Calaycay stays focused on taking care of Claremont
When it comes to city government, Councilman Corey Calaycay has a simple yet insightful philosophy: public service is customer service. And no one knows his customers better than this life-long Claremont resident.
As a teen, Mr. Calaycay became well acquainted with the trials and tribulations of dealing with a less than responsive local government. After a couple of stolen cars had been dumped near his rural Claremont home, he reached out to the city for help, but soon realized he’d have to help himself.
“Back in the day, Base Line wasn’t here. The freeway wasn’t here. There was a dirt road and a berry field. When they annexed this area into the city they never changed the street signs, so every time we called the police, they kept arguing with us that we lived in the county,” explained Mr. Calaycay. “I went to the city to try and get some assistance and I kept getting the runaround. I eventually spoke with the mayor, who said, ‘It was a Caltrans roadway, the city can’t do anything and I’m late for a plane,’ before hanging the phone up on me. I thought to myself, if that’s the way they treat people, I could do a better job than that!”
Mr. Calaycay took the first step in 1990 and ran for city council at the age of 19. Although he didn’t win the election, he garnered an impressive 2,382 votes.
“From the get-go, my thought was this was a customer service job. We’re here to serve people,” he says emphatically. “I saw that mindset somewhat lacking at that period of time in terms of the recognition of service to the community as opposed to advancing the agendas of what the people at that time were interested in. That’s what continues to motivate me here.”
Currently serving his third term, Mr. Calaycay was first elected to city council in March 2005 following two unsuccessful runs in 1992 and 1994. A 40-year resident of Claremont, the council member grew up in the community he now serves, having attended the United Church of Christ Preschool, Foothill Country Day School and Webb School.
After receiving a degree in business administration from Loyola Marymount University in 1992, Mr. Calaycay began his political career working for California State Legislators including former Assemblyman and State Senator Bob Margett, former Assemblyman Bob Pacheco, and former Assemblyman Todd Spitzer.
“I respected all of them immensely,” he says. “They all had their different styles of leadership and hopefully from each of them I derived elements that have served the public well here in Claremont.”
At 44 years old, Mr. Calaycay is ironically the youngest yet most senior of the city council members. He credits the success of this particular council to their ability to collaborate.
“I think we’ve learned to keep our egos and our own personal objectives in check. There are probably moments in time when we’re ready to strangle each other, but I think we do a really good job of stepping away from that, cooling off and coming back to the table and still working together in a constructive way. I think everybody sees that,” says Mr. Calaycay. “There’s no pressure to decide in any given direction, and there’s definitely an acceptance of free thought on the part of the council members. There’s a respect between and among us. That makes a huge difference”
“Someone once told me, it’s all about the compromise and, in an effective compromise, everybody can walk away with about 80 percent of what they want,” he adds. “I’ve generally found that to be true.”
One item the entire city council can agree upon is the urgency in paying off the city’s unfunded liability debt. According to Mr. Calaycay, the latest CalPERS numbers are expected in October, at which time city council will appoint an ad hoc committee to look at the current pay-off plan more comprehensively.
“We’ve done an excellent job in making this community more financially stable, but if we don’t monitor any adjustments by CalPERS that could really set us back,” he says. “When you miss a payment, the interest is still accruing at such a high rate that you lose ground really fast. So that is why it is critical that we really take a look and make sure that our payment plan is meeting the goal of paying this within a reasonable period of time.”
Having previously served as Claremont’s mayor from 2009-2010, Mayor Pro Tem Calaycay is once again expected to take center seat at city council when Joe Lyons’ mayoral term concludes next week.
“When I was mayor last time, the downturn of the economy hit in 2008 and I came on as we were starting to feel the effects. As much as I enjoyed that year —it was a busy and productive year—the reality was we had probably more staff farewells than I would guess any prior mayor had during his or her term. We had some serious budget discussions and cuts that had to be made, so they were pretty challenging times.”
This time around, with Claremont’s economic growth on the upswing, Mr. Calaycay intends to do all he can to assist the community and its residents in fulfilling their needs.
“First and foremost to me is that we’re taking care of people,” Mr. Calaycay says. “Most of my agenda, whatever comes up during the year, stems around making sure we are taking care of what our citizens want. Groups like Jim Keith with Safe and Healthy Family Housing and Betty Crocker with Keeping the Good in Our Neighborhood—those are the people that matter to me. If they come up with agenda items to make the community more safe…if this is what the people want, that’s my agenda.”