It all began when I went on a trip to Los Angeles from Ohio to celebrate the New Year and attend the Rose Bowl. I was struck by the stunning contrast of the snow capped mountains and the bright warm January day. The beautiful blue ocean was on one side and the great rugged desert on the other and the way the sun sets over both. I was impressed by the mix of people I encountered here, the many, different communities, and many neighbors all here working together to form one very big city. I made up my mind then to come to Los Angeles.
Jan as a child
My own story started long before — growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland in a family that was forging its way, as many in the post World War II generation did. My parents believed in the American dream. My mom played the organ to support my father, a veteran, in his effort to complete law school. My dad worked hard and with a law degree in hand began the process of advocating for fair housing. He and my mother joined the civil rights campaigns that were gaining momentum in the late 1950’s. Both served at Fair Housing Inc. to establish the organization, served on the board, and hired the first director.
My father’s law practice brought him together with Mayor Carl Stokes and his brother Louis. My dad was fighting restrictive covenants and for fair housing rights and worked with the family to build new housing for African Americans in the Cleveland suburbs. It was an effort that brought them national attention.
Jan’s uncle, a veteran of WWII
My mom went back to college and earned a Masters Degree in medical social work. Both my mom and dad became elected officials in their own right serving our local community.
At a very early age, I was taken along with my parents to voter registration drives and to do campaign work for elections. As a teenager with a new license, I remember driving people to the polls and helping get out the vote on election day. I learned firsthand about service to others and the needs of the community.
My mother traveled with family members by bus to Washington D.C. to witness Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The stories they returned with inspired me as I began my college education. I transferred from Case Western to USC in 1974 and immediately looked for volunteer opportunities here. I remember one of my first volunteer opportunities was at the Joint Educational Project, the literacy and tutoring program for elementary school kids in South Los Angeles. The experience motivated me to continue serving my community.
Jan and her family
Tom Bradley was mayor then, and I was really impressed by the changes he was bringing to Los Angeles. I admired his hard work, his quiet but persistent style, and the vision he had for the future of the city. He wasn’t flashy. It wasn’t all about his image. He just got the job done and people liked what he was doing.
I earned both my Bachelors and Masters Degree at USC, married and began work as a paralegal. I became active in my local community eventually serving as president of my homeowners association. I developed interests in both historic preservation and land use. In 1990, I was offered a position as Planning Deputy at the Office of Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Woo. This opened a new chapter in my life. I discovered that working for an elected official was a powerful means of helping communities. Good government does get things done for people. The government can work if you know what you are doing.
In 1993, I was asked to serve as Chief of Staff for a former City Councilwoman of the Ninth District. This provided me with the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with the people living and working in the district. During this time, my daughter was born. That was a wonderful time in my life. Having a family added a greater dimension to my view of the city and what residents need to make a home here.
In 2000, I made the decision to run to represent the Ninth Council District. I knew many of the people living and working there. I believed we could initiate programs that would improve the south Los Angeles communities and the downtown area. I had the skills and saw this as my time to run for public office.
So I summoned every lesson my family had taught me, all the experience I had gained working at city hall and along with a whole lot of very wonderful people from the community who saw me as their best hope to make a real difference here. Thanks to a lot of hard work and a pretty wonderful staff of supporters, we won. And I loved it. All the phone calls, precinct walking, knocking on doors and meeting people, telling my story, and listening to their concerns, strengthened my campaign. I was energized and ready to serve.
Since 2001, I have worked 24/7 to improve a council district that had not seen much investment or significant attention in over a generation. I secured over $70 million for park and recreation facilities for families in the district. I worked with developers both for-profit and not-for-profit to urge the construction of 5,000 units of affordable and supportive housing for families, seniors, and the homeless. I began the process of undoing decades of environmental decay in south Los Angeles where industrial uses were developed in single family neighborhoods. I saw the opportunity to create more park space and installed two award winning wetland projects in South Los Angeles. I worked with the community on land use policy to prevent the over proliferation of stand-alone fast food restaurants, defining land use as an opportunity for the development of new sit-down restaurants and much-needed grocery stores. I built a new Silver LEED certified City Hall at 43rd and Central Avenue in south Los Angeles, installed a farmers’ market there, and added two major mixed-use housing projects with grocery stores to the community. I was determined to fully restore the historic Dunbar Hotel and that project is underway.
As mayor of Los Angeles, I am committed to bringing my passion and determination to bring greater economic investment, more job opportunities, quality housing for people of all income levels, and a commitment to sustainable growth to our city. I believe in the potential of Los Angeles and I know that I have qualifications, tenacity, and strength to continue to move our city forward.