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  • Mario A. Guerra

Op-Ed: Public service is more than a desire — it’s a devotion

June 29, 2018


By Mario A. Guerra

There are many among us who, as ordinary citizens, give of themselves in service for others in the community and to the benefit of all who live in our cities. These folks are Rotarians, members of the Lions Clubs, Kiwanis and volunteers at our schools and places of worship. They are there to serve proudly and to the best of their ability, often without recognition.

This desire to serve becomes much greater when the outcome of your work and efforts is apparent. Each manifestation of progress is a reward without compromise and your desire to serve becomes a devotion to helping others succeed.

Unfortunately for the residents of the 32nd State Senate and the 58th Assembly Districts represented by Tony Mendoza and Cristina Garcia, respectively, a devotion to serve seems limited by their own interests.

Mendoza resigned his seat, disgraced by the findings of an independent legal review of his sexual misconduct with staff, lobbyists and interns. He apologized for making them feel uncomfortable.

Garcia is on unpaid leave after allegedly groping staff, praising her own sexual exploits, and playing drinking games with staff.

It is said that no press is bad press so long as they spell your name right. I’d have to disagree. And I am certain this is one of the only things these elected officials and I could agree on – this is bad, really bad.

With Mendoza out and Garcia’s political career on life support, many will seek to replace them. Hopefully their motive to serve is honorable and respectable, with our community’s needs at the top of their minds.

I have been blessed with an opportunity to serve a vital and often neglected portion of our society – our military, soldiers and veterans. Early in January 2017, in the last week of the previous Presidential administration, I was appointed Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. I am honored to be able to assist with the readiness, care for members of our Army, National Guard and Army Reserves. A CASA is the Army’s link to the American people and I report directly to the Secretary Esper.

Working directly with our Army I am able to see the amazing men and women of our military. I am impressed every day by seeing their devotion to our country. These men and women are highly educated, motivated and true patriots of our all-volunteer military.

My appointment as C.A.S.A. has been one of the truly great honors of my life. And in light of the recent ill-informed comments by a teacher and councilman at a Pico Rivera high school, educating our educators about the possibilities available to our youth is a priority for me.

As elections are being planned and prepared for, I would ask those seeking office what their desires are to help improve our communities and, more importantly, what are they devoted to accomplishing in the service of others if elected. I encourage us all, now more than ever, to look at their history for possible ethical violations involving the public trust.

In recent days, I have been asked by many if I plan to run for the open Senate seat – especially those who know my passion to serve and help bring new opportunities to everyone. I have been told that I would have a good opportunity to be elected. I have been nourished by their kind thoughts and expressions of support and I have given it a lot of thought.

The simple answer is no, I will not run. My ability to serve will continue as a voice for our Army and as Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. A lot more needs to be accomplished and I will continue to serve in this capacity (a position I love, respect and proud to have ).

But together we need to be the stewards of our communities. That is the challenge that lies ahead of us. Reinvesting in our communities means being alert and aware of the issues we face and scrutinizing anyone who says they want to represent us. We accomplish this by looking at what they have done, what they want to do, what their plans of action are to get them done, and why devotion to service is important to them in the first place. And yes, ethics and character do matter.

As ridiculous as it sounds, Mendoza, after resigning his seat, is now running for the same senate seat again later this year. A spectacle of self-service unlike no other. We deserve better than individuals looking for the best job they will ever have and elect those who are devoted to seeking ways to improve our situations.

Several others at the local level who supported him as recently as last week are confusing to me. We need to move beyond politics and parties and look to see who would best serve our communities. We need representation, we need leadership, we deserve high ethical standards in government, we deserve better than what we’ve had.

In the Senate chamber in Sacramento, high above the Senators reads a statement in Latin: Senatoris Est Civitatis Libertatem Tueri, which means, “It is the duty of the Senators to protect the liberty of the citizens.” I hope those who are running will take notice and remember that their call to service is noble and honorable and can only be disgraced by their actions.

As I finish writing this I am at West Point at the United States Military Academy. I’ve spent this week being briefed from General Caslen about inspiring leaders of character for our 4,400 West Point cadets.

They’re teaching to live honorably, lead honorably and to demonstrate excellence. Duty, honor, country.

Wouldn’t it be great if we held our elected officials to these standards?

Let’s vote right in 2018 and support those devoted to community and public service. And please keep our military and those who are protecting us in our prayers. #characterinleadership #charactercounts #wedeservebetter

Mario A. Guerra is the former mayor of Downey, past president of Independent Cities Association and current Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. He can be reached at marioaguerra.com