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Name: Pérez, John
Current Position: Former Speaker of the Assembly

The first openly gay Assembly Speaker in the country, Democrat John A. Pérez was elected to his post by the Assembly on March 1, 2010. The termed-out lawmaker resigned his post in May 2014 while running for State Controller.

Pérez grew up in the Los Angeles communities of El Sereno and Highland Park, claiming he became politically active while still at Benjamin Franklin High School, organizing other students in a protest against a proposed East Los Angeles prison. Years later, as a member of the Redevelopment Commission, he helped to lead an effort to turn the proposed prison site into a Green Tech Center to create jobs and small businesses.

Pérez attended the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in Chicano Studies and Sociology, although he did not graduate. His first job after college was with the painters union. He then worked for a political consulting firm, Diverse Strategies for Organizing. By 1998, he was executive director for Regional 8 States Council of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).  He became the political director of the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO in 2000, then the political director of the UFCW Local 324 through 2008, leaving that job for the state Assembly.

By 1998, Pérez  had become a board member of Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters and member of the Environmental Leadership Fund of the California League of Conservation Voters. Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan appointed him to the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission. He also served on the board of directors of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, leading efforts to mandate that major construction projects hire at least 30% of their work force locally.

Currently an elected member of the Democratic National Committee, he served as co-chair of the California Democratic Party finance committee in the late 1990s. He was appointed by Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg to serve on Blue Ribbon Panel on initiative reform, and by Governor Gray Davis to the Voting Modernization Board, which he chaired. In 2005 and again in 2007, he was appointed to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa—his cousin, and a former Speaker of the California Assembly.  He also served on the expert panel for Metropolitan Form Project, a civic reform group. Other groups for which Pérez  has served as a board member include AIDS Project Los Angeles, Latino Coalition against AIDS, and the California Center for Regional Leadership. Two presidents—Bill Clinton and George W. Bush—have appointed him to the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

Pérez was elected to the Assembly in 2008, and his rise to Speaker was quick. Supporters point to his years as a local leader and a negotiator, and his experience in building coalitions as reasons for his success.

For years, biographies of Pérez stated that he was a graduate of UC Berkeley, though he had dropped out before earning his degree. In May 2011, responding to several news stories, he took responsibility for the “initial mischaracterization,” saying he had not been diligent enough in correcting his educational record.


Meet John (Assembly Website Biography)

Records of Assembly Speaker as Cal Grad Went Unchallenged (by Lance Williams, California Watch)

John A Perez (California Manufactures & Technology website)

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