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DOWNEY - Dr. Sandra Salazar, a family medicine physician at Alta Med Health Services who provides what she describes as 'culturally competent' health care in Pico Rivera, while also serving the surrounding communities of Downey, Norwalk and Southeast Los Angeles, is running for the District 6 seat on the board of trustees of Cerritos Community College for a number of reasons.
In the first place, she says, she sees the Cerritos Community College trustees as "stewards in helping guide the future of Cerritos College students, staff and faculty."
In the second place, she says, "I feel fortunate for the opportunities I have received and I want to give back to the community. I regard community service as a privilege and an honor."
Third, "I fully subscribe to the evolving role of the community college system as the largest work force training provider in our state and key to the economic recovery of our region."
She's focusing her campaign on three main themes: l) Student success - "My vision is that all students at Cerritos Community College have the same opportunities as I was fortunate enough to have, and I want to see our students to be either workforce-ready or transfer-ready."; 2) Need for closer and stronger college-community relations - "As the District 6 representative on the college board of trustees, I want to make sure I really represent the interests of the high schools therein as well as the Norwalk-La Mirada USD; and 3) Increased public/private partnerships - "By closer collaboration, and partnering more, with businesses and companies, students will benefit by exposure to the demands and requirements of the real working world and will better prepare them as workforce-ready or transfer-ready participants."
She says she likes her chances of winning because of her inherent instinct for public service and the fact that she was initially encouraged to run by some key community leaders in Norwalk, not least because of her obvious competence and skill set and altruistic attitude, and now because she has actually received valuable endorsements from them and other leaders from diverse fields.
Those endorsing her include: Assemblymen Luis Alejo, Roger Hernandez, Isadore Hall, Tony Mendoza; the board president of Cerritos Community College himself, Bob Arthur; Rio Hondo Community College trustees Angela Acosta-Salazar, Vicky Santana, and Maria Elena-Martinez (ret.); Lynwood USD board member Alfonso Morales; board president Darryl Adams and board member Jesse Urquidi of the Norwalk-La Mirada USD; Whittier City School District board member Efrain Aceves; City of Artesia councilmember Miguel Canales; city of Downey councilmembers Luis Marquez and Fernando Vasquez; City of Lynwood councilmember Aide Castro; vice-mayor Luigi Vernola and councilmembers Marcel Rodarte and Leonard Shryock of Norwalk; city of Pico Rivera mayor pro tem Gustavo Camacho; city of Santa Cruz councilmember Tony Madrigal; city of South Gate mayor Maria Davila; as well as the following organizations: Cerritos College Faculty Federation; HOPE PAC; LA County Medical Association PAC; National Association of Women; Mexican Bar Association; and Teamsters Joint Council #42.
Fueling her high hopes for a successful bid for the college board is the situation in which her opponent, the incumbent Tina Cho, has found herself. According to Salazar, Cho, along with many of her colleagues on the board, took advantage of a loophole in state law that gives members the option to take cash payments in lieu of medical insurance coverage, the total of which shoots inordinately high if they don't enroll in the optional program. Many people view the whole episode as reflective of poor judgment, even greed, in the midst of so much economic misery. It is believed, Salazar says, that Cho alone has collected more than $74,000 in this manner since her election as trustee in 2007.
Salazar sees this as fodder for her campaign. She thinks Cho doesn't have too many strong ties to the community, either, because of the isolated location of her residence. With school "redistricting," Salazar finds herself in the geographical center of District 6.
Salazar's immediate plans in the next two weeks call for a door-to-door campaign, so "I can see my constituents face to face, and be able to tell them my vision and how together we can realize that vision."
"Then we'll be working on getting further endorsements from community leaders and politicians," she goes on.
After that, we will be putting up signs and posters at selected places. She says campaign contributions have been good: so far she's collected $16,000 towards her campaign, already well within sight of her original goal of $20,000.
Salazar says she can't thank her parents enough for instilling in her and her younger sister the values of hard work and determination as the basic ingredients for success.
Because she studied hard, she was able to get her Bachelor of Arts degree (major in pre-med and Spanish literature) from Wellesley College in Massachusetts (her sister took her degree at Smith; she's going to the Fashion Institute to become a fashion designer). She says she'd always wanted to become a doctor, so she went to St. Louis University for her medical degree because "I wanted to go to a Catholic university."
In between, she spent a year at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on a research fellowship. After graduation from St. Louis University, she spent her residency (three years) at Kaiser Permanente in LA.
She has in the meantime joined the Norwalk Lions Club. She served as co-chair last year in the first annual Alta Med 5k; she is again serving this year as co-chair of the event which takes place this Aug. 18 at East LA College. She believes that participation in the event "reduces chronic disease while strengthening families through changes in lifestyle."
A line in her bio has this entry: "Dr. Salazar is a steadfast voice for ameliorating health disparities that plague our community such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes."
A graduate as well of the HOPE Leadership Institute, she also serves on the board of EQUITAS Academy Charter School located in MacArthur Park and also as a public member of the California State Bar Examining Committee (appointed by senate president pro tem Darrell Steinberg).
"Although my involvements are in several fields, you will notice that my central focus has always been education," she points out.
"My deceased father was a gardener and my mother, who is 63, is still working cleaning houses in West L.A. As you can see, we're not afraid of hard work and, equally important, we believe in the dignity of work. I believe in working families."
Further, she says, "My mom is excited and proud of us. She came here to share in the American Dream. If not for her, then for her children."
Published: August 09, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 17