DOWNEY - Carmen Avalos has never backed down from a challenge and doesn't plan on starting today."I don't step down for anything," said Avalos with a laugh. "People call me feisty, but I wouldn't want someone laid back to represent me - I want someone who will fight." Avalos' tenacity might come in handy over the next eight months as she contends with three other democratic candidates who are all looking to become the 50th District's next assembly member. "You have to care about the community you live," said Avalos, a 31-year resident of South Gate. "This community has a huge heart - it's a hard-working community and I respect that - there's a warmth to this community and it inspires me." In 2005, Avalos was re-elected to serve a second term as City Clerk for the City of South Gate. That same year, Avalos won a seat on the Cerritos College Board of Trustees, where she is one of only two serving on the governing board. For Avalos, the journey into politics all started with a special election in 2000. Disturbed by a recall election that aimed at removing South Gate's only Caucasian councilmember from his seat, Avalos shared her frustration with her 9th grade Biology class at South Gate High School where she taught for five years. "I was upset. How dare they disrespect the community in this way," Avalos said. "Here's an individual who cares about the community. We shouldn't judge him based on the color of his skin." After discussing the situation with her students, they encouraged Avalos to run for office. "They brought me the paperwork and said, "Ms. Avalos, you always say if you're going to do the talk than you have to do the walk," Avalos said. "I didn't know anything about politics, but we went from house to house and I won." After becoming City Clerk, Avalos faced heavy pressures from South Gate politicians as she fought to bring an end to corrupt practices in the city and was later honored as "Woman of the Year" in 2002 for the 30th Senate District. The following year, Assemblyman Marco Antonio Firebaugh awarded Avalos "Woman of the Year" in the 50th District. "I love this community and I want to represent them," said Avalos, 40. "They don't deserve a person who will give them lip service - we need to give people the respect they deserve. I will listen to people and be a facilitator who can work with all sides to get something done." Avalos, a single mother of six, immigrated to the United States from Mexico with her family at the age of two and graduated from South Gate High School in 1987. She went on to earn her teaching credential and Bachelor's degree from CSU Dominguez Hills in Biology. Later, Avalos went back to earn her Master's degree in education from CSU Long Beach. "We need to start closing the education gap in this community - education is the equalizer," said Avalos. "My parents have been successful in South Gate after coming here with a 2nd and 4th grade education, but all six of their children went to college." In addition to increasing the quality of education, Avalos also supports bringing local cities together in order better vie for jobs and businesses. "In Biology, we call it mutualism, where we all share the resources," Avalos said. "But there has to be a vision - elected officials need to collaborate. It would make the region better if we took our gloves off and worked together." Avalos acknowledges that she will still have more to learn if elected to the assembly, but maintains that her commitment to the community fuels her campaign. "This district has a history of people coming from the outside trying to carpet bag us," said Avalos. "We're not for sale - it's disrespectful to the community. This is home for me and I want to make it the best place possible."
********** Published: October 23, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 27