Policymaker Profile: Jerry Velasco – City of El Monte

Jerry Velasco, Producer of “THE PITCH,” has been in the entertainment industry for over forty years, as an accomplished businessman, actor, producer, union organizer, personal manager, Art Advocate, and as head of his own multimedia entertainment company, Velasco & Associates. After serving the community in many aspects for over forty years, Velasco’s most recent venture has been to the political arena. After serving as a Planning Commissioner for the City of El Monte for two years, Velasco was elected as the EL Monte City Treasurer in 2015, and soon after was elected to the El Monte City Council and currently serves as the El Monte Mayor Pro Tem (Vice Mayor).

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?

Well, I have several mentors. First of all, the non-political, my parents, brothers, and sisters who taught me the same thing that most mentors taught me, respect. Secondly, the great actor icon, Ricardo Montalban that most of you remember him as the star of the TV series, Fantasy Island. He was a very prominent, respected, loved super star that originated from Mexico who made positive changes for our people in the United States through the entertainment industry. Thirdly, Congressman Estaban Torres, who was also a former U.S. Ambassador to U.N.E.S.C.O. Fourthly, Julian Nava, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Finally, Congressman Edward Roybal, he was the U.S. Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard father among others. These are/were all pioneers who fought for these positions not only for themselves but for all of us. They and my parents taught me; respect, honesty, the value of life, and to work very hard to reach my dreams. What they mainly emphasized was to always treat people with respect and dignity.

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

There are two things I would have wished they told me:

  1.  How to break into the Political World:

Even though our colleges and Universities offer Political Science courses and other political classes, these courses do not teach you how to be an elected official.  That is why it is important that everyone has mentors, like the ones I mentioned above that know the ins and outs of how to be an elected official, so that we can be able to govern the best we can. Basically, what I always recommend pray and go with your instincts and what your heart dictates to you. Because if it’s not good for me, it will not be good for you.

  1.   How to be a Council Member:

Even though I have had a lot of experience in life because of my age; for example, working in the entertainment industry, I have been able to take on and work with the entertainment industry trying to make positive changes and a difference by trying to diversify it. Again, I would say that there should be some kind of training program when an individual runs for office or gets elected so that they could know their responsibilities and obligations so that they can know the things they can do and the things not to do. Because by not doing the right thing, those are the things no matter how small they are is what puts politicians careers in jeopardy.

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

Well, as I said, I have only been elected as a Council Member for a year and a half, it is too early to talk about my accomplishments, I rather hold off to talk about them next time you interview me again. Maybe in six months or a year. But, as a newly elected official, I feel this is the beauty of having someone new in the Council enter the political structure that shares new ideas with other colleagues. Just as I am sharing my ideas with my fellow members to bring more businesses into our city to continue improving the city’s infrastructure, safety, health, after school programs, art programs, senior among other programs. Like I have always said, the businesses in our city are very important because they generate the taxes that we need to be able to accomplish all the programs that I have been talking about (we must always remember to continue being business friendly). Something that is very dear to my heart because that is where I come from is the arts, and I feel that our city is lacking tremendously in the arts and the lack of recreational parks. Even though we have theater programs in our school Districts, I am working towards building and having our own Performance Art Center in our city. I Iook forward in establishing our own Performing Art Center and be known once again as a city that has the best art programs in the nation as we were known once before back in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s when the famous Legion Stadium was around. I feel that art is essential to a community as my dear friend the actor, Ricardo Montalban said: “a city or a home without art, is a dark city or dark home.”

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 can you share?

Well, it’s not easy if you think about it too much. If you just let it happen, it works. However, you do have to balance your time because we only have twenty-four hours a day, but more importantly, pace yourself. When it comes to family, family comes first. Your family should always know what you are always into whether it be your brother, sister, husband, or wife to be able to accept your decision.

Interviewed by Sergio Garcia Escobar, Political Science Major, California State University – Long Beach