EDITOR’S NOTE: While he has yet declare victory in his race for the office of L.A. County Assessor (a race political observers say he’s sure to win), West Hollywood City Councilmember Jeffrey Prang acknowledged at Monday’s Council meeting that it would be his last. What follows are Prang’s sometimes moving remarks, laced with his characteristic jokes, acknowledging his fellow Council members, the city’s staff, his appointees to various boards and commissions and the citizens of West Hollywood.
This is rather a surreal moment for me – my last meeting after nearly 18 years as a member of the City Council. While there remain ballots to be counted, the statistical probability that the outcome will change is remote.
Having been first elected in 1997, I have now spent more than half of my adult life in service to the City of West Hollywood. I can think of no greater privilege and honor than to have been of service to this very special community.
There is so much I can say, and want to say, but I have always preferred to live by the axiom that “there is no such thing as a bad short speech.” My good friend councilmember Duran usually says enough for both of us!
I am now embarking on a new journey – it took over a year to get here, and it was the hardest work I have ever had to do. But I believe that my service here in West Hollywood, and the lessons that I have learned from each of you, have provided me with the best foundation possible to be a successful administrator of the nation’s largest public property tax administrative agency.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Over the coming months and years, you will probably see many of the good government and best practices approaches that emanated from here in West Hollywood well-applied to the Assessor’s Office. West Hollywood is a national leader in municipal government because of the amazing people who work here – and I intend to take full advantage of what I have learned and apply for the benefit of all the people of the County of Los Angeles.
I’ve been asked a lot lately what I think is my biggest accomplishment as a member of the City Council. While I can claim credit for my share of initiatives, including a substantial body of work on animal welfare, I never looked toward big, signature issues as the measure of my success. It was always my goal to ensure that we took good care of the primary needs of city government, including roads, parking, social services and public safety. Indeed, since I was first elected, we have created thousands of new parking spaces and dramatically expanded social services for those in need.
But most importantly, I wanted to make certain that everyone who needed assistance or service from City Hall received timely and thorough attention. I never guaranteed outcomes, but I insisted that everyone get a complete answer. I never forget the famous quote from former Speaker Tip O’Neil that “all politics are local,” and for city government, that means my street, my tree, my neighborhood. I endeavored to never forget for whom I worked – the people of West Hollywood. My constituency will now grow from 40,000 to over 10 million, but I will continue to live by this premise.
There are so many to thank, it’s hard to know where to begin. My time here and my accomplishments are not my own, but are reflected in the efforts of many others. Let me start by thanking those who I worked most closely with, my deputies, starting with Donald Deluccio, Daniel Dusterberg, Howard Jacobs, Marcy Norton, Jill Dolan, Corey Schafer, Josh Kurpies, Jake Stevens, Michael Haibach and Scott Svonkin. These are the folks who are the face of City Hall, and the success of council members is due in no small part due to the deputies, and mine all made me look good all the time. Thank you!
The City has been really well served by the dozens of board members and commissioners. I recall the quote by former President Woodrow Wilson, who once said, “I need all the brains I have, and all I can borrow.” I am grateful that I have always had the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the best and brightest that the City has to offer. I want to give special recognition to Donald Deluccio, who has represented me on the Planning Commission, following his brief stint as my deputy, since 1997. Donald has given his full measure to the City for nearly two decades – he has my gratitude and I believe that the City owes him a debt of gratitude for his service!
West Hollywood has the most talented staff of any city I have seen, and I have seen a lot. The creativity and innovation that our employees bring to the community have made West Hollywood the envy of the nation. As our Mayor famously states, “West Hollywood creates the culture that others consume.” This couldn’t be more true, due in large part to the people who work here and who have worked here over the years.
During my tenure in city administration, I was told that there are two types of city managers: (1) those who have been fired, and (2) those who will be fired. I am proud to say that Paul Arevalo fits neither category. He is an exceptional municipal executive who has expertly steered our city on a path of innovation and fiscal integrity. He is considered one of the best city administrators in California and with good reasons. I am proud of his work for West Hollywood and to call him friend.
And let me say a few words about Mike Jenkins. He is an extraordinary city attorney – the best in the business from what I have seen. I am so grateful not only for the service you provide our community, but for the clear and thoughtful guidance you have extended to me over the year. I not only view you as a consummate professional, but as a friend.
And what can I say about my colleagues? A lot, but I’ll be polite! Seriously, I am in awe of each of you – you are undoubtedly the smartest, most dedicated and hardest working elected officials in the state. And despite our occasional differences, we work well as a team and always accept that each of us is doing our very best for the community we mutually serve. You each offer something unique and special to the city:
John Heilman – you built the foundation of who we are as a city – our values and purposes, and 30 years later, your experience and insight still provides the city with clarity of purpose, values and direction
Abbe Land – I know you will be just a few steps behind me to the exit, and the City will truly miss your compassion, leadership and enthusiasm that helped make West Hollywood a national leader on so many issues, women’s rights and gun control, just to name a couple.
John Duran – few can boast of representing the positive face of West Hollywood as well you. Your ability to articulate who we are as a community, where we’ve been, where we are going, and what expected of us is unsurpassed. Your leadership on HIV/AIDS and LGBT equality is constant source of inspiration to me.
And Mr. Mayor – while I have worked with you the least amount of time, you’ve had a big impact on me and how I serve. The freshness of your ideas and approach, your defiance of convention, and your special touch with the community have helped me to constantly challenge myself to be open to new ideas and strategies to better serve the public.
Of course the most important person in my life is my husband of nearly 11 years Ray Vizcarra. I can anyone who has known me for a long time will tell you that I became new, and definitely better person because of Ray. He is a teacher – a truly inspiring educator who is changing lives in the most profound way. He endures me and my crazy schedule – he is always there to support me, and is the most gracious First Gentleman West Hollywood has known; and he my inspiration. I could not do what I do without him! Thank you, Ray.
But most importantly, thank you West Hollywood. Thank you for the confidence that you have shown me in electing 5 times, and for the privilege and honor of being able to serve such a magnificent community. I am somewhat at a loss as to how to best convey my feelings for this community – words simply cannot express the debt of gratitude I have for the people of our City. Suffice it to say – thank you!