New Council Sworn In
From Issue: Volume XX - Number 15
By Aaron Ledesma
July was a month of firsts in the city council chambers. On the 17th, the Inaugural Ceremony for City of Long Beach elected officials brought many familiar faces back as well as a couple new ones.
Several returning council members were sworn in for new terms, including the Second District’s Suja Lowenthal, elder Councilman Patrick O’Donnell of the Fourth District, and Dee Andrews, representing the Sixth District. While O’Donnell broke term limit barriers, Andrews’ reelection with the addition of new Councilman Al Austin in the Eighth District made history their own history, as a third of the council is now represented by African American members, the most in city history.
Originally from Detroit, Mich., Austin came to California during his early adolescence. Upon arrival, Long Beach was young Austin’s first introduction to the West Coast. “We actually lived at the Holiday Inn right there on Lakewood and Willow, off the 405 freeway,” Austin remembered. “Out of our window we’d see them fly DC Jets and the McDonnell Douglas building and I would see all the traffic ... and I would just be in awe of all of that.”
Austin’s first job out of high school would end up being at McDonnell Douglas and quickly after, he made a home in Long Beach. “I love this city,” Austin said in his acceptance address. “The living experience here is like living nowhere else and I can honestly say that I feel comfortable in this city no matter where I go.”
While Austin will be representing North Long Beach and the Bixby Knolls area, he’s already left his mark on the city as a whole having been a part of the development of the Long Beach Young Democrats in 1998, as well as recently serving on the Citizen Police Complaint Commission.
After the closing of swearing in ceremonies, another piece of history was made when the council’s youngest member, 34 year old Dr. Robert Garcia, was elected Vice Mayor by a unanimous council vote. While Garcia was celebrated in 2009 as the first Latin American on the Long Beach City Council, this month he was recognized again when he became the city’s first Vice Mayor of Latin decent.
Born in Lima, Peru, Garcia and his family immigrated to the United States when he was five years old. Garcia was the first of his family to go to college, and after earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies from CSULB, he would later attain a Masters Degree in Communication Management from USC and eventually a Doctorate in Higher Education.
During his time at CSULB, Garcia was elected Student Body President and made waves by collaborating with campus administrators to develop new scholarships and campus leadership programs for students. In 2007, Garcia would go on to co-found The Long Beach Post.
Garcia was more than pleased to receive his new responsibility, especially with his fellow council members’ unanimous support.
“I’m very honored to be elected by my colleagues,” Garcia said. “I look forward to working with them on building a better Long Beach.”
“I want to work hard to make Long Beach safer, stronger, and a good place for everybody.”