A month into his term, Torrance’s new mayor discusses life, city priorities (2022)

As the son of working class Taiwanese immigrants who went on to become a top engineer at Raytheon, a homeowner, a father and now a grandfather, George Chen is the poster child for American opportunity.

“People use the term living the American dream,” the Torrance resident said. “I really felt like I actually tasted the American dream.”

Chen has tasted that dream not only personally and professionally, but also politically. Last month, Chen became mayor of the South Bay’s largest city — winning Torrance’s highest elected post just five years after first feeling the lure of municipal government.

It was a quick ascent.

In 2017, at age 55 and with no prior political experience, Chen was struck by a desire to get involved in local government as a way to give back to the community that provided him so much.

“I retired in July 2017 and in August 2017, I just felt a deep sense of calling,” Chen said. “That’s as simple as that.”

A cursory Google search revealed three open City Council seats during the June 2018 election. At the time, Torrance still had at-large elections. Chen ran for and won one of those seats.

Two years later, Chen kept his seat on the council by winning the District 2 race during Torrance’s inaugural by-district elections.

Then, in June, Chen won yet another election — this time for mayor. He beat former two-term Councilman and current El Camino College board member Cliff Numark with about 54% of the vote compared to Numark’s 46%.

As mayor, Chen said, his top priority is increasing city revenues – with a focus on attracting more business over raising taxes – followed closely by addressing homelessness. Chen holds conservative-leaning political views and said he believes in limited taxation, strong criminal sentencing and little tolerance for camping in public.

Chen made history when he assumed the mayoral post July 12, becoming the first non-White leader of the South Bay’s largest city.

(Video) Torrance Race Soldiers Calls Black Detainees "Monkey" & Other Vile Words In Text Messages

Chen said he is proud to represent the Asian American community with his historic election.

Chen was born in Taiwan and moved to the South Bay when he was in the first-grade. He grew up on the border of Torrance and Carson, by the Alpine Village, and spent a lot of his time helping his parents at their restaurant, House of Chen, on Carson Street. He graduated from Carson High School and went on to obtain a degree in electrical engineering from UCLA.

Attracted by the good schools and public safety, Chen moved to Torrance with his wife in 1992 and has remained there ever since.

While Chen said he would not call Carson a dangerous area, he also said there was some gang activity in his high school. So, Chen said, he felt moving to Torrance would provide a better environment for his daughters.

While Chen is proud of his heritage, he also said he does not wish to be viewed as the “the Asian candidate” and instead wants to be recognized through his accomplishments and qualifications as an individual.

Chen also differs from previous mayors in his relatively limited experience — having gone from political outsider to city leader in a little more than four years.

“A lot of people didn’t think I should have even run for office (in 2018), because it was almost like, ‘You’ve never served as a commissioner, so what qualifies you to even run?’” Chen said. “I just thought: my life experience, my professional experience as an engineer and program manager, and, as a first-generation immigrant, son of a blue collar worker, that I represent the community.”

The longest-serving councilman, Mike Griffiths, said he is pleased to have Chen at the helm and believes he has the potential to be a good team player who unifies the council.

“He’s got half the experience on City Council that I do, but he’s really put in the effort and the time to do the job,” Griffiths said. “I’m very hopeful that he’ll be very successful going forward and I look forward to working with him.”

Griffiths described Chen’s leadership style as quiet, hard working and humble.

From Chen’s perspective, humility is a key part of the job. One of his proudest moments as a councilman, Chen said, was having the national motto ‘In God we trust’ installed in the Council Chambers.

“I really felt grateful as an immigrant here in this country,” Chen said, “and I just felt the national motto of the country fits well within the City Council Chambers as a way to humble the elected officials.”

(Video) Aug 24, 2022 - Executive Committee

But now Chen is the city’s elected leader. And, he said, it’s time for the council to get serious about repairing Torrance’s long-standing financial problems.

The city’s revenues have been outpaced by the rising costs of maintaining city services for several years, according to Financial Director Sheila Poisson. The 2015 Torrance refinery explosion — when the facility was owned by ExxonMobil — a ransomware attack on the city in March 2020 and the pandemic also exacerbated the city’s underlying financial weakness.

The city, though, anticipates gaining a new revenue stream of around $18 million annually from Measure SST, a half-cent sales tax increase voters passed in June.

While Chen said he wants more revenue, he did not support the ballot measure. He does not believe increasing taxes is a sustainable solution, Chen said.

“To me, raising sales taxes is the easy knob, because we basically put the onus on everyone else,” Chen said, adding, “just cranking a sales tax, you’ll never end, you’re going to keep cranking that because that’s the easy way.”

Chen said he would like the city to brainstorm creative new strategies to attract businesses to Torrance.

In particular, Chen said, he would like to encourage international investment, which could be a better long-term solution than competing with the beach cities over a fixed pot of regional business and visitor spending.

One idea for doing so is to host international youth sports competitions in Torrance.

This could increase visitor spending, Chen said, and provide an opportunity to show off Torrance’s great weather, schools and public safety in hopes of encouraging businesses to establish international headquarters in the city. Establishing more sister cities relationships could be another way to achieve this goal, the new mayor said.

Lastly, he would like to create a “Silicon Valley South Bay” and continue attracting technology businesses to Torrance, Chen said.

He was particularly excited when technology company Epirus opened their corporate headquarters in Torrance in November and brought around 150 jobs to the area. Chen said he wants to look at ways the city can incentivize similar businesses to set up shop in town.

Chen’s other key focus is addressing homelessness, which, he said, needs to be tackled through “tough love.” He supports the city’s anti-camping ordinance and its Temporary Housing Village, which provides temporary housing for 40 unhoused residents at a time.

(Video) Congressman Ted Lieu

The village’s recent opening enables the Police Department to issue citations for camping in public. In 2018, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Martin v. Boise that communities can only enforce anti-camping ordinances when shelter beds are available.

In the long-term, Chen said, he does not believe that Torrance is an appropriate place for larger scale homeless housing because of the high cost of land.

“We want the state and the county to really invest in some facility that is lower costs,” Chen said, “close to the desert where the land is cheaper and invest in a much bigger integrated facility where we can take the folks who need help and really put them in a facility and then we have the dedicated wraparound services right there.”

That’s a perspective homeless advocates disagree with.

Tescia Uribe, chief program officer of homeless service provider PATH, said, for example, that while land may be cheaper elsewhere, there are advantages to distributing housing and supportive services across communities where homeless people are currently living.

These include avoiding retraumatization by forced relocation, keeping networks of support intact and surrounding unhoused individuals with examples of positive behavior.

“Segregating or designating a certain land use area for homeless or poor people,” Uribe said, “historically, that hasn’t turned out good for the community or for anybody.”

Uribe pointed to public housing developments as an example of that. Those developments, with high concentrations of low-income and formerly homeless tenants, have generally failed to foster a healthy environment for individuals to get back on their feet, Uribe said.

Similar challenges have been observed in new buildings constructed with funding from LA’s Proposition HHH, Uribe said. Placements for those buildings, she said, are prioritized for homeless individuals with the highest needs and there currently aren’t enough services for them.

Formerly homeless residents typically have more successful outcomes in mixed income housing developments, Uribe said.

Chen, meanwhile, would also like to see a tougher-on-crime attitude and disapproves of the liberal policies of current LA County District Attorney George Gascón.

“We need to have (homeless) services but we got to really drive down on crime,” Chen said, “and we’ve got to be able to prosecute crime so that criminals don’t think there are no consequences.”

(Video) City Council - May 14, 2019 - Part 1 of 2

Chen would like to improve public safety in Torrance, the mayor said, and increase funding and resources to the Police and Fire departments. But he is not interested in funding a civilian oversight commission, he said.

The Torrance Police Department has had a turbulent few years, which has led activists to call for civilian oversight.

On Dec. 7, 2018, officers shot and killed Christopher De’Andre Mitchell, who is Black, while responding to a call about a stolen vehicle. Mitchell had an air rifle in the car.

While the officers were cleared of wrongdoing, Black Lives Matter activists routinely attended City Council meetings in the shooting’s wake and demanded the city launch an independent civilian oversight commission.

These calls for oversight were reinvigorated in December,when California Attorney General Rob Bonta launched an investigation into the department regarding a series of racist and homophobic texts shared among 13 officers that joked about slave lynchings, LGBTQ beatings and police shootings of Black men.

Previously, in 2017, Police Chief Mark Matsuda was suspended from his job following allegations that he made hostile remarks about women, Black people, gay people and Muslims.

On March 15, the City Council voted 6-1 against surveying the community’s support for an independent oversight commission to monitor the Police Department. Council members argued that existing oversight measures will be enough to eradicate misconduct in the department.

Chen, for his part, said experienced law enforcement professionals, not civilians, are best equipped to assess the department and provide suggestions for change.

“There are a lot of folks who say we need a civilian oversight commission by people who really don’t know what it really takes to be a police officer,” Chen said. “You really need people who understand, who’ve been in the game, I would say gray beards from the law enforcement community, to give advice and ideas.”

As he made clear throughout his mayoral campaign, public safety is important to Chen.

Chen is also interested in seeing a more strategic and efficient use of resources, he said, such as using security cameras to gather intelligence before deciding how many and which personnel should be deployed to a call.

While Chen said he hasn’t seen a significant decrease in public safety in recent years, it is an issue he will continue to pay close attention to.

(Video) City Council 09 12 2017

Strong public safety, after all, is one of the primary reasons he decided to raise his family in Torrance.

FAQs

Why do cities have mayors? ›

The mayor is head of the executive branch, presiding over council meetings, appointing chiefs of departments, perhaps with the council's approval, and is often the budgetary officer of the city. He can veto ordinances passed by the legislative branch, the council.

What do mayors do? ›

A mayor is the top executive in a city, municipality or town government. The mayor often oversees many public works departments for their locale, including fire, police, emergency medical and utility services. The mayor is commonly a part of the town council, serving in a leadership position for meetings.

How do you become mayor of UK? ›

Check if your mayor is elected on your local council website. Mayors are elected using the Supplementary Vote system. You make a first and second choice when you vote. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the first choice votes, all except the top 2 candidates are eliminated.

What can a mayor do to improve a city? ›

Partnering for Learning
  1. Design cities around people, not the car. Mick Cornett, Mayor of Oklahoma City. ...
  2. Data gets stuff done. ...
  3. Reach out to stakeholders. ...
  4. Open up digital to everyone. ...
  5. Seek out broad support. ...
  6. Be clear with voters. ...
  7. Put aside partisanship. ...
  8. Don't be afraid of technology.

What is the leader of a city called? ›

In the mayor-council form of government, the mayor is the chief administrative officer who is responsible for all administrative functions.

What's another word for mayor? ›

What is another word for mayor?
jaghirdarcity manager
city officialmaire
lord mayorburgomaster
supervisorfirst selectman

How much does a mayor get paid? ›

Based on this, an Executive Mayor or Mayor at a grade six municipality would earn a basic remuneration package of R1,446,338.

What is mayor the head of? ›

mayor, in modern usage, the head of a municipal government. As such, the mayor is almost invariably the chairman of the municipal council and of the council executive committee. In addition the mayor may fulfill the roles of chief executive officer, ceremonial figurehead, and local agent of the central government.

What is a female mayor called? ›

Mayoress - The Mayoress can be the Mayor's wife, daughter, friend or whoever he chooses. The title has no official recognition and is a strictly honorary one given to the Mayor's wife, daughter or friend.

What does a mayor do in a small town? ›

Small town and parish mayors and most 'lord mayors' are largely ceremonial roles. Even those representing some major local authorities, such as Adedamola Aminu in Lambeth, are still essentially ribbon-cutters or ambassadors, but they may chair some council meetings and support local projects.

Who chose the mayor? ›

In most Indian states mayors are elected indirectly among the corporators (who are directly elected by the people of their respective wards) of Municipal Corporation, except in nine states: Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Uttarakhand, where mayors are ...

What do you need in a city? ›

Basic infrastructure (land, water, sewer, power, roads, a food source) and a tax base are the most fundamental city needs.

What types of problems do city mayors deal with? ›

This article covers challenges mayors face expressed by mayors in ascending order in speeches they give to constituents.
  • · Health care.
  • · Technology and Data.
  • · Demographics/Diversity and Inclusiveness.
  • · Energy/Environment.
  • · Housing/Education.
  • · Educations.
  • · Infrastructure.
  • · Budgets.
21 Jan 2021

How do you build a real life town? ›

Though each state has its own rules on “municipal incorporation,” in general you'll need to get 51 percent of the eligible voters in the area to go along with you. (It's easiest to start a town from scratch, as opposed to by secession; most upstarts begin as “unincorporated communities” within a larger county.)

What is the role of mayor in community? ›

To be head of the municipal council and to act as Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation. To preside over council meetings. To provide leadership to council. To represent the municipality at official functions.

What is the sentence of mayor? ›

Under the proposals elected mayors or directly elected executives can be chosen in two ways. The deputy mayor said that he was appalled by the violence. Neither the government nor the mayor agreed. The city now has an elected mayor.

What is the job of a city manager? ›

A city manager serves as the executive who leads those efforts and makes sure it all gets done. City managers help bridge the gap between politics and administration. Typically, they're responsible for executing the city council's laws, communicate other decisions, and manage city staff.

What is opposite of mayor? ›

We have listed all the opposite words for mayor alphabetically. employee. agent. apprentice. assistant.

How do you address a mayor? ›

Addressing the Mayor correctly

The letter should start with 'Dear Mr Mayor' and end with 'Yours sincerely'. In person, the Mayor should be addressed as 'Mr Mayor' and the Mayoress as 'Madam Mayoress.

What is another name for a speaker? ›

What is another word for speaker?
spokespersonmouthpiece
presentertalker
oratormouth
speechmakerannouncer
elocutionistlecturer
70 more rows

What city has the highest paid mayor? ›

Report: Mayors
PositionCityTotal Wages
MayorSan Francisco$353,802
MayorLos Angeles$283,827
MayorSan Diego$218,678

Do local councillors get paid? ›

Councillors do not get paid a salary, however they do receive an annual allowance which reimburses them for time they have spent on council duties, as well as telephone and other office expenses.

How much do municipal workers earn? ›

Average City Of Tshwane Metropolitan municipality General Worker monthly pay in Gauteng is approximately R 20 927, which is 216% above the national average. Salary information comes from 2 data points collected directly from employees, users, and past and present job advertisements on Indeed in the past 36 months.

Who is a mayor Class 6? ›

Q39: Who is a Mayor? Ans: The presiding officer or Chairman of a Municipal Corporation is called a Mayor.

What do you mean by mayor? ›

a person who is elected or chosen to lead the group who governs a town or city.

What is the meaning of the name mayor? ›

Meaning:Greater; Farmer; Bright one. A name that demands authority and respect, Mayor is a boy's name with multiple origins including Latin, German, and Hebrew.

Who is the first female mayor? ›

After Kansas granted women the right to vote in municipal elections in February 1887, Susanna Madora Salter was elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas on April 4, 1887, and became the first female mayor in the United States.

What is the mayor husband called? ›

First names should not be used. If the mayor is a woman, do I call her mayoress and her husband or partner mayor? Whether it is a female or male mayor, you address them as either "Mr Mayor" or "Madam Mayor" and their husband/wife/partner is addressed as: "Madam Mayoress", or, "Mr Consort".

What gender is a mayor? ›

Feminine Gender of Mayor​ is Mayoress.

How is a mayor elected? ›

Clause 23 of the Municipal Law provides that the Mayor/the Municipal Chairperson/the Municipal President, as the case may be, shall be elected by the elected Councillors from among themselves.

What is the role of a mayor in India? ›

1) Governs the local civic body. 2) Fixed tenure varying in different towns. 3) First citizen of city. 4) Has two varied roles — Representation and upholding of the dignity of the city during ceremonial times and a presiding over discussions of the civic house with elected representatives in functional capacity.

How many times can a mayor be re elected? ›

No elective provincial, city, or municipal official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected. Section 4.

Why did the people go to the Mayor? ›

the people of the town went to the mayor due to the fear of rats as the rats were too big and tried to kill dogs and cats. They wanted to get rid of the rats.

What is the role of vice Mayor? ›

To provide leadership and direction to the Sangguniang Bayan of Alabel, spearhead and support the passage of ordinances, resolutions and other programs that are intricately crafted to fit the needs of the Municipality and geared towards an efficient and effective administration of the Municipality and to continuously ...

What are the powers and functions of an executive Mayor? ›

(2) The executive Mayor must- (a) Identify the needs of municipality (b) Review and evaluate those needs in order of priority. (d) Recommend or determine the best way, including partnership and other approaches, to deliver those strategies, Programmes and services to the maximum benefit of the community.

Do all cities have mayors? ›

Each of the state's 482 incorporated cities have mayors—either elected mayors or City Council members rotating in a mayoral role.

How much does a mayor get paid? ›

Based on this, an Executive Mayor or Mayor at a grade six municipality would earn a basic remuneration package of R1,446,338.

What is a female mayor called? ›

Mayoress - The Mayoress can be the Mayor's wife, daughter, friend or whoever he chooses. The title has no official recognition and is a strictly honorary one given to the Mayor's wife, daughter or friend.

What does a mayor do in a small town? ›

Small town and parish mayors and most 'lord mayors' are largely ceremonial roles. Even those representing some major local authorities, such as Adedamola Aminu in Lambeth, are still essentially ribbon-cutters or ambassadors, but they may chair some council meetings and support local projects.

How many term can a mayor serve? ›

No elective provincial, city, or municipal official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected. Section 4.

How is a mayor elected? ›

Clause 23 of the Municipal Law provides that the Mayor/the Municipal Chairperson/the Municipal President, as the case may be, shall be elected by the elected Councillors from among themselves.

Is there a difference between a city and a town? ›

A town is a populated area with fixed boundaries and a local government. A city is a large or important town.

What city has the highest paid mayor? ›

Report: Mayors
PositionCityTotal Wages
MayorSan Francisco$353,802
MayorLos Angeles$283,827
MayorSan Diego$218,678

Do local councillors get paid? ›

Councillors do not get paid a salary, however they do receive an annual allowance which reimburses them for time they have spent on council duties, as well as telephone and other office expenses.

How much do municipal workers earn? ›

Average City Of Tshwane Metropolitan municipality General Worker monthly pay in Gauteng is approximately R 20 927, which is 216% above the national average. Salary information comes from 2 data points collected directly from employees, users, and past and present job advertisements on Indeed in the past 36 months.

Who is the first female mayor? ›

After Kansas granted women the right to vote in municipal elections in February 1887, Susanna Madora Salter was elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas on April 4, 1887, and became the first female mayor in the United States.

What is the mayor husband called? ›

First names should not be used. If the mayor is a woman, do I call her mayoress and her husband or partner mayor? Whether it is a female or male mayor, you address them as either "Mr Mayor" or "Madam Mayor" and their husband/wife/partner is addressed as: "Madam Mayoress", or, "Mr Consort".

What gender is a mayor? ›

Feminine Gender of Mayor​ is Mayoress.

What is the role of a mayor in India? ›

1) Governs the local civic body. 2) Fixed tenure varying in different towns. 3) First citizen of city. 4) Has two varied roles — Representation and upholding of the dignity of the city during ceremonial times and a presiding over discussions of the civic house with elected representatives in functional capacity.

Do town mayors get paid? ›

The Mayor and Assembly Members

The Mayor and the 25 London Assembly Members receive an annual salary and, on retirement, a pension. They are also entitled in certain circumstances to a resettlement grant payment when they leave office.

Who is more powerful mayor or municipal commissioner? ›

The Mayor is the head of the Municipal Corporation, but the role is largely ceremonial as executive powers are vested in the Municipal Commissioner.

Videos

1. FEB 25, 2021 | City Council Special Meeting - City Roadmap From COVID to Recovery
(City of San Jose, CA)
2. Google Cloud Sustainability Summit
(Google Cloud)
3. 2017 OC Water Summit: Under the Sea
(OCWDwaternews)
4. Raleigh City Council Meeting - January 19, 2021
(City of Raleigh)
5. Thousand Oaks City Council Meeting - June 28, 2022
(CTO Meetings)
6. FY2023 Agency Budget Hearings: June 06, 2022
(CharmTV Citizens' Hub)

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Patricia Veum II

Last Updated: 09/23/2022

Views: 5633

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (44 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Patricia Veum II

Birthday: 1994-12-16

Address: 2064 Little Summit, Goldieton, MS 97651-0862

Phone: +6873952696715

Job: Principal Officer

Hobby: Rafting, Cabaret, Candle making, Jigsaw puzzles, Inline skating, Magic, Graffiti

Introduction: My name is Patricia Veum II, I am a vast, combative, smiling, famous, inexpensive, zealous, sparkling person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.