Robert Garcia is mayor of Long Beach, but not for long. With last week’s midterm victory, Garcia, 44, is headed to D.C. as congressman-elect of the 42nd district. He’ll be the first immigrant and openly LGBTQ+ representative in the House.
Also not in his current post for long? The vice-mayor of Long Beach, Rex Richardson.
Mayor-elect Richardson, 39, will be the first Black mayor to helm the port city when he is sworn in Dec. 20.
It is almost fitting that Richardson would follow Garcia into the mayor’s office. They attended the same high school; Richardson enrolled at Covina High one year after Garcia’s graduation. Garcia was elected student body president at CSU Long Beach in 2000; five years later, Richardson held that post at CSU Dominguez Hills.
Garcia was elected mayor of Long Beach in 2014. He was sworn in by Vice-President Kamala Harris, then California attorney general. Richardson was also on the stage that day, sworn in, at 32, as the youngest-ever elected member to the Long Beach City Council. Garcia had previously been the youngest to hold that post when he was 36.
Richardson said it was second nature to embrace one thing he and Garcia had in common– their youth.
“On that day in 2014, the average age of our city council and mayorship dropped by a decade,” Richardson told NBCLA, in an exclusive interview, pre-election day.
“I think we began to create a modern city that communicates with its residents and acknowledges and leads with equity and makes, smart investments in the future. And that’s been good.”
Garcia was also in the council-elected position of vice mayorship, when he ran for mayor in 2014, on the endorsement of then-Mayor Bob Foster.
When he decided to back Richardson to succeed him as mayor, he noted their friendship and the similar vision they’d honed after eight years leading Long Beach.
“I think we’re both progressive and we both believe the role of government is to actually help people,” Garcia said.
Prior to the official results being released, Garcia said he was excited about the opportunity to help elect Long Beach’s first Black mayor.
“Personally, Rex is just an affable guy. You know, a nice guy, hard working and honest, just a really solid person. And those are things that are valuable to me.”
With both Long Beach officials now preparing for their next political challenge, they say being the first won’t be a distraction.
“Folks in the city have seen me grow up and develop my leadership and service to the city,” Richardson said.
Richardson says he’ll just continue to tap into the strong roots he’s laid in the city over the past dozen years.
“So, while it’s important to me and not lost on me that young people in the city, who have never had a mayor that looks like them, will be able to look at the leader of their city and see themselves, what’s most important is what we do with the responsibilities that are given to us,” Richardson said.
“Being the first comes with an additional set of responsibilities, for sure,” said Garcia. “If you’re the first one, it’s important to work hard and to make those communities proud. As mayor, I was the first person of color to be elected city wide and certainly the first LGBTQ person, the first Latino.”
Garcia is married to California State University, Long Beach, professor Matthew Mendez Garcia. He emigrated from Peru at the age of 5.
“Those were all things that were heavy on me coming in, but, at the end of the day, I just leaned on doing the best job I could for all communities. I think I have a unique perspective as an immigrant, as a gay person, that I hope to bring to the Congress,” Garcia said.
Neither Garcia nor Richardson has ever lost an election.
That should bring a sense of confidence as they enter their next elected office with the increased visibility, and responsibility of being the first.
Source: NBC Los Angeles