Molina Sworn In as Supervisor : L.A. County: ‘We must look forward to a time when a person’s ethnic background or gender is no longer a historical footnote,’ she tells a crowd of 1,000 cheering supporters.


Gloria Molina, the Mexican-American daughter of a laborer, was sworn in Friday as the first Latino supervisor in this century and declared her election victory a “call for change” in Los Angeles County government.

“People are tired of politics as usual,” she told about 1,000 cheering supporters who spilled out of the packed Board of Supervisors’ hearing room to the sidewalk, where the speech was carried over a loudspeaker.

Molina, a 42-year-old former secretary, spoke of the historical significance of her inauguration, noting the special pride she felt as the first Latino supervisor in 115 years and first woman ever elected to the board.


“We must look forward to a time when a person’s ethnic background or gender is no longer a historical footnote,” Molina said. “And this election is another step in that positive path to the American promise.”

Molina took the oath of office from Rep. Edward R. Roybal (D-Los Angeles), who lost a 1958 supervisorial election in a controversial last-minute recount that turned an apparent victory into a narrow defeat. The recount has been a source of bitterness for the Latino community ever since.

“I am honored to have been sworn in to office by a man who should have served 33 years before me but for a twist of fate was denied his rightful place in the history of Los Angeles County government.”

Friday’s ceremony included a reception with Mexican food and mariachis on the County Mall. Among those invited were the civil rights attorneys who argued successfully in a voting rights lawsuit that the all-Anglo board had drawn district boundaries to discriminate against Latinos. The suit led to a redrawing of supervisorial district boundaries.

Richard Fajardo, an attorney for Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and a plaintiff in the suit said: “Look at the faces in the crowd and (you will) see a new mix of people brought to county government.”

Molina, a former Los Angeles city councilwoman, defeated state Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) in a Feb. 19 election for the 1st District seat vacated by Pete Schabarum. She will attend her first board meeting Tuesday, joining fellow Democratic Supervisors Ed Edelman and Kenneth Hahn in forming a new liberal majority on the governing board of the nation’s most populous county.

One of the first to greet Molina as she arrived at her new County Hall of Administration office was Margaret Roshoff, the security officer who guards the supervisors’ private offices.

“This is a very special day for all Mexican-Americans,” Roshoff said.

Indeed, Roshoff’s 81-year-old Latino mother, Elvira Villamore of Monterey Park, was also there to greet Molina. After waiting in the hallway nearly three hours for Molina, Villamore told Molina: “Bless you, dear.”

When Molina walked into the board chambers, she was greeted by a standing ovation and chants of “Viva Gloria!”

Supervisors Deane Dana, Edelman and Hahn kissed their new colleague. Supervisor Mike Antonovich was in Washington at a meeting of a federal commission on which he serves. State Sen. Torres was not invited, according to a Molina aide.

Also present were Molina’s parents, Concepcion and Leonardo--the couple said they were “ muy contento “ (very happy)--along with the supervisor’s five sisters and four brothers, her husband, Ron Martinez, and their 3-old-daughter, Valentina.

Echoing many of the campaign promises that swept her into office, Molina pledged to push for expansion of the board from five to seven members, tighter restrictions of campaign fund raising and lobbying and increased funding for health care for the poor.

“We must look for ways to curb the corrupting influence of big money on public policy,” she said. “We must restore public faith in the system, and regulating ourself is the first step toward that end.”

Molina said, “Restoring the public faith on the handling of public money is our first priority.”

Molina said she wants to work with all members of the board. She added, “I am humbled by the responsibility of public trust implicit in this important post. But I am strengthened by the faces and the voices of the people in District 1 who I have brought with me in my heart.”

Molina wasted no time on her first day as a supervisor in displaying her independent, populist style. She gave orders that, unlike the other supervisors, she did not want a chauffeur. And she asked county administrators for a smaller car than the Buick Park Avenue assigned to the other supervisors.

Molina’s staff also gave instructions that the metal detectors, through which the public must pass to enter supervisors’ meetings, not be put up for the swearing-in ceremony.

The new supervisor said she was surprised by the media attention. When she drove up to the Hall of Administration, TV camera crews were waiting for her. They crowded into an elevator with her and followed her into her office.

Once inside her new office, Molina looked through the items placed on her desk by county staff. They included a county telephone directory, a box of business cards, county stationery with her name and a miniature county flag.