I am often asked why I ran for the CalPERS Board of Administration and why I am running again for re-election.
America is the greatest country in the world and California is its greatest state. Our State is one of immense resources but none as important or worth protecting than the public workers and retirees who build our roads, fight fires, safeguard the public, educate our children, care for the sick and elderly and ensure that each and every day our state fulfills its promise.
As retirees, we are more alike than we are different. We live in different regions of the state, have worked for different agencies, are different genders, races, and political affiliations. What binds us is our service to our state and the promise that, when that service is complete, the retirement and healthcare that we contributed to is there for us.
When my wife passed away in 2002 after two weeks in ICU our family received a bill totaling more than $250,000. Had she not had healthcare our family would have been financially as well as emotionally devastated. That is one of the reasons I’ve fought so hard and will continue fighting so hard for retirees.
My career as a public servant and employee spanned nearly 4 decades with the Los Angeles Unified School District where I began as a 19-year-old custodian and ended as the Chief Financial Officer. I learned a lot serving as a worker and equally as much as management.
During those early years, I was an active member of SEIU-Local 99. I worked with fellow members to organize and fight for the reclassification of school custodians with resulting increases in salary, healthcare and retirement benefits. Our goal was to ensure that as caretakers of schools and educational facilities we were respected and rewarded by the institution for which we worked.
Throughout my 37 year career with the nation’s second largest school district (LAUSD), I served the children and employees of the District in a number of capacities including: Plant Manager, Area Operations Director, Administrative Services Officer, Deputy Budget Director, Budget Director and finally, Chief Financial Officer, where I oversaw the District’s $7 billion budget.
My service at multiple levels of LAUSD as well as an Adjunct Professor of School Finance at California State University-Los Angeles, confirmed for me that all public employees - from custodians to managers, engineers to first responders, electricians to bus drivers, CSU faculty to accountants - have the right to a defined benefits pension and healthcare that is preserved and protected by the State of California.
I have led with those things in mind as your retiree representative and am humbled and honored to, in January 2019, have been the first retiree representative elected to serve as CalPERS Board president. I will continue to use my position as Board president to put retiree issues front and center and I look forward to working on your behalf to accomplish that goal.
I would be honored to continue serving you in the years to come. Thank you for your consideration!