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, while three people are competing 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 Mayor Cerda about her thoughts on the election, how she views her past five years and what she wants to achieve in her next period as Mayor.
How long have you lived in Gardena? What do you think makes the city special? I’ve grown up in this city since my family moved here when I was seven years old. I’ve been here pretty much all my life. What I love about Gardena is, we’re a big city of 61,000 but we still have that nice, small town feel. We know our neighbors and we have so many great small businesses. It’s like everybody knows your name, so it’s really nice. It’s our own little pocket, but yet we’re not some small town like a Mayberry.
How do you rate your time as Mayor to date? Have you achieved what you set out to achieve? I believe I have. Public safety is one of the most important things, and really pushing having a safe community because one of the things I think is important is that, if your residents and businesses don’t feel safe in their community, going outside, walking down the street or going to the local park, does it really do that much good to have a whole bunch of activities at the park? Nobody wants to go. If they don’t feel safe getting on our buses because of the crime, too. So I think that’s first and foremost. As it relates to economic development, we’ve built more developments in the past five years, then I think any of the councils in previous years, and opened probably more businesses in our community. So I’m really proud of that, and more are coming.
Has anything surprised you about being Mayor? I’ve always said elected officials are part time but sometimes you end up putting in full time hours. As Mayor, I’m definitely sometimes putting in full time hours. I’m getting called up for a lot more things than I did in the past. As the Mayor, you’re leader so I probably spend even more time than I thought I was going to spend in the city, but I still enjoy it.
You’re running unopposed— does that surprise you? Is there any danger that can breed apathy? It’s very rare. That never happens. I don’t think it’s ever happened in the history of Gardena, running unopposed for a Mayor’s position. It’s interesting because we’ve been getting calls from other cities saying that they’ve never heard of that happening. Somebody always runs against the Mayor. I guess I like to think that people are happy with what we’re doing in Gardena and I take that as a huge compliment. They like what they see in Gardena, they’re happy and, even with a pandemic, there’s so much that Gardena did. Still trying to bring a sense of normalcy back with how we were trying to help our seniors, the kids and all. COVID was a social virus – I don’t think people realize how harsh isolation can be emotionally. I like the different creative ways that our city did things to help people out.
What do you want to achieve in this forthcoming period? If I win, one of the things I was trying to do during the first election was really trying to build up the Rosecrans Corridor. I think this will be a great little area for more restaurants, more entertainment – but then COVID happened and for two years, we were just shut down. A lot of things were a lot harder, and a lot of businesses wanted to wait until we were in-person, so I could sit across a desk or table from them and we could talk about new options as far as revitalizing certain shopping centers and things like that. I respect that. If they felt better waiting a little while, that’s fine with me.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? I’d like to say that, during these elections there are people that are trying to say Gardena could do better. They think we mismanage money. It’s really unfortunate that people say things like that during elections just because they feel like it gives them some kind of platform. But I think if you look at our website and our social media, the response from people who comment, they’re very happy with the way we’re handling things. Even when it comes to financial transparency. We have a budget forum coming up where we talk about, when you pay your taxes, how every dollar is spent in the city. And we’re asking for the community’s input. We want to hear from you because this isn’t about us, the council, it’s about the future. The other side of it is, financially, I think we’re making such great decisions on the financing and investment side, that we’re actually setting up councils years after we’re gone. They’ll be in a good financial position as well. We’re making sure that we keep our credit rating up high. We get rated by auditors outside of Gardena, and we have a AA credit rating. People say these things, but the proof is right here. Let’s not just talk into the sky. Look at the facts. Go on our website. Come to the council meetings. I’m glad my colleagues are running for reelection. I support both of them – Art Kaskanian and Rodney Tanaka. I think they’ve done an amazing job for the past five years. I was looking at the list of candidates for City Treasurer and I was very impressed with Guy Mato. He’s somebody I’m planning on endorsing and supporting.