With Beverly Hills' financially strapped school district the focus of widespread attention, it seems fitting that Vicki Reynolds will take the mayoral reins this week.
Reynolds, 55, who has served as vice mayor the past year, has championed educational causes during her nearly 25 years of public service. And she is one of the strongest advocates of a measure on the June 4 ballot for a parcel tax to finance the schools. The tax last year fell four votes short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.
"What we're looking for is an independent, reliable source of income for the district so that they're not caught in the position of having to lay off teachers or reduce classes each year," said Reynolds, a graduate of Beverly Hills High School and a former president of the Beverly Hills Unified School District board. "Ultimately, only the students will lose out in that situation."
Reynolds said that in addition to the schools tax, which if passed would generate $4.3 million a year for five years, the city must grapple with numerous other issues this year, including traffic congestion, development and the city's high commercial vacancy rate. She said she would also ask for a study to determine whether Beverly Hills should reopen underground water wells that once provided the city with most of its water.
Reynolds said she wants to focus more attention on the city's cultural arts scene and will continue to encourage city residents to participate in public policy decisions.
That is, after all, how Reynolds got her start. A former Citizen of the Year in Beverly Hills, she has served on nearly two dozen local, state and national committees, including a stint on the California School Boards Assn., where she advocated school reform legislation. She currently is a member of the advisory board of the College of Letters and Science at UCLA and a member of the university's Dean's Council for Honors and Undergraduates.
"Beverly Hills has a very large heart and a citizenry with very high standards," she said. "People who live and work here just don't give lip service to problems. They work to solve them. And I want that to continue."
Reynolds said she is looking forward to her role as mayor, even though she must lead the council through a year fraught with thorny issues.
"On many different levels, Beverly Hills' image may be one of living life on the surface, but that couldn't be further from the truth," she said. "Far beyond the glamour of the city, which is important for tourism, is the fact that people find it a warm and beautiful place."
The annual mayoral trip to Cannes, Beverly Hills' sister city, will also have a special meaning for Reynolds. She studied French history at the Sorbonne, after graduating from UCLA with a degree in political science.
"That experience had a lasting effect on my life," she said. "But every time I travel somewhere, I always feel the same way when I get back: very fortunate to live here."