Growing up in San Diego, Assembly Member Todd Gloria’s parents taught him an important lesson that continues to motivate him to this day: “If you truly care about something, then you should leave it better than you found it.”
This has driven him to improve his community—and now the state of California—throughout his career in public service. While attending the University of San Diego (USD) as a first-generation student, he worked as a pioneering LGBT activist on the campus to improve the university’s non-discrimination policies to help foster a more diverse and inclusive learning environment for all students. He chose USD because the university offered small class sizes, individualized attention, and a financial aid package that supported his ability to achieve his higher education and career goals in public service and to be a change agent.
“Human beings are built to be change-makers, to go forth and do good work,” said Gloria. “Trying to change the campus non-discrimination policy was huge, but what’s important is just getting out of your comfort zone overall.”
After college, Gloria worked for the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, and as U.S. Congresswoman Susan A. Davis’ district director. Around the same time, he was also appointed to the Mid-City Prostitution Impact Panel and the San Diego Housing Commission—a position he held from 2005 until 2008.
In 2008, he advanced his career in public service when he was elected to serve as a San Diego City Council member. After serving just a few years on the Council, his colleagues elected him to two consecutive terms as the San Diego City Council president. Following the departure of Mayor Bob Filner, Gloria served as the city’s interim mayor.
During his time in the City Council, Gloria was credited with bringing thousands of affordable housing units to the city and helping reallocate the city’s limited homelessness service funds toward results-oriented programs. Furthermore, Gloria paved the way for San Diego’s first permanent homeless services center and housing facility.
When Gloria served as interim mayor, he strengthened the the city’s organizational structure and developed a groundbreaking, legally enforceable Climate Action Plan, which calls for annual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions throughout San Diego by 2035.
Additionally, he spent more than half of his tenure on the San Diego City Council leading the development of the city’s budget as the chair of the Budget and Government Efficiency Committee. In this capacity, Gloria’s helped stabilize the city’s finances after years of cuts, and he restored critical services such as library hours. As the city rebounded from the global recession, Gloria championed increased infrastructure investment, which resulted in hundreds of miles of smoother roads.
Today, the 39-year-old is working to bring these types of transformational improvements to the entire state. He was elected in 2016 to represent California’s 78th Assembly District in Sacramento.
“I only regret the things that I didn’t try,” Gloria said. “I didn’t study abroad during my time in college, and I should have; but I don’t regret anything that I did try. So I’d encourage young people to do the things that may make them scared.”
Gloria is fully aware that America’s current political environment may turn young people off to the idea of working in politics or government. Even so, Gloria said he hopes tomorrow’s leaders won’t shy away completely from serving the greater good.
“If you choose a public-service career, it may not be as lucrative but it’s more rewarding,” he said. “Rather than wake up every day to push a stock price or shareholders’ report, I wake up to the sole responsibility of making my community a better place to live.”
That’s not to say people can’t make a positive difference in the communities by working in the private sector, he noted.
“You don’t have to be in an elected office; you can be of service in any way,” Gloria said. “Don’t let stigma get in the way.”
Todd Gloria is the California State Assembly Member for the 78th Assembly District, representing the central coast communities of the City of San Diego as well as the cities of Coronado, Del Mar, Imperial Beach, and Solana Beach. A native San Diegan, Gloria graduated from the University of San Diego, an AICCU institution, in 2000 before embarking on his career in public service.