Mindful of money, Schroeder shows his leadership
In politics they say “follow the money,” and Larry Schroeder has been doing just that for nearly 40 years. With a background deeply rooted in finance, it’s no wonder the council often defers to him for leadership when it comes to making the tough financial decisions needed to keep the city moving in a positive direction.
Sitting on the front porch of his Claremont home, Mr. Schroeder made it clear to the COURIER that economic and environmental sustainability are top priorities. In the spring of 2014, the council member and his wife renovated their front and back yard, with sustainability in mind.
“Just by taking out the pool, the amount of money we’ll save on electricity, water and even a little bit of gas is going to pay for the new yard in 10 years,” he says. “I am for sustainability, but I’m also real thrifty with my money and I think that’s what sustainability is all about. It’s not only environmental sustainability—it’s economic sustainability and it’s social sustainability.”
Mr. Schroeder moved to Claremont in 2002 when he and his wife were looking for a community in which to retire.
“We truly love it,” says Mr. Schroeder of his large home. “People say ’Don’t you want to downsize?’ We’ve got three kids and five grandkids, and you should see this place during the holidays. They all descend upon us and we have a great time.”
Born in Michigan City, Indiana, Mr. Schroeder earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Detroit. Following graduation, he packed up his ’69 Pontiac LeMans and moved to sunny southern California in 1971. Within one week, he was working as a banker and settled into an apartment above a garage in South Pasadena. It was here he met his wife Laurie, who lived across the street with her parents. The couple quickly fell in love and, in the summer of ‘72, began their life as husband and wife.
“We moved into that apartment together,” says Mr. Schroeder with a smile. “We’ve been married now for 42 years.”
The Indiana native continued his banking career for 10 more years before making the move to public administration and city government. He worked for the city of Glendora for 15 years, including eight as financial director, before moving on as finance director for the city of Lakewood.
During that time, he continued to pursue his passion for public administration, earning his doctorate from the University of La Verne and retiring from Lakewood in 2007.
With a slowing economy, Mr. Schroeder put his experience and degree to good use with adjunct teaching posts at the University of La Verne and Cal Poly Pomona. In addition to teaching classes on public budget and finance, he taught a class in qualitative research.
“I’m really proud of that,” he says with a laugh. “It sounds so cool!”
It was here when he entered a new phase of his life after receiving a call from a former student, Community Services Director Scott Carrol, who’d tracked him down to ask if he’d be interested in a commission position in Claremont.
He was appointed to the commission by city council soon thereafter.
In 2009, Councilmembers Corey Calaycay and Linda Elderkin were up for election. Ms. Elderkin decided not to run for re-election, leaving an open position, and Mr. Schroeder decided to go for it.
“I was the dark horse, but I won,” he says. “When I ran for office six years ago, the economy wasn’t well. I’d had this experience as a finance director and I was also a risk manager. We did a lot of economic development and I thought maybe I could add something, so I threw my hat in the ring. It was one of those, ‘I think I should do this’ moments and I did!”
Now, at 65 years old and midway though his second term, Councilman Schroeder continues to look towards the fiscal future and economic development of the city.
“Six years ago when I joined council, we were talking about all the openings we had downtown. Business vacancy was at 15 percent, and now it’s down to three percent,” says Mr. Schroeder with pride. “With Super King, Norms, the car dealerships…that little corner south of the freeway just caught on fire, everything just built right up. I’d like to see that happen in a lot of other areas around town. The economy is getting better but people have no idea how hard staff works behind the scenes on that stuff. It really pushes economic development.”
According to Mr. Schroeder, the city’s financial security can be attributed to two factors: Council and staff both take the responsibility of making sure the city has a balanced budget seriously and that the city uses its resources wisely.
“We’ll never become a Bell or one of these cities that spends money frivolously because we have such an involved constituency,” Mr. Schroeder explains. “Sometimes those people want all of the money spent on their particular item and we can’t always do that. There has to be a balance.”
The acquisition of the Claremont water system is a good example of the ways a public servant can satisfy a broad spectrum of the constituency. Many residents questioned the likelihood of pursuing eminent domain but, for Mr. Schroeder, fighting ownership of the city’s water was a no-brainer.
With the eminent domain case in the hands of the attorneys and the court, it’s unknown when a final determination of the water company ownership will be decided. Mr. Schroeder, who has been a proponent of the acquisition from the get-go, would like to remain on council to finish what they started. But he also knows that in order for a city to grow, sometimes a changing of the guards is in order.
“If the water thing’s not settled, I’ll probably run again,” he says. “I’ve worked in cities where people have been on the council for 35-40 years, and you need fresh ideas and people to go out there with those ideas. I hope that people who really care for Claremont consider running for council…that younger people step up, and more women step up. It’s the first council in a long time with no women.”
Until that day comes, Mr. Schroeder will continue to work towards the goals set before the city council and enjoy some quality time in the community he calls home.
“I’m going to age in place as long as I can in this house,” he says. “Life is good!”
[Next up in our councilmember series is Sam Pedroza.]