May 3, 2016

LEGISLATOR PROFILE: Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia representing the 56th District, including the Coachella and Imperial valleys

(Editor’s Note: The questions and answers have been paraphrased for brevity and clarity)


Eduardo Garcia was first elected to the Assembly in November of 2014.  His district is one of the largest in California including much of eastern Riverside County and all of Imperial County.


Where did you grow up?  Tell us about your early years?

I was born in the Coachella Valley, but as a kid I have to say I spent a lot of time in Imperial County.  Both grandparents and many aunts and uncles and cousins lived in Mexicali.  From the time I was four or five until I was 15 or so, we spent just about every Saturday in Imperial County.  It was our weekly routine to visit our relatives.


Many in the Coachella Valley are connected to agriculture in one way or another, are you?

It was agriculture that first brought my parents to California and the Coachella Valley.  They worked in the fields up and down the state.  At some point they settled in Coachella and eventually transitioned from farm labor to other work.  My mother started a house cleaning business and my father became a gardener.  After a while, my dad found a nice job for the City of Indio in public works.  He has now worked for the city for about 15 years and is in the streets department.  My mother is a small business owner in the house cleaning industry.


Describe your childhood as you moved into high school and college.  Was going to college always the plan?

I had a good childhood.  I was involved in a lot of youth sports and extracurricular activities.  But Coachella had its unique challenges and obstacles.  It was a place with limited resources so sports and school were very important to take one down a good path.  I had a lot of friends who were not on that path and basically disappeared from school after about the 8th or 9th grade.

I was just an average student.  There are a lot of teachers still around that taught me and they would say that I wasn’t a bad student, but I was not a great student.  It took a while for me to recognize my own potential.  I am one of those people that greatly benefited by the community college system.  I don’t want to admit how long I was there, but it was a great place for me to build confidence and discover that I could be successful.  I went on to a four year college and graduate school, where I majored in political science with a minor in history.  The minor in history came about because I developed a deep interest in Native American as well as Chicano history.  Those were my two areas of emphasis.


What did you see as your future pathway?

My idea was to graduate from the University of California at Riverside, get a teaching credential and hopefully come back to Coachella Valley High School and teach social studies.  And in fact, I was successful.  I did land some long-term substitute jobs that allowed me to contemplate whether this was a career I wanted to pursue.  Eventually I was hired in Adult Education and taught adults.  I did that until I landed a job working in the state of California for my predecessor in his legislative office.  I actually worked for several different legislators over the years, not because I couldn’t keep a job but because different opportunities arose.


Is that what drew you to elective politics?

It is a good question as to what got me involved in politics, government or public service for that matter.  I go way back to when I was umpiring in sports leagues and then getting involved in voter registration and engaged in campaigns.  That is what opened my eyes to public service.  Then I interned at City Hall videotaping City Council meetings which really got me interested.  When I graduated from college, I ran for City Council and served for 12 years, 10 as mayor.


Did you have any signature or pet issues when you ran for City Council?

I did.  The parks and recreation system for Coachella was my signature issue.  Growing up I always wondered why we didn’t have the parks and facilities that other communities had.  What was the problem and what could we do about it?  That was the issue I ran on and I am very proud that we were able to accomplish a lot while I was in office.  We built new parks and libraries and rehabbed some parks.  We spent $250 million on sewers and infrastructure and 10 years later were able to build a new library.  When we opened a new park, it was the first one built since the 1970s…1974 to be exact.


When did you decide to run for a position in the State Legislature?

Once I started working for several different legislators, I got to meet a lot of people in our district and see the work that the Legislature was able to do.  I learned about our district and what its needs were.  I began thinking about running four or five years before and when the opportunity arose (in 2014) I went for it.


Did you come into the Legislature with an agenda?

I came with a very similar pet project as I had in Coachella.  In fact, I am carrying a park bond for the state of California which is very much in sync with what we did in Coachella.  I have been around the state and there are a lot of needs in a lot of places.  I am also chairing a committee in which we are talking about jobs and the economy and stimulating investment in local communities.  What we did in Coachella is not unique to Coachella and can work for the entire state.


Agriculture is an important part of your district.  What role do you see for government for the ag community?

Agriculture means billions of dollars for the economy in my district.  It also plays a huge role in California’s economy and I totally understand the viewpoint that there are redundant regulations and duplicative processes that may get in the way of agriculture doing what it does best, which is grow crops that feed the world and employ a lot of people.  Sometimes we do need to get out of the way, but we can also help.  For example, we can help by providing the infrastructure that is needed.


What is your position about the water bond and the need for infrastructure?

I just recently was appointed to the water and wild life committee and I am very excited to be involved in the process to determine what projects we invest in under Proposition 1B.  I believe we need to get involved in conservation projects, but we also have to build the infrastructure that we need to better manage our water resources.


What about immigration reform?

I believe it needs to be taken up yesterday.  The fact is we need a strong labor force, not only for agriculture, but in my district tourism is very important and we need labor for the tourism and hospitality industry.  My predecessor was involved with what role the state could play and I think it is very important to continue to look at that.


Are you supporting a particular presidential candidate?

We have not made an endorsement at this point.  We are going to continue to listen to the debates and see who resonates for us.  The time is coming soon in which we will make an endorsement.


Do you consume the products that our members and your constituents grow?  Do you have a favorite fruit or vegetables or a dish that includes fruits and vegetables?

I love the watermelon from the Coachella Valley and the grapes that are grown throughout my district.  I love the cantaloupes from Brawley.  I eat a lot of salads.  I like mangos.  I’m not sure they grow any in my district but it would not surprise me.  We do a lot of cooking and eat a lot of the vegetables grown in my district, including bell peppers and onions and carrots in stews.  We are big believers in ‘locally grown’ and fans of regional farmers.  We think it’s a good idea to keep the dollars in the community when you can.