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DOWNEY – Sean Ashton is not a seasoned political veteran. He’s not especially politically savvy, either.
But if you ask him, that may be his best qualification for Downey City Council.
A Downey homeowner since 2000, Ashton is a fifth grade teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District. He has taught at the same Lynwood elementary school since 1998.
Ashton is one of three residents seeking to replace termed-out Councilman Mario Guerra on the Downey City Council this November. The other candidates are Robert Kiefer, a small business owner and chair of the Planning Commission, and Dr. Shahira A-Malek, a physician.
Guerra represents District 2 in southwest Downey – roughly south of Firestone Boulevard and west of Brookshire Avenue.
Ashton, 44, says he is running on a common sense platform that will bring a fresh perspective to City Hall. He questions recent decisions made by the city.
“Some things I just don’t see the logic in,” said Ashton, speaking during an interview outside Porto’s Bakery.
“We have the prettiest islands and the worst streets,” he says, gesturing to Firestone Boulevard. “There are certain areas in Downey that are better taken care of than others. All neighborhoods should be equal.”
If elected, Ashton says his first act would be to sit down with the Downey firefighters’ union, whose relationship with the city has deteriorated over the past two years amid lawsuits and claims of harassment.
“I still believe we need our own police and fire departments. Absolutely we need our own police and fire. If we give it away, it will never come back,” Ashton says. “But I still think there is something we can do to stop all this bickering. It seems like they’re using your newspaper to communicate back and forth instead of sitting down at the table and talking to each other.”
Although Ashton became a Downey resident in 2000, his roots in the city actually go further back. He was the tire manager at the old Pace warehouse store where Studebaker Road meets Florence Avenue, which is where he met his future wife, Tammy.
Ashton left Pace when the new Home Depot opened in west Downey in 1996. Around this time he was also coaching freshmen basketball.
“It was fun but not paying the bills,” he says. “That’s when I transitioned to teaching.”
Ashton and his wife have three kids: Tiffany, 18, who just started her freshman year at Purdue University; Dylan, 16, a junior at Warren High; and Nolan, 12, a seventh grader at Stauffer Middle School (formerly West).
Ashton has taken an active role in his kids’ education, serving as auditor on the PTAs at Old River and Imperial elementary schools, West Middle School and Warren High. He also served on the Downey Council PTA.
“Numbers can be kind of fun sometimes,” he laughs.
After Downey voters passed a $65 million school bond measure in 2003, Ashton was appointed to the advisory council that ensured the bond money was appropriately spent.
He has also coached with West Downey Little League, and is currently managing a winter/spring baseball team.
In 2011 he was named Volunteer of the Year by Keep Downey Beautiful. That same year he became chair of Downey’s Green Task Force, tasked with finding ways Downey can become environmentally conscious.
Ashton says he briefly considered a run for the Downey school board – particularly now that the board has moved away from at-large voting districts – but ultimately declined because the school district is in a good place.
“All in all they’ve done a pretty good job,” he says. “What would be the purpose? To run against someone doing a good job?”
City Council is different. Ashton sees room for improvement and he is eager to help keep Downey moving forward.
“Do I want to be a career politician? No,” he says. “Do I want to help the community? Absolutely.”
Published: Aug. 28, 2014 – Volume 13 – Issue 20