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Community Digest

Huntington Park : Mayor Dies After Suffering Heart Attack in His Sleep

August 29, 1991|RICK HOLGUIN

Mayor Jack W. Parks, proponent of redevelopment and foe of gang graffiti, suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep Wednesday. He was 67.

A longtime councilman, Parks was at his Stafford Avenue home with his wife, Anne, when he was stricken shortly after 7 a.m., police Sgt. Tom Weselis said.

Paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive Parks, who was then taken by ambulance to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood. He was pronounced dead at 8:21 a.m., a hospital spokesman said.

Flags flew at half-staff at Huntington Park City Hall, where political friends and foes lamented Parks' death.

"Jack was a good councilman. He did his job and he liked it," said Councilman William P. Cunningham, who served beside Parks for more than 14 years.

"Jack has done a tremendous service for our community over the years," said Councilman Luis Hernandez, a first-term councilman who has clashed with Parks on various issues.

Mayor Pro Tem Raul Perez, who now becomes mayor, was out of town and unavailable for comment, his secretary said.

Parks, the owner and operator of a local auto body shop, celebrated his 15th year on the City Council last March. He was to serve in the largely ceremonial post of mayor until next April, when his current council term was scheduled to expire.

He was proud of supporting the city's redevelopment program. Last week, he voted to redevelop a four-block area into a new retail shopping center. He also was a big supporter of a program to promptly paint over gang graffiti in this city of 56,000.

Parks had long suffered from heart problems and underwent heart-bypass surgery several years ago, Cunningham said.

City Clerk Marilyn A. Boyette said the City Council had not discussed whether to appoint a replacement on the five-member council or to wait for the next regularly scheduled municipal election in April, 1992. A special election is unlikely, Boyette said.

City officials said they did not know how the loss of Parks would reflect on council actions. Recently, the City Council often has decided key issues unanimously or on a 4-1 vote with Hernandez dissenting.

Parks was the embodiment of a Huntington Park of another era.

The former Chamber of Commerce president and former exalted ruler of the Elks Lodge moved to Huntington Park in 1947.

He was a young adult in a Huntington Park that was primarily Anglo and a middle-class community, a city that boasted a shopping district along Pacific Boulevard that attracted patrons from throughout the Los Angeles area.

But the city has undergone a transformation. Latinos now make up more than 90% of the city's population. And many of those residents are poor immigrants.

In April, 1990, Perez and Hernandez became the first Latinos ever to be elected to the City Council. And political observers figured that Parks, if he were to seek another term in 1992, would have been targeted by Latino candidates.

Parks was viewed as especially vulnerable after he was drawn into a Sheriff's Department investigation of alleged profit-skimming and other improprieties at the Huntington Park Casino.

Last April, investigators searched and seized documents from the residences and business of Parks, Cunningham, Councilman Thomas E. Jackson and former Councilman Jim Roberts. No charges have been filed.

Parks and the others said they were innocent of any wrongdoing.

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