I am not a career politician. Instead, I’m a public servant and a citizen activist who happens to have served in local and state government on behalf of my local community. Guided by this philosophy, I have spent my career being singularly focused on one objective– to represent my constituents to the best of my ability and to work tirelessly to get things done for families and local neighborhoods in our community.
I grew up in Gardena, California. My mother– a nurse– instilled in me strong values of caring for others and giving back to the community. My father –who owned his own small business– taught me the importance of speaking up and out against injustices.
Because of my upbringing, I have learned to fight for diversity and equality in both the public and private sectors, from government and businesses, to education and the housing market, and much more. I believe deeply that women, disadvantaged folks, disabled veterans and everyone else in our state deserves an equal opportunity to reach the middle class and achieve the American Dream.
In the spirit of this mission, I made history when I became the first African American elected to the Gardena City Council. Over the 12 years that I served on the City Council, I presided over robust job and economic growth, along with a balanced budget for the city. When I was elected to the Council, the City of Gardena was on the brink of bankruptcy and I inherited the job to bring the city out of its $27 million in debt. There was no money in the bank and our employees had not been given raises in over seven years.
Throughout my tenure in local office, I worked tirelessly to turn the city around. By the time I left Gardena’s City Council, we had eliminated the debt, had $8.5 million in the bank, gave employees raises without raising taxes or cutting services, and secured millions of federal dollars for various improvement projects for North Gardena- something that had never happened prior to me being elected to the Council. I also helped to make the City of Gardena more responsive to the needs of its residents, while also making the city more inclusive and a better place for folks of all backgrounds to live.
In 2009, I decided to continue my dedication to advancing the cause of expanding the California Dream by running and successfully winning a seat in the California State Assembly. I was elected to the 51st Assembly District in a Special Election, reelected in 2010, and reelected again, but this time to the newly created 62nd District in 2012.
In the Assembly, I served as Chair of the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color. While there, I worked hard to correct the many institutional injustices that plague young Black, Latino, and Asian/Pacific Islander males in California. As a result our progress on this issue, I had the pleasure of joining President Barack Obama at the White House last year for the launch of “My Brother’s Keeper,” a national initiative modeled after the work we have been doing in California for years.
In the State Legislature, I also dedicated my time to environmental justice as it relates to commerce. As Chair of the Committee on Utilities & Commerce, I authored legislation to promote renewable, clean energy and to protect and enhance local neighborhood security. I also spearheaded numerous pieces of legislation ranging from public safety and civil rights with AB 651 (Expungement) and AB 2634 (Civil Rights) to protecting the environment with AB 217 (Low-Income Solar).
Determined to address major issues like social and economic inequality and environmental protections, in the legislature, I supported a statewide increase in California’s minimum wage, helped the state rebound following the Great Recession, pushed for measures to grapple with California’s unprecedented drought crisis, expanded health insurance for our state’s residents, and pushed for common sense immigrant rights measures like drivers licenses for undocumented individuals, along with myriad other policies that have helped improve the quality of life for millions of Californians. My decisions as a Legislator will always be based on my moral convictions and not political calculations.
Prior to my service in local and state government, I worked as a public affairs manager for Southern California Edison for 12 years. I also spent seven years working for IBM as a marketing representative handling federal accounts. Additionally, I served as a Program Director for the Los Angeles Conservation Corp., where I established and managed over a hundred recycling accounts, worked with Tree People to plant hundreds of trees, worked on blue butterfly restoration at El Segundo Dunes and employed hundreds of young adults.
An avid supporter of conservation efforts, I served as the solid waste director for the City of Compton for two years where I established the city’s first curbside recycling program. I also served two years as the district director for the late Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald. At the age of 28, I was elected national director of Bigger and Better Business of my fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, Inc., and was elected treasurer of LA branch of NAACP at age 27.
I’ve also coached both baseball and football for 16 years at Rowley Park in the City of Gardena where I grew up and served as president of the Holly Park Home Owners Association for four years.
I grew up in Gardena and completed my K-12 education in its public schools. I attended Purche Ave Elementary, Henry Clay Jr. High, and Gardena High School. I earned my Bachelors of Arts in Political Science at California State University, Dominguez Hills and San Diego State University.
In my free time, you will often find me on the golf course. My love for the game led me to establish a junior golf program that introduced hundreds of kids to the game of golf. One of my favorite community events is the Gardena Jazz Festival, where I serve as the festival’s founder and chair. The festival has survived 15 years and has become one of the most popular events in the entire South Bay.
I hope you’ll join me in this journey so that I can continue working hard and getting things done for our community as your California State Senator from the 35th District.