As the 42nd Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti’s heritage reaches back through 4 generations of Angelenos with roots in Mexico and Eastern Europe. According to his City of Los Angeles website, his leadership embraces core values of dignity, equality, and justice for all people.
1. Mayor Garcetti is a jazz pianist.
When Los Angeles celebrated “La La Land” Day on April 25, 2017, Mayor Garcetti played piano with a jazz group on the steps of City Hall. When Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Mark Z. Barabak caught up with Mayor Garcetti in Des Moines, Iowa, almost one year later, it was in the early stages of Mayor Garcetti’s stumping prior to possibly announcing the decision to begin his own presidential campaign. Barabak was able to interview the Mayor about his hopes as a Democratic candidate and take a moment to ask about jazz. Mayor Garcetti’s favorite jazz pianists are Keith Jarrett, Oscar Peterson, and Ahmad Jamal. He said he favors Keith Jarrett because Jarrett “just speaks to me” and “It’s how I play.” There were 3 pianos in his family home, and there is a Knight upright piano in his City Hall office where he goes to compose music and, according to his father- “clear his mind”.
2. Mayor Garcetti works 18 hours most every day, including weekends.
He told the Los Angeles Times that his priorities remain his wife Amy Elaine Wakeland and his adopted daughter, Maya. He comes home to have dinner almost every night, and he’s certain to tuck his daughter into bed as well. He’s just trying to do his best to balance his family obligations with his political convictions. He noted that he ‘doesn’t want his daughter to grow up in an America that looks and feels like this right now’.
3. Mayor Garcetti is the first elected Jewish mayor of Los Angeles.
He’s also the youngest mayor ever elected and the second consecutive Mexican American Mayor. His mother, Suki Roth, is the granddaughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. Though Garcetti has stated that neither of his parents are practicing, his family celebrated Passover and Chanukah. He attended Jewish camp and became a more observant and practicing Jew later in his life while in college. He attends services with the post-denominational Jewish congregation IKAR which was founded in Los Angeles and is led by Rabbi Sharon Brous. Mayor Garcetti’s father is Mexican American, with American Indian, Spanish, and Italian ancestry. When interviewed by columnist Bill Boyarsky for Jewish Journal, the Mayor explained that he was always comfortable with himself as both Latino and Jewish. On weekends, his family ate lots of bagels and bowls of menudo. At Oxford, a group of Rhodes Scholars, British Jews, and Americans had many conversations about faith and Judaism, and the world, which encouraged him to “think intellectually and ethically”. These things have inspired his faith. His wife, Amy, is not Jewish.
4. Mayor Garcetti met his wife on the plane to study in England. They were both Rhodes Scholars at The Queen’s College, Oxford.
He went on to study at the London School of Economics for a PhD in ethnicity and nationalism. He was a John Jay Scholar, earning a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University. His Master of International Affairs is from Columbia University as well. He has visited more than 80 countries and he and Amy are competing to see who will be able to visit all the countries in the world first.
5. Mayor Garcetti and his wife have cared for seven foster children.
He said that the reason they did so was because his wife had grown up “in a household with half- and step- and foster siblings. She was the oldest child, with multiple children around as she grew up. She cared for many of her siblings. Because of her background, it was important that the two of them become accredited foster parents. It took a background check and then “six or seven classes” taken over a period of a few months. The Mayor encourages foster parenthood for those who are interested in the process.
6. Mayor Garcetti was a university professor before he entered politics.
From 1997 to 1999 he taught at the University of Southern California. From 1998 to 2001, he taught at Occidental College in Los Angeles. His courses were diplomacy, public policy, and world affairs. It was 2001 when he was first elected to the Los Angeles City Council. But before he became a professor, he spent time in Ethiopia doing humanitarian work and helping to organize dissidents in Burma.
7. Mayor Garcetti has called himself “just your average Mexican-American-Jewish-Italian”.
In an article by CNN Politics, the Mayor’s trip to Iowa to introduce himself as a potential Democratic presidential candidate led to a bit of good-natured joking. When he met with Democratic activists at Cooney’s Tavern, he explained that his Mexican immigrant grandfather became a citizen “because this country said there was a place in it for him”. Growing up as a child in “middle America in L.A.” is the Mayor’s way of ‘connecting with others who have blue-collar roots’. Garcetti had traveled to Iowa to share his concerns as being similar to those of Iowans, knowing that Iowa would “drive the early race for the Democratic presidential nomination”.
8. Mayor Garcetti’s “Grandpa Sal” immigrated from Mexico, fought in World War II and opened his own barbershop.
For the Mayor, his grandfather’s story is one way he explains his own family values and how he hopes that his work in politics will enable others to secure a bright future in America. His Los Angeles City Hall staff often jokes about his complex heritage by describing him as “1/8th everything”. Truth is that his Grandpa Sal was a trained union barber and his grandmother worked as a meatpacker. His maternal grandfather became a tailor who eventually cut suits for Jack Valenti and President Lyndon B. Johnson.
9. Mayor Garcetti grew up in the San Fernando Valley playing Galaga at the arcade.
He also loved baseball and the middle-class neighborhood in Encino where his family lived in a 3-bedroom house. He could walk to his Little League. His favorite boyhood place to eat a chili cheeseburger was at Tommy’s Burgers. The superb education and world class experiences came much later.
10. Mayor Garcetti is an avid photographer with more than 3.4M views on Flickr.
He also has an active personal Instagram account which he indicates is not paid for, sponsored by, or hosted by the City of Los Angeles. He requests that Instagram users who wish to do city business post on his city account using @mayorofla or call via phone at (213)978-0600. His personal Instagram account boasts more than 131k followers. It’s 1,447 posts include unique views of Los Angeles from the air, from the hills and mountains surrounding the city, and of artwork, performances, and the people who are part of the city. In the case of Mayor Garcetti, the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, because his father; former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, is also a well-known photographer whose work has been featured in exhibits and in his book Protea- The Magic and the Mystery.