During the mayoral race, Wakeland and Garcetti adopted a baby, Maya, now 17 months old. At the Italian restaurant, Garcetti cooed at Maya in Spanish. Wakeland worried the toddler could choke on chunks of ice, so Garcetti bit them into smaller pieces. Unsatisfied, Wakeland asked a waiter to bring crushed ice.
In politics, Wakeland's style has struck critics as brash or abrasive. Allies describe her manner as frank or direct.
"She doesn't suffer fools," said Madeline Janis, cofounder of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a group closely tied to organized labor.
Wakeland has been a prodigious fundraiser for the alliance, which seeks to influence the mayor and City Council on an array of issues, from commercial trash collection to port pollution.
"They are focused on campaigns that disproportionally benefit women and Latinos, African Americans, the folks who are most disadvantaged in the wage labor market, and I like that," Wakeland said.
Beyond her role as a senior advisor in Garcetti's campaigns, Wakeland has worked for L.A. Unified School District board candidates and Howard Dean in the 2004 presidential race. Accounts vary on how involved she has been in the running of Garcetti's council office. She said she had limited her role largely to scheduling to accommodate Garcetti's family time as foster children have come and gone.
"It's hard to manage a City Council schedule with a family, period — much less with a family whose structure changes," she said.
Wakeland's firm hand on the schedule was apparent at the restaurant. When Garcetti mentioned an upcoming event for the Liberty Hill Foundation, a group that promotes social change, she said firmly: "We are not attending the dinner. No. We are not attending the dinner."
Wakeland, a former Liberty Hill board member, now serves on the boards of Just Detention International, which seeks to end prison rape, and People Assisting the Homeless. She is also on the honorary board of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. As the election approached, she showed no inclination to curb any of her work to avoid potential conflicts at City Hall. "If Eric's mayor, that's what I'm going to be doing," she said. "If Eric's not mayor, that's what I'm going to be doing."
Wakeland also acknowledged that Garcetti's role as mayor could further the goals of the groups she supports.
"If it helps where those issues are concerned," she said with a laugh, "then I'm in."