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Acquanetta Warren talks about her city
As mayor of one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the Inland Empire, Acquanetta Warren is making sure her constituents’ needs are met
“We have a lot of separate groups [in Fontana] and I try to bring everybody to the table so that everybody has an opportunity to speak,” said Acquanetta Warren who made history in November 2010 as the city’s first Black mayor.
Warren’s term will expire in 2014 and until then, she said, she will be focused on meeting the needs and wants of Fontana’s rapidly growing population. Currently, they are just under 200,000 residents, ethnically breaking down to about 57 percent Latino, 12 percent Black, 22 percent White and about 9 percent other. When they finally reach 200,000, said Warren who doubles as the deputy director of public works operation in the city of Upland, Fontana will be the largest city in the Inland Empire.
To help them thrive, Warren has initiated projects aimed at making the city more appealing to new companies while also actively seeking new businesses in order to facilitate job growth. She is focused on a quality public safety system by ensuring emergency personnel, for instance, have access to adequate resources. And, she works closely with schools, to ensure job readiness for Fontana’s future taxpayers.
“I’m strong on quality,” Warren told the Sentinel in a recent interview.
“People want to know that when they pick up the phone, the police are going to show up and the fire department’s going to be there. And they also want to know when they’re talking to people working for them that we’re going to handle their problems. And if we can’t handle the problem we’re going to find someone who can.
“And that’s no different in any city. So for me, it’s all about customer service. And I pride myself on giving the very top…”
So much so, that she makes it a habit of personally visiting and getting to know her constituents.
“I think it makes the citizens really happy when I show up. And they go, ‘honey, the mayor from Fontana is here to help us get our sewer unplugged (she laughs).’ I know most of the residents.
“The regulars (are) the ones who always call and need help. We also always try to take care of our elderly, like when it’s raining and they don’t have the ability to put their sandbags together. My staff knows those are my special people who we help.”
Warren’s political journey began here in South Los Angeles where she attended 107th Street Elementary and became one of the first participants of Los Angeles Unified School District’s busing integration program.
“So, I went down to Dana Jr. High School for three years. The first week, they had me in a classroom all by myself. And then, the superintendent, William Johnson at the time, went down there and said, ‘excuse me, that’s not integration. She has to be in the classroom with the other kids.’
So, it worked out. I became the first female African American student body president down there.”
She returned here as a sophomore to Locke High School where she joined other future public servants like Curren Price and Mark Ridley Thomas on then L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley’s youth advisory board. From there she attended Occidental College, graduating the same year President Barack Obama enrolled. She went into banking after, because as she stated, she “loves money.”
“[But] I kept getting laid off every time I’d get to the glass ceiling,” Warren recalled.
“I’d make vice president and everybody… ‘oh, she’ll be the first African American VP…’ so, I decided the last time (I got laid off) that I wanted to go on my own.”
She did, becoming a housing consultant in Upland. By the time she and her family arrived in Fontana she had promised them that she would not get involved in politics there. It was a short-lived promise, she became the first Black female elected to Fontana’s city council back in December 2004.
“I thought [during that time] about the main thing that I could offer and that was to help,” said Warren.
“And that’s what I focused my speech on. I just want to help. It was interesting that so many people had moved from South Central who knew me, got on the phone calling the council as well as people in the community saying, ‘we want her.’ I didn’t put significance on being the first African American.
“As a matter of fact, I blew it off until I talked to some of the elderly African Americans in Fontana. They made me understand how significant it was.
They let me know that there was a time when they were not allowed to cross Foothill after 6:00 pm…”
Now, when discussing Fontana’s future, citizens are putting Warren’s name at the top of the list.
“They say, ‘you just need to tell us where you want to go.’ And I say, ‘well, I’m staying right here…’