Long Beach swore in its new mayor, Robert Garcia, Tuesday afternoon. The 36-year-old is not only the city’s youngest mayor, he's also the first Latino and the first openly gay mayor to serve in Long Beach.
Hundreds gathered as a mariachi band opened the ceremony at Long Beach's Terrace Theatre. The band played a set that included a special Peruvian song for the new mayor, who was born in Lima.
“For many years as soon as [my family was] able to get to this country, we wanted to be Americans," Garcia said to a crowd at his mayoral inauguration. "We wanted to be just like everybody else. We worked hard, we never asked for much, but with faith and hard work, we always got by.”
Garcia immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 5 years old. His family soon settled in Covina, where he was raised by his mother, grandmother and aunt.
"I understand that for certain communities … this is a historic moment and a point of pride,” Garcia told the Los Angeles Times. “But I ran to be the mayor of all of Long Beach, regardless of the color of their skin, or who they love, or what part of the city they're from."
Garcia's background and age might be new at the mayor's office, but he's no newcomer to Long Beach politics. In 2012 he was selected to be vice mayor and in 2009 Garcia was elected to represent District 1 on the Long Beach City Council. He is also the chair of the Long Beach Public Safety Committee and the Long Beach Housing Authority.
In June, he narrowly defeated real estate investor Damon Dunn in a runoff after being endorsed by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. Garcia says he already has plans for his first few days in office.
“The budget is number one,” he told the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “I’ll be making all of my budget recommendations next week [Tuesday]. Once the budget’s done, I [will] announce on Wednesday all the city council appointments and committees. On Friday I’m doing my first policy speech at Cal State Long Beach.”
Long Beach, a city of nearly half a million people and the second largest city in L.A. County, is in the midst of a financial turnaround, according to the OC Register.
On the campaign trail, Garcia boasted that he helped take Long Beach from a deficit of nearly tens of millions of dollars to a surplus this year, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported. But Garcia says that hasn't deterred him from pursuing a more frugal approach once in office.
Garcia told the Long Beach Press-Telegram that this fiscal year he hopes to ensure that the city will not over-spend, but rather save $3 million for “a rainy day.”
Garcia graduated from CSU Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in communications studies, making him the first in his family to receive a college education. He also holds a master’s degree in communication management from the University of Southern California and a doctorate in higher education.
He replaces former mayor Bob Foster, who was in office since 2006.