Sam Pedroza wants Claremonters to stand together
A house divided against itself cannot stand, and City Councilman Sam Pedroza cannot stand for a city divided among its residents.
As Mr. Pedroza enters his third term on Claremont’s city council, one of his primary aspirations remains to erase the perceived boundaries that divide the city and unite the community once and for all.
“It’s definitely been my issue from day-one that I want to get away from the idea that there’s a south Claremont and a north Claremont,” he says. “I really believe in the idea that we’re one Claremont. I know every council member says that, but we really do believe it.”
But Mr. Pedroza wasn’t always such a civic-minded individual.
In fact, growing up in an unincorporated neighborhood within the San Gabriel Valley left him with little knowledge of local government, or what a community should be. This became evident after he was given an assignment in college to report on the city in which he lived. The Bassett resident didn’t have the first idea of where to begin.
“I had no concept of what my city was,” said Mr. Pedroza. “The biggest city hall I knew was in West Covina, so I went there thinking that was my city. That’s how clueless I was.”
The city councilman has come a long way since then.
After attending Rio Hondo Community College and Mt. San Antonio College, Mr. Pedroza transferred to San Diego State University where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration in 1992. That same year, he was introduced to Julie, the girl who would steal his heart and become his wife two years later.
Mr. Pedroza continued his education, earning his Master of Arts in Urban Planning from UCLA. Upon graduation, he worked in communications for the water industry and served on staff with then Assemblywoman Hilda L. Solis.
In 1996, the newlyweds were looking for a community in which to lay down their roots and purchased a Cinderella home in the City of Trees.
“We were so happy being here, we wanted to get involved,” says the council member. He began dedicating his time to Active Claremont, Claremont Heritage, the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy as well as serving on the Claremont Community Services Commission and chairing the Claremont Youth Sports Facility Committee.
Following an unsuccessful run for city council in 2005, Mr. Pedroza campaigned in 2007 and again in 2011. He was the top vote-winner in both council races.
“I am proud of that, not because it’s me, but because it’s a reflection more of where the community was heading or where the community was at,” he says. “I didn’t feel like I represented one particular group. I represented the values of what people wanted Claremont to be.”
In May 2011, Mr. Pedroza began serving a one-year term as Claremont’s mayor, but his political career—along with his life—almost ended in August when the avid cyclist collided with a parked utility vehicle.
“I was riding a brand-new road bike going about 20 mph,” he recalled. “I looked over my shoulder to go around the truck but, when I looked back, it was too late. I knew I’d crashed, but I kept trying to convince myself that I was okay. I remember thinking how I couldn’t remember things. I had to consciously make myself try to remember.”
The then-mayor was flown to USC Medical Center with a hairline fracture to his vertebrae and a crushed nose. He would spend the next several months in surgery and recuperating from his injuries. He has since made a full recovery and credits his helmet with saving his life.
“One of my favorite pictures is a photo we took on zip code day [9-17-11], where a big chunk of the community came out and we were all standing in front of the train depot,” Mr. Pedroza said. “That was the first day I came out after my accident. Staff didn’t expect me to be there so they had a great big cutout of me, and then I’m there with my neck brace and bandages on my nose. I’m in that photo twice,” he says with a chuckle. “That picture shows me the sense of community, how cool this city is. I’m very grateful to feel a part of that.”
With his second term scheduled to end in March 2015, Mr. Pedroza made the decision to throw his hat in the ring once again. As one of three council members up for re-election with no opposition, he was reappointed to serve for a third term.
It’s an opportunity for the 46-year-old councilmember to continue with projects that are dear to his heart.
“I’d really like to see the cycling opportunities move forward,” he says. “I really want to see more kids on bikes, but I also want to see a community that’s aware of more kids on bikes. There’s still more work to be done.”
Mr. Pedroza believes that the city works best when it finds multiple benefits when addressing a challenge. Given his professional background with the water industry, new storm water collection regulations and the opportunities that will come with compliance are appealing to him.
“The benefit here is we’re going to have better designed streets to collect more storm water, so let’s have the bike lanes as well as native and drought-tolerant plantings. We’re meeting the regulations of storm water runoff but, at the same time, bringing more to the community. These multi-beneficial opportunities are out there. It’s a matter of getting the right players and various groups all talking. That’s what we do well in this city.”
In keeping with his desire to unite Claremont, Councilman Pedroza will continue to try to meet the needs of the community.
“There’s always more that needs to done,” he says.