DOWNEY – When Mayor Fernando Vasquez delivered the annual State of the City address last month at the Rio Hondo Event Center, he drew loud applause when he appointed Javier Lizarde “mayor of downtown Downey.” It’s a ceremonial position, of course, and a nod to Lizarde’s unrelenting enthusiasm for his hometown.
But unless you happen to be one of his 1,896 Facebook friends (as of Thursday), Lizarde may be an unfamiliar face. So who is he exactly?
Lizarde, 28, was born, raised and educated in Downey, bouncing around several elementary schools and then East, Griffiths and South junior high schools. He graduated from Downey High in 2004.
It’s at Downey High where he met then-teacher Kirk Cartozian, who is now a real estate broker.
“He wasn’t my teacher, no,” Lizarde says during a lunch interview. “He was just some random teacher.”
After bumping into him a few years ago, Lizarde says he looked him up on Facebook and the rest is history.
“Homeboy Kirkie introduced me to everyone,” Lizarde remembers, his eyes closed in concentration. “The people at City Hall, at the chamber [of commerce], and the people downtown.”
Lizarde jumped on the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, attending ribbon cuttings, networking lunches, and most any type of event in Downey that is open to the public (and preferably free).
“I knew the Stay Gallery people before there was even a Stay Gallery,” he boasts.
Without a driver’s license, Lizarde walks everywhere, takes the Downey Link or coaxes rides from friends.
His favorite place to roam is downtown Downey, where he banters with local business owners and takes stock of the growing list of eateries.
“My favorite restaurant is Joseph’s,” Lizarde says, “because they have my favorite barbecue pizza.
“Bastards has the best nachos, and the Lock and Key has my favorite drink, Mexican Coke. Mambo Grill has the best burgers and fries.”
And for dessert?
“Yogurtland is good,” he says. “I like their yogurt.”
At this time we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that Lizarde has a mild developmental impediment. He has immersed himself in the Downey community that accepts him unconditionally.
He has held several jobs, mostly warehouse work and in retail. “Naturally everything went down hill,” Lizarde says.
Probably for the best anyhow – being mayor of downtown Downey is a full-time job.
Published: May 8, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 04