Policymaker Profile: Lena Gonzalez – Long Beach City Council

Lena Gonzalez was elected in June of 2014 to represent the First Council District in the City of Long Beach. She grew up in a working class family where her father was a truck driver and her mother worked in aerospace. Gonzalez chairs the Harbor and Tidelands Committee which oversees the over $100 million Tidelands Fund, the Long Beach Unified Joint Use Committee and the I-710 Project Committee. Councilmember Gonzalez lives in downtown Long Beach with her partner Adam and their three sons; Zorion, Ethan and Luca. Gonzalez graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from California State University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University.

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 mother is my political mentor as she is an immigrant, a strong-willed woman who is well-versed in politics, but extremely worldly and self-aware. In this respect, my mother has always taught me to lead by looking well beyond myself. It was always about serving others and doing what is right in the end, without thinking about personal gain.

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 knew quite a bit, having worked for a very active elected official. However, perhaps what I did not know was how complex the art of negotiation and collaboration is during important issues. It can be challenging coming to common ground, but it is vitally important to leave with 50% vs. losing to gain 100%. Collaborating with others is extremely key in maintaining long-term relationships.

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. 

My priority projects really extend in so many directions: Parking, local job creation, sound development, environmental issues, open government, etc. However, one of the first policies I pursued was the Project Labor Agreement, ensuring that city-wide development above $500K, ignites a PLA, whereas 40% of the hiring is local and whereas 10% of the hiring must be focused for disadvantaged communities. As I represent one of the highest unemployment zip codes in the city (90813), local work is extremely important for my residents.

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? 

Feeling ok with saying “no” and setting boundaries for yourself, without guilt. Family and self-care/personal health is extremely important. I am able to work on council emails in the evening after my full-time job, but more importantly, I have an incredible staff that works full time in my city office, they work hard and support our residents day in and out, weekends and evenings – I cannot do this very important job without them.

What was the most memorable day of your life?

The day I graduated from Cal State Long Beach in 2009. It took me 10 years as I had worked and taken care of my son (who I had at 19 years old), I was determined to finish although it took me so long!