public servant, and enjoyed listening to his stories about how the City of South Gate came to be what it is today. In retrospect, I see how my conversations with Mr. Gonzalez remind me of the annual visits I had with my grandparents, and where I learned that there is much wisdom in those who have lived much longer than us, and who speak from experience.

Lastly, my parents have been my strongest mentors, it is they who instilled the core values of integrity, and a strong and humble work ethic that have provided me with the will power to make tough, and even unpopular, decisions when needed.

 

What was the one thing no one told you about being an elected official that you wish you’d known before you were elected?

Believe it or not, because I didn’t run for a Council seat early on, I was shocked to learn about how much money goes to running a campaign. I come from a non-profit sector background and think, “Imagine what $20-30,000 can do to help provide additional services to our communities?”

I always knew that there would be times when the public or others would not agree on every issue, but I never thought that being elected/appointed official meant that you had to allow others to create stories about you, and sometimes deal with criticism from strangers. I have always been someone who opts to explain processes, and provide a context to better understand situations, yet as an official you are not always given the opportunity to respond to every criticism. I have found it crucial to rely on my values of integrity and ethics, and have my actions align with the hope that the community will become informed before making statements.

Describe a project you spearheaded or supported that you’re proud of. Why was it successful (what did it do for residents) and what did you learn from it that helped you be a better policymaker?

Maybe because I served as Treasurer prior to being on the Council, or because I like to understand the “numbers” that help measure an organization’s efficiency, I have asked staff to continue to present as much detail to my Council colleagues and I about our finances, and accounts on a regular basis. Reports on the status of our City’s General Fund are now provided on a Quarterly basis per my request.

In addition, I asked staff to present ways in which we can create a fiscal task force in order to involve residents in the budget, and contract review process. This is one goal that I would like to see come to fruition during my next two years on the City Council.

Lastly, our outgoing Mayor Bill DeWitt was kind enough to work on my request to invite our School District Superintendent Michelle King who will provide a “State of our Schools” address- specifically to learn more about the performance students and schools in South Gate, this Thursday. This is another project that I want to continue to host, and work closely on, with my colleagues and the school district in the next couple of years.

As an elected official you must balance your job, your duties as an elected official and family obligations, not to mention trying to find personal time for yourself. How do you balance all these duties and obligations?

I am blessed to share my life with my husband and our two children, and agree that balance is needed between these important priorities and obligations. During the last two years on Council, I had the opportunity to work as an operations management consultant which provided a flexible schedule, and the opportunity to become acquainted with my new role on Council.

Most recently I accepted a full-time position, and have definitely experience the difference, and make it a point to have my schedule reflect my priorities both with the City, my career, and my family.

Although there are residents who may want to see me at every-single event, I make it a point to do my due diligence and read Council agenda items first. I very much enjoy attending events that provide me with good feel for the pulse of the community, and will continue to attend outside of my regular full-time work hours, while keeping key family commitments as well.

What was the most memorable day of your life?

The days when my children were born. I began as an elected official, when still single, and no children. During my time in elected office, I got married, completed an MBA, and was blessed with two beautiful children. There have been many memorable days in my life, and now that I have my children, I honestly see how the parent perspective allows me to contribute in new ways on similar issues that stood before us in the past.

Policymaker Profile: Karina Macias – Huntington Park City Council

Karina MaciasKarina Macias was elected to the Huntington Park City Council in March 2013. Two years after her election, she was elected to serve as the Mayor of Huntington Park for the 2015-2016 term, making her the youngest Mayor in the history of the City.

Council Member Karina Macias grew up in Huntington Park as the only child of immigrant parents. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Psychology, with a minor in International Studies from Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles. Passionate about global issues, she then went on to earn her Master’s Degree in International Studies from Chapman University.

 

 

Policymaker Profile: Norma Edith García – Rio Hondo College Trustee

garcia-2Norma Edith García was re-elected to the Rio Hondo College Board of Trustees in November, 2013. She represents Trustee Area 1 which includes the City of El Monte.
García attended Citrus Community College, transferred and graduated from UCLA, earning a B.A. in Political Science and M.A. in Urban Planning. She served as the Community and Environmental Deputy to former Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Gloria Molina.
García is an ardent believer of building better communities, and works to achieve this through her active participation in numerous civic and professional organizations. García currently serves as the Chair of the California Community Foundation’s ‘Community Building Initiative’, which is a 10-year effort to revitalize the community by engaging residents and developing their leadership, and improving the physical environment and social services. Ms. Garcia is also the Board Chair of the El Monte Promise Foundation.
She presently serves as the Deputy Director of the Planning and Development Agency for Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation.
García is a life-long resident of the beautiful community of El Monte.

Policymaker Profile: Dr. Yxstian Gutierrez – Mayor of Moreno Valley

gutierrez-3Mayor Dr. Yxstian Gutierrez began his tenure on the Moreno Valley City council in September 2013. He’s lived in Moreno Valley for more than 20 years, and received his Associate Degree at Moreno Valley College, his Bachelor’s Degree from California Baptist University, a Master’s from American InterContinental University and his Doctoral Degree from Northcentral University. Currently, Mayor Gutierrez is a 3rd and 4th grade special education teacher for the Moreno Valley Unified School District. Prior to joining city council he owned Berrybean Café. He also served as a member of the Moreno Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Moreno Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Dr. Gutierrez is Moreno Valley’s youngest mayor.

As an elected official you must balance your job, your duties as an elected official and family obligations, not to mention trying to find personal time for yourself. How do you balance all these duties and obligations? Is there a secret to doing this well you can share?

I calendar a lot of events. So everything is based on my calendar, which keeps me organized. I always try to rest on Sundays and go to church. I rely on my spiritual side to help build me up as well and I try to exercise regularly. I exercise three or four times a week. I think it helps me from becoming tired or stressed out. I also utilize the skill of ‘delegation.’ I delegate tasks to staff members and that helps to maintain balance in my life. I get better at it the longer I’m in the position.

Who was your political mentor—someone who guided and supported you and prepared you for public service? Name the person—your campaign manager, your spouse, parent, another political candidate. What kind of advice did they give you that was the most important/useful to you? What did they teach you?

Victoria Bacca, who served as city council member (of Moreno Valley). Actually I worked on her campaign prior to being on the city council myself. She served as a mentor for 3 years and she helped me to get on the city council. She warned me about politics and taught me perseverance and to just keep going, even when people knock you down. She also taught me I’m not always going to make everybody happy. There are people who don’t like me, but they’ve never met me before. She taught me to persevere and keep working in a positive direction.

What was the one thing no one told you about being an elected official that you wish you’d known before you were elected?

Gutierrez-1No one told me about the amount of public scrutiny, how people want access to my everyday calendar. As well as people making public records requests for my e-mails. I never knew anything about that until I got in office. I have nothing to hide. (Someone) wants to see my e-mails and my calendars about ever other week. I didn’t know this was going to happen.

Describe a project you spearheaded or supported that you’re proud of. Why was it successful and what did you learn from it that helped you be a better policymaker?

I’ve really extremely proud of “Hire MoVal,” which is a local jobs program. It’s one of a kind. It’s a game changer. I authored and presented it to city council. It encourages local businesses to hire Moreno Valley residences. Pasadena has a similar program as well as San Francisco, but our program provides a utility discount to businesses that hire Moreno Valley residents. When a business hires 20 percent of their workforce from Moreno Valley they receive a 22 percent discount on their utility bill. If they hire 40 percent (workforce) they receive an additional 2 percent on top of the 22 percent. The program has attracted Amazon who has hired 80 percent of their workers from Moreno Valley. We also won an award for Hire Moval from the Inland Empire Economic Council.

The program is such a success because 80 percent of our residents commute outside of the city for work. Now they are closer to home and it allows them to spend more time with their families and it’s reduced the congestion on the freeway.

gutierrez-2While creating programs like Hire Moval, I learned the art of compromise. To get things done you have to learn to compromise. Which is a great skill to have. When you compromise and treat your staff and employees right they work hard to get the job done in a positive way.

What was the most memorable day of your life?

Getting elected to city council in 2014 was amazing. My parents helped out so much with the campaign. They were really hands on and put in so many hours. A lot of people said I was too young. They didn’t think I could win.

Who will be the next President of the U.S? Who should be the next President?

I think Hillary Clinton will more than likely win. She is getting a lot of support from her party, but then she is also getting support from the other party. There are a lot of people flocking to her support. Hillary has the temperament and the leadership capacity to lead our country.

Interviewed by freelance writer/producer Octavia McClain.

Policymaker Profile: Jose Solorio

Jose_Solorio2Rancho Santiago Community College District Trustee Jose Solorio was elected to the Board  in 2012. The son of migrant farm workers, Solorio went from laboring as a teenager in the fields, alongside his parents, to earning a bachelor’s degree from UC Irvine and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Harvard University. After representing Anaheim, Garden Grove and Santa Ana in the State Assembly six years, he now serves central Orange County on the Board of Trustees for the predominantly Latino community college district. In his role as state assembly member, and now as community college trustee, he has focused his efforts on education, job creation, public safety and infrastructure improvements.

What was the one thing no one told you about being an elected official that you wish you’d known before you were elected?

The most striking thing is just how much additional time other than governing board meetings there is in the requirements to be an elected official. There are countless other hours spent meeting with community boards, community leaders or staff—it’s a real big time commitment. It’s duties that you have to your constituents and stakeholders; the public deserves reasonable access to your time because you represent them.

As an elected official you must balance your job, your duties as an elected official and family obligations, not to mention trying to find personal time for yourself. How do you balance all these duties and obligations? Is there a secret to doing this well you can share?

Jose_Solorio1Over time you realize how to be efficient with scheduling your government meetings, with conducting the meetings, following up with them, how to delegate certain responsibilities to others on staff, or find others to assist you. I definitely make quality time for family members—I am married and have two children. When I served in the state assembly, it was a big sacrifice for my family not to have their father available 24/7. When I was home I would make up for it by doing laundry, take kids to sporting events, anything to be a good father and husband.

Who was your political mentor—someone who guided and supported you and prepared you for public service? What kind of advice did they give you that was the most important/useful to you? 

State Senator Art Torres was an amazing role model. When I was a student leader at the University of California, Irvine, I was involved in statewide advocacy for college students. We would follow legislation and the work of legislators who prioritized college education, and we admired Torres. I was able to invite him to a leadership conference and listened to him address the audience. I kept in touch with him over the years. You try to emulate your role models and see what makes them an elected official. He has many traits that I admire. He’s an outstanding speaker and giving of his time outside his jurisdiction. He’s a master of the media and shaping policies that people would identify him with. He has the humility to talk to “important people,” but also to students and community leaders. He’s an outstanding statesman, and by listening to him I learned countless things.

Describe a project you spearheaded or supported that you’re proud of. Why was it successful and what did you learn from it that helped you be a better policymaker?

In 2011 I discovered through public health warnings that in central Santa Ana, in the heart of one of the country’s most developed and prosperous areas, there were two neighborhoods in which residents no longer had access to clean drinking water. This was right in the middle of California’s recession. Finding resources to connect them to the city’s water resources was a challenge, but I prioritized it, as it should be. I worked with county, city and state public health officials, state drinking water officials and legislators, to identify an area of funding that was left over from a prior project. We provided that money to the city and to a very quick order got those families access to clean drinking water.

I was raised in the Central Valley so water has always been the top issue for me, and clean drinking water is vital—it’s not just for living but bad water can be very harmful to children, pregnant mothers, and the elderly. People who can live comfortably can hire help, so that leaves the disadvantaged, economically or socially, who can benefit from leaders, so I try to help those.

I was raised from humble beginnings, a small town in the Central Valley and I know that children and adults can do great things if they have the right opportunities. I learned to keep focused on a project if a solution isn’t immediately apparent to look for others, to partner with everybody who has skin in the game and work with people on the ground because oftentimes people don’t want to be helped. An example was that these neighborhoods had low-cost water and didn’t necessarily wanted to pay a higher cost for city water, and getting them to make the transition was a big task in and of itself.

What was the most memorable day of your life?

Two days. First, setting foot on Harvard campus as a graduate student. Second, when my son was accepted at Harvard and Stanford. When you grow up in the Central Valley as I did and see all the need around you and one day you go to the most prestigious university on earth, that’s a big deal. And you realize you’re going to learn all these things and be able to benefit the life others. I went to the school of public policy so that I could return and help my community. Second, when your son has that accomplishment, it’s his but for the parent too because I helped nurture a child who’s going to be productive in society. He’s going to Stanford in the fall.

If you had to be on one television show, which show would you choose and why?

The West Wing. It would be fun to be a speechwriter or a political advisor to President Bartlet.

Who will be the next President of the U.S? Who should be the next President?

It’s my hope that Hillary Clinton will be our next president and the woman who is going to break through that glass ceiling. I think she’ll do an outstanding job. I think our country did very well under Bill Clinton, and I think people from all walks of life will do very well under Hillary Clinton.

Interviewed by Mary Ann Marshall.

Policymaker Profile: Carol Herrera

Herrera1The City of Diamond Bar’s first Latina mayor is in her sixth term on the city council and has served as mayor five times. Carol Herrera was first elected to the city council in November 1995 and has the city’s longest tenure of service.
Prior to being elected to the city council, Ms. Herrera served four terms on the Walnut Valley Unified School Board District. A long-time advocate for local, regional and national transportation solutions, she is on the board of directors and leadership committee of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
Ms. Herrera earned her Associate’s Degree from Mt. San Antonio College and has lived in Diamond Bar since 1966. She and her husband Art, a retired commander with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, have raised three children and have been married 50 years.

Of all the projects you’ve worked on during your years of public service, which one are you most proud of and how did it help you become a better policy maker?

diamondbar-coucil-oath-dec1“The first time I served as mayor in 1998 I set up a task force to look into creating a civic center because we didn’t own our city hall. Each council member appointed a community resident to the task force, so there was a lot of community involvement. In 2010, when we started talking about renting additional space because we needed to expand, our city manager said, “It’s a shame we can’t move into one of the nearby office buildings,’ and pointed out there was one across the street with 57-thousand square feet of space, a lot more than we needed, but the [asking price] was $18-million. I told him to offer $9.9-million in cash and they accepted. It was far more space than we needed, but since the local library was in a cramped facility, we now had plenty of space to offer and invited them to move in on the ground floor. The community was thrilled. The lesson I learned from that experience was that sometimes you just have to go for it and take a risk.”

Who was your mentor in public service and what impact did she or he have on your career?

“My friend Gary Neely, who is now deceased, guided me a lot. He was always involved in politics, served on this area’s advisory council long before Diamond Bar became a city. When he ran for city council when the city incorporated in 1989 he didn’t win, but when one of my fellow council members, Bob Huff [former California State Senate Minority Leader] later ran for Assembly he hired Gary to be his transportation deputy for several years. Gary was the person who taught me the importance of collaborating with other cities. Diamond Bar [city officials] would sometimes go on the offense when we were impacted in a negative way by other cities, but Gary was the one who always encouraged me to form alliances and figure out ways to work things out rather than fight over our differences. That excellent advice has stayed with me ever since.”

Is there anything you wish someone had told you before you became an elected official?

5760DFgroup“I faced a huge learning curve regarding [bureaucracy] language. There were acronyms and so many different phrases. I wish someone had offered me [a guide] because I had no idea what they were talking about in city council meetings! I finally [admitted that] to the city manager, who was pretty upset that I let so much time go by without saying anything. Part of it was ego. I’d been on the school board for 16 years and I figured I knew everything but that wasn’t true. Like infrastructure. I didn’t know what infrastructure meant. I told [the city manager], ‘I thought if I just listened long enough I’d figure it out, but I’ve been here for quite a while and I still don’t know what you’re talking about.’ I didn’t even know how certain organizations and [city] departments related to one another. So, he started simplifying things for me. Now, when we get a new council member, I always ask staff to explain it in such a way so the new person knows exactly what we’re talking about. I also ask questions on their behalf because when you’re new you don’t even know what questions to ask, so I do it for them.”

What was your most memorable day?

“I have nine grandchildren and when each of them was born that was tremendously memorable. Professionally, when i was elected in 1995 I was down by six votes on election night and there were still provisional votes to be counted, which wouldn’t happen for another week. And by the way, at that point I didn’t even know what provisional votes were! One week later, [my opponent and I were in] a dead tie. I suggested that it be resolved by drawing lots. I wrote my name on a scrap of paper and put in an envelope and [my opponent] wrote his name down and put it in another envelope. The envelopes were placed in a receptacle and the mayor was called back into the room. When she reached in and grabbed an envelope, she dropped it. So, she picked up the other envelope and it was the one with my name inside. There were 200 people in the room and everyone was holding their breath. The lesson there was that every single vote counts.”

If you had to be on one television show, “Survivor,” “The Voice” or “Dancing with The Stars,” which would you choose?

“I’m not very athletic so I don’t think I’d pick ‘Survivor.’ I’m becoming arthritic so I wouldn’t go on ‘Dancing with The Stars,’ and I can’t sing a note so I wouldn’t pick ‘The Voice.’ If I did, people would likely take up a collection to pay me not to sing!”

Interviewed by Bill Britt.

Policymaker Profile: Joanna Flores

JoannaFlores2Joanna Flores serves on the board of the Montebello Unified School District, is an adjunct professor at East Los Angeles College and is studying for her doctorate in education at USC. Flores has a dual master’s degree from University of Pennsylvania and a dual bachelor’s from USC. Flores developed SEA goes2college, a grassroots campaign that provides educational workshops and resources to increase college access to southeast LA residents.

What was the one thing no one told you about being an elected official that you wish you’d known before you were elected?

I find two things overwhelming. First, managing the number of invitations that we get to public events that we have to attend. We’re the third largest school district in LA County, so we’re dealing with eight cities. Second, sorting through our calendar and dealing with all the paper documents we have to file away and the amount of reading we have to do. I have literally devoted an entire room in my house to store all the papers and documents—and my office is already full. We deal with presentations to memos to policies that we’re trying to move forward.

As an elected official you must balance your job, your duties as an elected official and family obligations, not to mention trying to find personal time for yourself. How do you balance all these duties and obligations? Is there a secret to doing this well you can share?

I’ve been an avid runner for 10 years and it’s definitely a practice still. I run 3-4 times a week. I love dancing and so does my husband so every so often I say let’s go dancing. Third I rely on my faith a lot so whenever I’m having a stressful day I rely on prayer or go to church. I also love to cook but don’t have time. On Sundays I try not to schedule anything and cook for my husband and that’s our key time for us to recuperate and get re-energized for the week.

Who was your political mentor—someone who guided and supported you and prepared you for public service?  What kind of advice did they give you that was the most important/useful to you? 

Desiree Portillo-Rabinov, who is the former president of the National Women’s Political Caucus-Los Angeles Metro, a bipartisan nonprofit organization that advocates for women to run for office. She’s one of the first people who wrote out a check without hesitation to support me. I was running against two incumbents, which is a case where the odds aren’t usually very good. She was the person I could speak my mind and my heart to. Having that outlet and someone to reassure you in those moments is so important. She told me to rely on my faith and truly believed in me. There are those moments in running for office that you wonder if you can do it. You know it’s for the larger cause of helping your community, but having someone reassure you that you can do it is pretty amazing.

My other key mentor is my husband. Being elected is not my own victory but a partnership victory, a team effort. We operate differently and we complement each other. The best advice he gave me was to stay connected with the community—that I need to spend as much time as possible meeting the constituency. Be out knocking on doors or answering emails, making connections. He was very assertive about that.

Describe a project you spearheaded or supported that you’re proud of. Why was it successful and what did you learn from it that helped you be a better policymaker?

JoannaFlores1I co-spearheaded a special education task force that has worked for six months to determine how much and what type of Special Ed services are needed for our students in our district. The goal of launching the task force, which has never been done in our district, was to assess the needs of the Special Ed community and try to develop changes that are more efficient for Special Ed services for students, staff, parents and teachers. We tried to be inclusive of the representation of all people that play a role in Special Ed students’ lives. After six months of work we finally were able to narrow down what we need, what needs to change, and which services we need to increase. Our next move is to report out our observations and get together a timeline and execution for what we’ll change. We’ll have town hall meetings and share this with the community.

One unique thing I brought is my empathy toward the needs and the struggle of Special Ed communities. After I received a dual master’s in public policy and social work, I was a social worker for two years. As do many social workers, I was a provider for clients with special needs.

What was the most memorable day of your life?

In summer 2008, I got to live in South Africa for 6 weeks to do research on their orphanages. During that time I hiked the highest mountain in Cape Town, called Table Mountain, over a 2 to 3 day journey with my closest friend. We were out in nature with no technology, just visiting with the stars. Incredible!

If you had to be on one television show, which show would you choose and why?

It would be So You Think You Can Dance because I’ve always loved dancing, which I get from my parents. They’ve always danced—even after they had kids.

Who will be the next President of the U.S? Who should be the next President?

No comment, because I’ve never been so conflicted regarding a presidential campaign as this one. I’m a registered democrat, and I’m conflicted in terms of the primary. Our family is old school—we all walk over together to the voting booth and vote. To be honest I’m not looking forward to it this year, which is interesting given I’m an elected official.

The daughter of immigrant parents from El Salvador and Mexico, Joanna is the first of eight siblings to graduate from college, and complete higher education. Joanna lives with her husband in the City of Commerce.

This interview was conducted by freelance writer Mary Ann Marshall.

Policymaker Profile: Ray Marquez

RMarquez_-editedRay Marquez was elected to the Chino Hills City Council in a special election held in March of 2013 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former City Council Member Bill Kruger. Ray served the remainder of that term and was re-elected in 2014. He has been an active volunteer, civic leader, and realtor in the community since 1984. He was a member of the Chino Hills Incorporation Committee, which sought to establish Chino Hills as a City. He also served as an elected Board Member for the Chino Valley Independent Fire District from 2006.

What was the one thing no one told you about being an elected official that you wish you’d known before you were elected?

I’m a straight shooter. I’m in this to fix problems, and it gets frustrating when I go to the Republican Central Committee and I hear other candidates talk about the core concerns of the Republican Party—issues like being pro-life, the second amendment, transgender bathrooms—when, as a state assemblyman, we need to discuss and solve issues at the state level. Those core issues have been addressed at a different level. I can have my own opinion but I work at the state level, and the problem is that people are working their own personal agenda, catering to special interests and not looking at the issues at hand.

As an elected official you must balance your job, your duties as an elected official and family obligations, not to mention trying to find personal time for yourself. How do you balance all these duties and obligations? Is there a secret to doing this well you can share?

My dad, who died when I was 19, told me that if I’m ever going to complain I have to come up with good solutions–as a firefighter and a real estate agent I have remembered that. Throughout my life and through different committees I’ve been on I’ve remembered that. My goal is to come up with solutions. That solution is to find balance. I have a great wife to help me. Every night when I come home my wife and I sit and talk, all my kids are grown and I have one grandson. I call my kids during the day to tell them I love them and we plan trips here and there, and even with my extended family. Family is important to me, religion is important to me, and my wife and I go to church. So that’s what I try to do—try to communicate. I have a friend who just lost his brother and I made a point to call him and talk and let him know I’m there for him. That’s what I do.

Who was your political mentor—someone who guided and supported you and prepared you for public service? What kind of advice did they give you that was the most important/useful to you? 

California Congresswoman Grace Napolitano. She’s a democratic congresswoman who believes in what she does. I have learned the most from her. She is a strong women who is willing to reach across the political tables to do what is best for her constituents, not just her party. A real people person who cares the most about people who will do the right things for the right reasons. It’s not so much that she taught me anything other than I saw what she did, and she has inspired me.

Describe a project you spearheaded or supported that you’re proud of. Why was it successful and what did you learn from it that helped you be a better policymaker?

RMarquez_Image2Before I got elected we in Chino Hills were fighting Southern California Edison (SCE) because they were starting to place 200-foot towers throughout residential areas. We had originally taken it to court and lost, and as soon as we did Edison put the powerlines in the middle of our city. When the community saw what they were getting and weren’t happy, we started a group called Hope for the Hills to fight SCE. Because I knew so many people in the community, I was able to reach out to many Democrats close to home. We shared mutual respect. I knew how to communicate with them. And I realized that I couldn’t be abrasive when asking for help. I took a step back and started communicating better. We then reached out to Republicans and all started working together. We invited the California Public Utilities Commission out and opened their eyes. They made a decision to take the towers down and the lines were put underground. It worked because we were good communicators, worked hard and didn’t let up. This is what I’m most proud of as elected official.

What was the most memorable day of your life?

The day I got married. I consider myself a tough guy but when I was giving my vows to my wife I got real emotional. I was laughing and crying at the same time. It was something I have never experienced and something I will always remember.

If you had to be on one television show, which show would you choose and why?

I wish I could sing, but in reality I am a survivor, so it would be Survivor.

Who will be the next President of the U.S? Who should be the next President?

I think it will be Hillary Clinton, unfortunately. I think it should be John Kasich. This is one of those important issues that I’m debating in my mind right now. I wish I had the confidence in Mr. Trump, but I don’t and I feel like we’ve let the party down. Still, I hope Trump wins, and once he’s in I hope he gets some great people around him. I can’t align myself with who he is and how he treats people, but once he’s president and I’m asked to support him, I’ll do my part. This is one of those times that we as a country have to come together.

Ray Marquez and his wife, Barbara, have been proud residents of Chino Hills since 1984. Together, they have three grown children Patrick, Rey, and Andrew. On New Year’s Day, 2016, Ray and Barbara became grandparents when Andrew and his wife Melissa welcomed their first child, son Bentley. 

This interview was conducted by freelance writer Mary Ann Marshall.