The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, Assemblywoman Suzette Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, and Santa Clarita Mayor Bill Miranda for a Friday afternoon panel discussion called “Latino Leaders in Politics.”
The event was hosted at College of the Canyons and drew a crowd of approximately three dozen community leaders and business owners.
Garcia commended the business owners in the room for their leadership and shared that, until recently, he had not thought about Latinos representing Santa Clarita at the federal, state and local levels of government.
“What I see when I look at Bill (Miranda), when I look at Suzette (Valladares) and when I look at all of you in this room are Americans who care about this beautiful country,” he said, noting his heritage taught him perseverance, hard work, working in communities to create good.
Garica, whose father immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in the 1950s, said “above all things” he takes pride in being an American.
“I think we all want the same thing, regardless of race, ethnicity, or where we come from, age and gender, we all want security. And in the end, we all want to be able to work hard and do well,” he said.
“It is a big deal” having Latinos in these positions of leadership, Valladares added.
“It’s just so amazing to see how much we’ve grown as a Latino community as a Latino business community,” she said, reflecting on her first interactions Bill Miranda and the Latino Chamber of Commerce, which is now the SCV Chamber’s Latino Business Alliance.
As one of 19 Republicans in the Assembly controlled by a Democratic super-majority, Valladares said it’s vital that leaders understand the needs of the people and businesses they represent.
“I don’t care who you are, what walk of life you come from, if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get the work done, I will work for you,” she said, sharing her experiences as nonprofit leader and working for Magic Mountain and former Rep. Buck McKeon. “And we need more of that attitude in Sacramento, but until (Sacramento gets) balanced, it can be really hard.”
Miranda immediately became teary-eyed as he began his remarks on the progress of the Latino community in Santa Clarita.
Recognizing Latino business leaders in the audience, Miranda said “at the beginning of our movement here in Santa Clarita, it was about us having a seat at the table. It was about us having a say at the table.”
In the early days of his involvement in the local business community, Miranda said he would face remarks like “it’s better to leave things as they are than to make change” when pushing for Latino representation.
Today, he said that people like him, Garcia and Valladares are symbols for the Latino community.
“That is so tremendously important to others who look up to us, whether we want them to look up to us or not,” Miranda said.