Lunch with a Leader : Robert Garcia

Conversations about governance, policy, and leadership

November 11, 2014
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Lunch with a Leader provides students with the opportunity to hear ideas from local, state, and national leaders as well as share their ideas and gain inspiration for effective governance in an enjoyable, informal setting.

Robert Garcia, Mayor of Long Beach, CA

Robert Garcia (born December 2, 1977) is an American politician who is the current Mayor of Long Beach, California and a member of the California Coastal Commission. He previously represented the First Council District, which includes large areas of downtown, parts of the Port of Long Beach.  When elected on April 13, 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.

Garcia was born in Peru. He immigrated to the United States with his mother at age 5. His mother and aunt worked in many jobs, including as housekeepers to support the family.  Garcia attended California State University, Long Beach and graduated with a degree in Communications. He continued his education at the University of Southern California, where he received a Master’s Degree, and later became Public Information Officer at Long Beach City College.  Garcia received his Ed.D. in Educational Policy from California State University, Long Beach in June 2010.  He has taught courses in Communications and Public Policy at the University of Southern California, California State University, Long Beach, and Long Beach City College.

Originally a Republican, Garcia served as California Youth Coalition Coordinator for the 2000 George W. Bush presidential campaign while in college.  In 2005, he founded and was president of the Long Beach Young Republicans; he also worked as chief of staff for conservative Long Beach City Councilmember Frank Colonna and ran Colonna’s 2006 mayoral campaign.  Garcia changed his party to Democratic around 2007, before running for City Council.

Garcia’s time in office (as a city councilman) has been marked by socially progressive and economically moderate legislation. He has authored or cosponsored more than 20 pieces of legislation, including the City’s first Equal Benefits Ordinance, a ban on smoking at bus stops and at farmers’ markets, a proposal to extend increased preferences to veterans in civil service hiring, and a broad-ranging arts initiative that eliminated restrictions on street performances, and reduced the business license tax for artists and other home-based businesses.

Garcia has shown support for labor unions, voting to support Project Labor Agreements at the Long Beach Airport, Port of Long Beach and for the Gerald Desmond Bridge. He has also shown interest in government reform and fiscal accountability and supported the [City Manager]’s efforts to consolidate departments.

Garcia has received some national attention for his socially progressive views and the culturally diverse communities he represents, being young, Latino and gay. Garcia was featured in CNN’s 2009 special “Latino in America,” and was named to the “40 under 40 list” by the national gay news magazine The Advocate.