Compton Mayor sworn in, signals changing of guard

COMPTON — The dignitaries poured in, the mariachi band played and a few hundred community members surrounded the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial outside City Hall Tuesday afternoon to witness the oath of office ceremony swearing in six elected city officials – two of them new, young faces.

Hola. Buenos dias,” said 26-year-old Isaac Galvan, the first Latino City Council member in Compton’s history and first to be sworn in. “I’m grateful that the voters entrusted me. Just because I’m Latino doesn’t mean I’ll only serve Latinos.”

The spotlight, however, danced around the new mayor in a royal blue dress.

Aja Brown, a 31-year-old urban planner, got a special introduction from Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas: “We are here for a special occasion. We are here to celebrate a new day in Compton, one that will be marked by hope, integrity and opportunity. Repeat after me.”

“Hope, integrity, opportunity,” the audience said in unison.

Brown, who grew up in Altadena, said it was an honor to be the city’s second woman mayor after Doris Davis, who had given her blessing. She mentioned that her grandmother was a victim of violence in the city and her mission is to “change the image of Compton because that of gangster rap does not represent the hard work of the people in this community.”

“We are truly at the cusp of history as we usher in a new era in the city of Compton,” she continued. “People who know me best know that I’m a servant, I’m humble.”

The reelected city officials also got good cheer.

District 3 Councilwoman Yvonne Arceneaux, entering her sixth term, thanked her constituents in light of a voting system switch that helped Galvan win District 2.

“The demographics—I should say the voting process—changed this year. We voted by districts, not at large, and I’m thankful to the third district because they saw fit to put me back in office again.”

City Treasurer Douglas Sanders, also back for his sixth term, said he looked forward to working with Brown and Galvan but “you can’t discount us old horses, with our knowledge.”

City Clerk Alita Godwin’s speech rang a bit more political.

She thanked her family and supporters for the “strength you gave me when the wicked tried to defame our name” and “for seeing through it all.”

City Attorney Craig Cornwell referenced a famous Malcolm X quote: “I am here to work with everyone or against everyone, whatever the case may be, to move issues that confront our city.”

While the crowd, laced with a couple dozen law enforcement officials, celebrated a historic day in Compton, not everyone agreed with the changing of guard.

“They’re both opportunists,” said longtime Compton school district employee Ricardo Reyes of Brown and Galvan. “There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that I hoped we’d had some homegrown candidates.”

Lorraine Cervantes, a Compton resident for six decades and activist for 44 years who voted for the newcomers’ opponents Omar Bradley and Lillie Dobson, told The Compton Herald: “It was a good atmosphere but I didn’t want to take pictures with them. I’m just going to wait and see what they’re going to do. I’m not very optimistic, but hopefully…”

And inside the council chambers, where Brown lead her first meeting with authority, Cervantes openly held them accountable.

“‘New at this’ is no excuse,” she said, “Because if you weren’t ready, you shouldn’t have run.”

Published in The Compton Herald newspaper and