By Natalie Kim
Q: As the only member of the City Council to have served on the State Assembly before, how different is the State Assembly from the Walnut City Council?
A: Well, it’s substantially different, obviously. You’re part of 80 people in the State Assembly, and people are from all over the state. So you represent a different constituency. The 60th Assembly District, which is the one I was in, represented three counties: Orange County, Los Angeles County, and the San Bernardino County. It’s a huge area.
Q: What part of Walnut are you most proud of?
A: There are a couple things. When I was on the Council last time, we put into play several things that today are great for the city. We built the Teen Center gymnasium, we built the Senior Center, and we built the Starbucks center. Those are the three most prominent things we have in Walnut that have the greatest activity. I’m very pleased to be a part of that.
Q: Is there anything you would change about Walnut if you could?
A: No, I like Walnut the way it is. I like the atmosphere, I like the way the City is laid out, I like the fact that we have great parks and facilities for people to enjoy. The only thing we can do, that can be improvements, are to add onto those things. When I ran the last time, one of the things I urged was to build a swim complex over by Walnut Ranch, and we’re in process of beginning to do that. It will be a major area for swimming; for children playing in the water, for seniors to have a place to exercise in the water, a clubhouse, a place for people to gather, and then an ampitheater. We’re in the process now; we’re selling the land up there, and we’re using the proceeds to begin the development. The other thing we want to develop are shopping centers and to bring more restaurants into the City. The Albertson’s shopping center has been vacant for five years. It’s a blight on the City, and we want to redevelop that area. The thing that I want to do is [possibly] make that into an artist area. We have a lot of artists in the City and people don’t even know that. They gather here in City Hall and they do their painting. What I’d like to see done is bring in a major tenant and redo the whole area. Artist groups have a good idea of how to do that, so I want to bring them in and make that happen.
Q: There’s been a lot of consternation surrounding your appointment as Mayor. Is there anything you would like to say to address that?
A: I understand. I just call it politics – no matter where you are. I’ve been in involved in politics at the local level, at the state level, and at the federal level. The thing that people don’t realize is that my appointment of Mayor is a selection by members of the City Council, not voters. Anyone can be Mayor. All it takes is three votes on the City Council. There have been at least four or five other occurrences where the people who were sitting as Mayor Pro Tem were passed [over]. So it’s not an unusual occurrence. I know people were saying that it was going against tradition. The reality of it is many of the cities around us have the same situation. Many of the people on the City Council never get to be Mayor, because they get voted out. Bottom line is, I want to do what’s good for the City, and I want to treat people with respect, and I want the City Council to conduct its affairs in a respectful manner – which is, I think, the reason why the other members voted me in. We have not been having City Council acting in a respectful manner. It’s simply that. Yes, there were a number of people upset, but the reason people were upset was because Eric [Ching] was bypassed. I meet a lot of people, and most everyone I talk to is very happy I became Mayor. The Mayor is basically like a figurehead. They don’t really have power. They are a representative of the city. Somebody who is representing the city needs to act in a manner that is good for the city. I think that’s the only reason they selected me to be mayor; that I would be good for the City, and bring respect and more structure to the City Council.
Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of your job?
A: I don’t really have a least favorite. My favorite part is really interacting with the public. I am very responsive. People call me or see me on the street, or in the grocery store, or at church, and ask me to do things or look into things. That is the real key of who you are as a representative of the City, is to be responsive to the needs of the citizens. That’s my most favorite part – interacting with the citizens, being responsive to them, and making sure the City is being run in a proper manner.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone interested in running for City Council or beginning a career in politics?
A: The first thing they need to do is be involved. If you want to be part of the city and a representative of the city, you must be involved and care about things that go on – which means you participate and volunteer. You participate in things that may not be creating a big name for yourself, but make you part of a community. Sometimes people want to run, but they’ve never been in involved with anything. They haven’t served on any of the commissions, they haven’t done much in the way of participation in civic affairs, and then they want to be mayors or councilmen. You have to pay your dues, I think. I was on the Mayor’s Advisory Commission at first. After that, I was appointed to the City Planning Commission, and after that, I was elected to the City Council. Then, of course, I moved to the state legislature, and then I came back. But I participate. I participate in a lot of things. I started the Walnut Valley Educational Foundation. We give teacher grants, student grants, and we help the school district. We’ve raised nearly $2 million for the school district over almost 20 years now. That’s participating in the community. That’s giving back. At my church – St. Lorenzo Ruiz Catholic Church – I was one of the initial people helping to create the church, building and raising money, and all that. I’m part of the Lyon’s Club, and I work with the Chamber of Commerce. And I work with other organizations; I’m doing an event for the Republican Women’s group at my house to raise their membership. These are things you have to do for the community. And then, when you’ve done that, then you can be part of the leadership.
Natalie Kim is a student at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. She requested an interview with the new Mayor of Walnut, Bob Pacheco, and he readily agreed.