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Zev Yaroslavsky remembers Ed Edelman: 'He was a man for all seasons'

Jimmy Carter (left) with Edmund Edelman (right)
Jimmy Carter (left) with Edmund Edelman (right)
AP Images, Harvey Georges

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Los Angeles is remembering former L.A. County Supervisor Ed Edelman who died yesterday at the age of 85 from complications of Atypical Parkinson's Disease.  

Edelman served for 20 years as county supervisor for L.A.'s third district, which winds from Los Feliz to West L.A. and includes beach communities like Santa Monica and parts of the San Fernando Valley. Edelman is credited for revamping the way the country provided vital public services and for changing how the county responds to the needs of Angelenos.

Take Two’s Deepa Fernandes spoke about Edelman's legacy with former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky who succeeded Edelman in his seats in the Los Angeles City Council And County Board of Supervisors. 


Ed Edelman's Approach to His Work: 

Above all, first and foremost, he was a human being and he treated people like human beings. He never raised his voice. He never belittled people. He was a person who led through inspiration and not through intimidation like so many of our politicians do today. He was really a special person. He had a great integrity; personal, political, and professional integrity. Never a hint of scandal in anything he ever did. He really is the model that political figures should follow and emulate.

I personally feel very lucky, very fortunate that I was able to follow him in two offices, both in the L.A. City Council and then in the Board of Supervisors. He was a mentor of sorts to me because he was the lighthouse against which I navigated my own public service career. We shared a constituency, we shared a philosophy. He was really a very special person who had a profound impact on Los Angeles County on the delivery of human services, on arts and culture — which was an issue near and dear to his heart. Ed was an amateur cellist and an aficionado of classical music and chamber music and continued to raise and donate money for chamber music and the county museum of art long after he left office — really a man for all seasons.

Ed Edelman’s Impacts on LA County

Child Welfare: 

He’s well known for his focus on child welfare issues at the county. He was the person who led the effort to create the Department of Children and Family Services — which centralized most of the child welfare responsibilities under one department instead of having them dispersed in multiple departments — to try to get better results.

I think he saw what we’ve all seen over the years — that the system was failing the kids and there needed to be more accountability, and in order to have more accountability you needed to have a governed structure that allowed for that kind of accountability. So, instead of having disparate departments and offices and centers around the county that dealt with different aspects of child welfare issues, there needed to be one central location in the interest of the kids so that they could have their issues, and their family issues and the abuse issues, and the adoption issues all dealt with under one roof.

LGBT issues: 

He was at the board when the gay rights issue and the AIDS epidemic erupted in the 70s and 80s. When so many other politicians in the country — especially straight politicians — were afraid to utter the word "gay." I was elected in 1975 and I remember those days politicians felt like they were taking their lives into their hands by just uttering the words "gay" or "lesbian." It’s hard to believe today but Ed was definitely a pioneer. He represented the same council district that I represented which surrounded West Hollywood. We had a significant LGBT population in his district so this was not a foreign population to him. They were part of his constituency and they were in need of help. As a county supervisor… he turned the county health bureaucracy to the AIDS epidemic before it was done on a national scale.

Ed Edelman’s legacy:

Hew as a civil libertarian and he was a good politician. He was a problem solver. I was talking to some friends last night about the kinds of things he did, and those people who live in Westwood and see Westwood Park behind the Veteran’s building — it’s a regional park — that park came to be when Edelman was a city councilman. He orchestrated a land swap between the federal government, which owned that, and the city government which owned a piece of land in downtown that the federal government wanted for a courthouse.

The Santa Monica Boulevard between Beverly Hills and The 405 Freeway which is now a broad parkway that carries a lot more cars than it ever did and it’s landscaped. That came about because of Ed’s deft negotiating ability… It took him years to get it done.

So, his fingerprints are all over the place….

*Quotes edited for clarity

To hear the full interview, click the blue arrow above.