TORRANCE — Outgoing Mayor Jim Armstrong says he has taken a job as "government liaison" for Real Property Resources Inc., a Torrance-based development company that built the Airport Plaza shopping center and other projects in the city.
He said he does not expect to immediately appear before the Torrance City Council on behalf of Real Properties, but he said he may do so in the future.
The federal government, the state of California and some cities impose waiting periods on before former elected officials may return as lobbyists for private firms, but Torrance does not have such a law. Former Mayor Ken Miller and former Councilman George Brewster, both attorneys, and former City Manager Ed Ferraro have all appeared before the Torrance City Council representing private firms.
Armstrong said he does not see any impropriety in taking the new job, which he will begin in mid-April, nor does he expect any special favors from city officials. He said that after exploring other employment options, he felt that his experience on the City Council could help developers better deal with local governments.
"These people are men of integrity," Armstrong said of his new employers. "I told them that I didn't think it was appropriate for me to appear before the council right away and they agreed."
Armstrong, a government teacher at Torrance High School, said he has been given a one-year leave of absence that can be extended if he wishes.
Armstrong said he is taking the job because he wants to try something different.
"Personally, after 32 years of teaching I was near burnout. This is a great opportunity for me. There are many people who do not understand the government process. I know how to teach and how to persuade."
He said he had casually mentioned the idea of working for Real Properties to an official of the company a few months ago, and the official said that Armstrong would be welcomed. Not long afterward, Armstrong asked if the offer was serious, and the company hired him.
Armstrong would not disclose what his new salary will be, but said it is more than his combined teaching and mayoral salaries.
The president of Real Properties, Charles Martinez, could not be reached for comment.
A Democrat, Armstrong has long been rumored as a potential candidate for higher office, but the presence of strong incumbents in South Bay state and federal offices has discouraged him from running.
Armstrong bid farewell to city government this week in an emotional ceremony in packed City Council chambers.
Fighting back tears and occasionally pausing to regain his composure, Armstrong said he enjoyed serving with his council colleagues and called the city staff the best anywhere.
He said that among his frustrations in the eight years he served as mayor were that more senior citizen housing was not provided, and that the city and Park Del Amo developers continue to fight over possession of the Madrona Marsh.
He counted among his successes the doubling of park space and advances made in the city's telecommunications capabilities.
He said he would like to be remembered as a man who was honest and kept his word, a man who knew how and why he got where he was.
He said he hoped people would say, "Mayor Jim, he did his damnedest."
After his farewell speech, Armstrong shook hands with the council members and department heads, paused a moment to blow a kiss to new Mayor Katy Geissert, and then walked out of the chamber accompanied by his family.