For more than 80 years, Glen Becerra’s family has called Simi Valley, Calif. home. And for the past 15 years Becerra has served on the council for this city that is considered one of the safest in the United States.
Serving one’s community can take many forms — from supporting a local nonprofit to working on neighborhood causes, or serving on local boards and commissions. But for Becerra and other Southern California Edison (SCE) employees, the desire to serve their communities meant running for local elected office.
“What is more important than helping to build strong communities?” said Becerra, SCE senior project manager, Local Public Affairs. He is proud to have made an impact in making his city, of 125,000 people, one of the safest in the nation and leading the city on a fiscally conservative path.
“Even though at times I find myself at the grocery store talking with a local resident on city business and I am thinking, the ice cream is definitely going to melt, I volunteered to serve on the council and I take very seriously the opportunity to interact with residents and serve my community — it is terrific.”
In many California communities, councilmembers serve part-time and hold down full-time jobs. While a city manager runs the day-to-day operations, the council sets policy and is ultimately responsible for the city. The obvious question: in today’s difficult economic and politically contentious times, why would someone with family responsibilities and a full-time job take on the added pressure? The answer is found in the question — they feel an obligation to family and community.
John King, a manager in SCE’s Business Customer Division, has served on the city council for Covina the past nine years. His ties to the city reach back to his youth and time spent working in the city’s Parks and Recreation Department while in high school and college.
“I love Covina. It is in many ways a tight knit community like you might expect to find in the Midwest,” said King, who added that meeting his wife while working for the city only reinforces that feeling of connection between Covina and his family.
He feels that it is local government that has the most tangible impact on residents’ lives. He tries to participate as much as he can in the many activities held in the city and enjoys the interaction with his constituents. For King, serving on the council has been “a labor of love, not money.”
Though current public opinion of politicians may be at an all-time low, these SCE employees are driven to serve and help lead their cities. They felt supported by management in their decisions to run for office, and emphasized the importance of separating their roles as SCE employees from the work in their elected capacities.
Kathleen DeRosa has served as mayor of Cathedral City since 2004 and has a long history of involvement with her community. Cathedral City has faced financial issues and she led the city through budget cuts that included layoffs.
“In local government you know the people involved, you know their families, it is a responsibility that can only be undertaken with an understanding of having to do what is right by all of the community,” she said.
Now retired from SCE, DeRosa feels strongly that in order to be successful and deal with the difficult issues that cities face today, elected officials need to “put their personal priorities aside and look to what the community and their constituents want and need.”
When asked what she would say to someone considering running for elected office, DeRosa had this advice: “The opportunity to serve is immensely gratifying, especially being involved with communities one cares about and bringing people together to get things done. But you must take seriously the time commitment required, the involvement and preparation needed, and bring a real focus on serving others.”