Gary Mendez, Trustee Area 4
Term of Office 2015-2020
Gary Mendez was first elected to the Rio Hondo Community College District Board of Trustees in November 1999. He was re-elected in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. Mr. Mendez represents Trustee Area 4, which includes Los Nietos, Santa Fe Springs, South Whittier and North Norwalk.
Mr. Mendez is proud to be a public servant in the traditional sense, with core values of duty, honor, compassion, and service. Mr. Mendez began giving back by working with community organizations and leaders long respected for their values and commitment. His public service record includes working in local, county, regional, state and federal government.
In his seven years on the Board, Mr. Mendez has been a vocal advocate for students. His goal is to ensure that Rio Hondo successfully meets the post-secondary educational needs of our communities now and in the years to come. His accomplishments include:
Actively working to pass Measure A, the college’s first facilities construction bond in more than 40 years. Bond funds will allow for complete rehabilitation and augmentation of the Rio Hondo College campus;
Authoring the resolution establishing priority registration for US War Veterans;
Spearheading efforts to create off-site centers in South Whittier and El Monte to increase access to educational opportunities close to home;
Assisting single mothers attending Rio Hondo by creating a scholarship in honor of his mother Ruby and grandmother Rose;
Working to diversify the College’s administrative team to ensure the community sees itself in Rio Hondo’s internal leadership, which led to hiring the first Latina Superintendent/President;
Increasing access to Rio Hondo by enhancing community outreach and by promoting the college’s educational opportunities to all potential students in the community college district;
Ensuring proactive financial planning to ensure a balanced budget;
Encouraging policies and programs that guarantee a well-balanced academic program and quality student support services;
Increasing access to the College by making public transportation for students a priority and by working on initiatives to subsidize student passes; and
Responding to the needs of working families who want to attend college by creating Rio Hondo’s first weekend accelerated program that allows students to attend classes outside their work hours.
Gary Mendez was born and raised in the Los Nietos-Whittier area, where his family has lived since 1856. He graduated from Whittier High School and at age 18 was elected as the State Youth Chairman of the American GI Forum, a congressionally-chartered national veteran’s organization dedicated to civil rights and education. Mr. Mendez was also elected to serve as its National Youth Chairman. During his tenure, he worked with the American GI Forum to create separate districts/areas of representation for the Rio Hondo College Board of Trustees. Mr. Mendez also worked with the Mexican American Political Association and the United Farm Workers on issues important to his community.
While earning his associate’s degree in political science and paralegal studies at Rio Hondo, Mr. Mendez was elected to serve as student representative on the Rio Hondo Community College District Board of Trustees. Mr. Mendez was also active in the Associated Student Body (ASB), the statewide Council of Student Body Governments, the California Student Association of Community Colleges and was elected student member of the California Community College Trustee Board. He also founded and was the first president of the Rio Hondo Young Democrats.
Mr. Mendez earned his bachelor’s degree in Government, with a minor in Ancient History, at California State University, Sacramento. As a student, he worked for the Chief Clerk (Parliamentarian) of the California Assembly. Additionally, Mr. Mendez worked for various members of the legislature in their Sacramento offices and on their campaigns.
After graduation, Mr. Mendez worked as a paralegal for the Los Angeles County Chicano Employees Association preparing civil rights cases and employee grievances. He also served in the Southern California Association of Governments’ (SCAG) Governmental Affairs Department, working on regional issues that impact communities throughout Southern California.
Mr. Mendez has served as a member of then-Assemblywoman Grace Napolitano’s legislative staff, and as her volunteer coordinator and field director during her bid for Congress. He was special assistant to the Congresswoman after she was elected to the House of Representatives. Mr. Mendez has also worked as a field deputy for then-Assemblyman Thomas Calderon.
In 2004, Mr. Mendez was elected to the Democratic Party Los Angeles County Central Committee by democratic voters in the 56th Assembly District. In May, 2005, he was elected to serve on the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party. In the same year, State Party Chairman Art Torres appointed Mr. Mendez to serve on the State Democratic Party’s Organizational Development Committee.
Mr. Mendez is President and CEO of Urban Strategies (West), a governmental, public and political affairs firm.
Mr. Mendez holds a third degree Black Belt in Okinawan Shorin-Ryu/Kenpo Karate and has taught the art to students of all ages for more than 20 years.