November 21, 2014
by Jeremy Loudenback
It’s clear that even after a historic election victory in June, not everybody is ready for Robert Garcia, Long Beach’s first Latino and openly gay mayor as well as the youngest person to ever hold the position.
“I just had a breakfast meeting where someone thought I was the waiter and they were meeting me for lunch,” Garcia recently recalled. “They said, ‘Oh, can you take my order?’ And I said, ‘You know, I’m Robert Garcia. I’m here to meet you.’”
Despite some wince-worthy moments along the way, Garcia has handled a tough city campaign and the responsibilities of his new office with the candor, grace, and aplomb of someone much older than his 36 years. Last week, Garcia visited the Bedrosian Center’s Lunch for a Leader series to provide special insight into his unlikely ascension to the mayor’s office after a hard-fought campaign, how his age helps his communicate with Long Beach residents, and his education-based initiatives aimed at tackling the city high poverty rates.
An immigrant who came to the United States at age 5, Garcia shared an inspiring story of perseverance and achievement with students, faculty, and practitioners at Tuesday’s event. He found an affinity in the world of education from an early age, and over the course of his career, Garcia’s earned a master’s degree in communication management from the USC Annenberg School of Communication and a doctorate in higher education from California State University at Long Beach. (He also teaches at USC Annenberg, the USC Price School of Public Policy, California State University, Long Beach, and Long Beach City College.) But it was also at a university where he first tried his hand at politics on a whim and discovered important mentors among his professors that set him on a path toward public service. (more…)