Vice Mayor Garcia: Giving Thanks
Some might find the political arena a bit overwhelming. However, making history in local politics, Dr. Robert Garcia, who represents the citizens of the First City Council District for the City of Long Beach strives in the face of adversity. When elected in April 2009 to fill the seat vacated by Bonnie Lowenthal, Garcia became the youngest person, the first Latino male and the first openly gay person of color ever elected to the Long Beach City Council.
"Certainly I think it’s always nice to break barriers in any way that you can, but at the end of the day my job is to be the best man that I can possibly be and represent the City of Long Beach the best way that I can, "Garcia says, noting that working hard is what the people elected him to do.
The district he represents includes large areas of Downtown, parts of the Port of Long Beach, and some of the densest and most diverse urban areas in the nation. Re-elected to a full four-year term in April 2010, in July 2012 he was unanimously elected by the Council to serve a two-year term as Vice Mayor of Long Beach-the first Latino and youngest person ever to hold that position.
"I would like to think that my age brings a different perspective to a lot of debates. Particularly when it comes to issues of technology or trying to attract the creative class, high-tech companies, green jobs and those kinds of things that I grew up on, which I try to bring to the table, so I think that it’s a positive."
When asked what he considers some of the most important accomplishments in his first three years in office, he’s demonstrates a landscape that leads the "International City" into the future focused on technology.
"It’s been really important to get Long Beach to be a forward thinker when it comes to social media and reaching constituents, and streamlining services," Garcia says, adding he paid attention to project development in efforts to bring in creative and high- tech jobs, while working with the universities to build a strong education system to keep the people within the city.
An environmentalist, Garcia is also concentrating on putting green issues at the forefront by "greening" parking lots and setting up container gardens, even opening the city’s first urban farm. Moreover, eight new parks have sprouted up in the Downtown area alone in the past couple years.
"I’m also behind creating the Harvey Milk Park which is currently under construction in the middle of Downtown Long Beach and will open early next year," Garcia says, proudly adding he’s been quite the advocate on LGBT issues. "It is also the first park to be named after an LGBT person in the city as well as the first park ever to be named in Milk’s honor," he adds.
One of two openly gay council members, Garcia authored legislation to create domestic partnership benefits for private sector employees, as well as other legislation in support of marriage equality. He’s taken a lead on the bullying issue, creating the city’s first anti-bullying policy for all after school programs throughout the city, as well as rallying community members, his fellow council members and the mayor to shoot a video for the "It Gets Better" campaign.
"I’ve pushed LGBT issues because they are really important issues and part of who I am."
As for his future in politics, Garcia says anything is possible, but for now he’s enjoying his time as Vice Mayor, where he not only represents the mayor and the city at functions when the mayor is unable to at- tend or do so, but also chairs several committees and groups within the city on behalf of the mayor.
As Vice Mayor, Garcia serves as the Chair of the Public Safety Committee, the Elections Oversight Committee and the Long Beach Housing Authority. He also serves on both the Federal Legislative and State Legislative Council Committees.
"I love it because I’m out there representing the city and I’m involved in every part of the city as much as possible," Garcia proudly admits, adding he feels he and Mayor Bob Foster make a great team. "He’s a great mayor and is very supportive of LGBT issues and I’m proud to work alongside him and to help him accomplish his goals."
And we’re grateful to proudly have Vice Mayor Dr. Robert Garcia representing us!