Chamber director takes aim at Gardena council seat

Longtime Gardenan Wanda Love brings business savvy to race

Wanda Love

On Tuesday, June 7, the Gardena Municipal Elections will take place and we will be speaking to the various candidates over the coming weeks. Mayor Tasha Cerda is running unopposed, but three people are vying for two seats on the City Council. Two of those are incumbents: Mayor Pro Tem Rodney Tanaka, and Harout (Art) Kaskanian. They’re being challenged by Wanda Love, executive director of the Gardena Valley Chamber of Commerce. This week, we chatted with Love about her thoughts on the election, and how her experience on the Chamber could help her on the City Council.

How long have you lived in Gardena? 31 years.

What do you think makes the
city special? I believe Gardena has three major assets that make Gardena special. Our diversity and our multicultural community. Our unique location, and two casinos. I think we can do a better job at marketing and showcasing our 200+ restaurants, two casinos and our convenient accessibility to LA Live, LAX Airport, San Pedro Harbor, Long Beach Harbor and Disneyland.

How do you think the current members of the City Council are doing, particularly those up for reelection (Mayor Pro Tem Tanaka
and Council Member Kaskanian)?
I think the current council could have done a better job, especially during the COVID19 pandemic. This city council left too much money on the table, available from the federal, state and county during the pandemic. Our city residents and businesses would have benefited greatly from those funds. Our treasurer, J. Ingrid Tsukiyama has not been seen in 3-and-a-half years, and every city department is understaffed, our streets need attention, our youth has been neglected, our parks and facilities need upgrades, and our economic development department needs to bring in better commercial development for our residents just to start.

What are the main points that
you’re running on?
Make city hall more accessible to the community, increase staffing and develop better automation. We must do a better job responding to requests for permits, inspections, businesses licenses and other requests that need to be processed in a more expeditious way. Recruit development to generate jobs, increase revenue and make Gardena the destination city It once was. We need an economic balance between residential and commercial developments. The current focus is all housing to meet the RHNA (Regional Housing Need Allocation) numbers of 5735 units. I don’t believe we have enough commercial development to remain sustainable. The commercial property we do have is being used for large housing developments and this will not be a good look for Gardena in the future. Fight for more affordable housing without destroying our single family neighborhoods. The homeless issues that’s plaguing our streets are out of control. Gardena does not and has not had a plan to address this matter. There’s too many programs and services offered by LA County and other nonprofit organizations already in operation for us to continue to allow this to become a bigger problem Increase funding for more youth and senior programs. We should be working with more existing county, state, and federal funded programs as well as other nonprofits and organizations to give our youth more appealing options for after school and weekends, as well as funding for additional programs and transportation for our seniors and youth.

How long have you been in the
Chamber of Commerce?
I was asked to come back in 2007 and was installed as the president in 2008.

What would you say have been
your biggest achievements?
One of many biggest achievements has been my ability to manage and maintain the Gardena Valley Chamber of Commerce, without any support from the City of Gardena. Throughout my time as the CEO of the Gardena Chamber, I’ve had the honor and privilege to meet and work with some amazing people. People such as our federal and state and county elected representatives over the years. These relationships helped me understand how legislative policy works in DC and Sacramento. It is very important for all city leaders to know and understand how and if legislative policy will affect our community. My relationship with the CEO’s, directors and managers of our utility companies as well as our large and small business owners in the city of Gardena has allowed us to collaborate and organize many community events together, supported and sponsored by them. Another big achievement was my ability to pivot during the pandemic and assist so many residents and businesses in the community during a time of an unexpected, major crisis. Under my direction, the Chamber handed out more than a half million face masks, hand sanitizer and bacteria wipes to our residents and businesses during the start of the pandemic. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit no one was prepared. I had to quickly learn how to operate in a manner that helped everyone keep their businesses open and our residents stay safe. All of the relationships I had developed during my 16 years at the chamber, allowed me to reach out during this most critical time and secure quality PPE supplies, grant information, low interest loans and other resources distributed to businesses and residents as far as West Covina. I made sure to keep up with the forever changing LA County Health and state requirements by sending out emails and posting on social media to ensure everyone had reliable and safe information. I had no idea how many people I was reaching until I started meeting the business owners or staff as they came to my office to pick up their free PPE supplies. Many of our businesses qualified for, and received the funding that kept their businesses open because of my outreach. I was super excited to hear this, because all I knew was everyone needed help. Our chamber database increased to nearly 10k contacts. This helped put people at ease during a time when people were very afraid.

What sort of reaction are you
getting on the campaign trail?
I am receiving great reactions from the community. I have talked with a lot of residents and listened to their concerns. As a resident for 30+ years, I have seen a lot of changes and not all are for the good. Many residents share my same concerns about the increasing homeless population, lack of youth programs, increase in crime, over saturation of housing developments close to single residential neighborhoods and on our major thoroughfares. We need more automation at city hall and good economic development, not just any and all development. I believe I can make a difference in moving Gardena forward.

Is there anything else you’d like
to add?
Yes, just a little bit more about who I am, what I’ve done and why I believe I’m qualified to do the job. I am a resident of Gardena for more than 30 years, a mother, grandmother, and business owner. I have faithfully and diligently served the Gardena community for the past 20+ years. As the President and CEO of the Gardena Valley Chamber of Commerce, I have organized countless community events that benefited the residents and business alike. Events such as job fairs, school supply giveaways and toy and food giveaways. I have organized and hosted several business expos and community recognition luncheons to acknowledge the great volunteers we have in our communities and so much more. In 2017 I coordinated a huge donation campaign for the victims of hurricane Harvey in Houston Texas. Along with two other women from the community, volunteers loaded up a UHaul truck and we left the chamber office at 2:50 a.m. and drove 25 hours across Interstate Highway 10, to Houston Texas to deliver the donated items. I’ve owned four successful small businesses for more than 28 years, so being at the forefront of small business advocacy, fighting for sensible legislation from Sacramento, as well as our local government is what I love to do. I don’t just talk about Gardena; I am truly about the business of Gardena. I’ve walked the streets with elected officials to hear directly from the community about their concerns. When I was the vice president of the largest senior group in Gardena, The Second Time Around Club, I made sure the seniors were well informed about what’s going on in the community.Serving in the community is nothing new for me. Most of my time at the chamber has been without pay. I work closely with all of our utility companies, federal, state, and county elected officials, SBA, (Small Business Association) South Bay Cities Council of Government, Los Angeles Business Federation, LA County board of Supervisor representative and a lot of local large and small businesses. These relationships are vitally important and beneficial in helping me move Gardena forward. I’m a commissioner for the City of Gardena Business Economic Advisor Council, an Executive Board Member of the South Bay Association of Chambers of Commerce and a member of the Los Angeles Business Federation. I’m skilled at bringing people together to get things done. I have been acknowledged for the community service work I have done by our U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, California State Senators Rodrick Wright, California State Senator Isadora Hall and California State Senator Steven Bradford, as well as California State Assembly member Al Muratsuchi, National Action Network, L.A. Sentinel newspaper, Wave newspaper and so many others. I have the character, integrity, honesty, tenacity, skills, and the necessary relationships to move Gardena forward. On June 7, VOTE for the Independent Voice for Change! Wanda Love for Gardena City Council 2022.