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Democrat Alatorre's Aide Also an Activist for the GOP : Politics: Shirley Minser sees no conflict between her two roles. Her boss doesn't either.

December 05, 1991|AMY LOUISE KAZMIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

During her long working hours, Shirley Minser is Democratic City Councilman Richard Alatorre's liaison to the residents of Eagle Rock and Glassell Park.

In her spare time, she is a Republican Party activist, helping identify candidates for office and walking precincts to turn out a Republican vote.

Minser, 61, sees no conflict between her two roles. Neither does her boss.

"I never question her motives," Alatorre said. "She cares about the community she lives in. That is the first thing, uppermost in her mind."

Minser had been active in Eagle Rock for years before she started working for Alatorre. First she was a parent concerned about school issues and later a field deputy for Alatorre's predecessor in the 14th Council District, Arthur K. Snyder.

A political pragmatist, she had no qualms about affiliating with a Democrat in order to stay involved in community affairs.

"In politics you have to work with Republicans and Democrats to get things passed," she said. "I'm not a tunnel-vision Republican. . . . My basic interest is in the community."

One close friend and community leader described Minser as "the mother of the community"--tireless, caring, protective, and also stubborn and always certain that she is right.

"Here is a woman that goes to meetings from maybe 7 a.m. until midnight," said Katie Smith, a retired real estate broker who was president of the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce for three years.

"It would never occur to her to say, 'Here's a day off,' " Smith continued. "She just can't help it. I think it's her way of trying to protect the community. She feels that she knows what's best."

In Minser's view, what is best for Eagle Rock is a strict Republican program, particularly on issues of growth and development.

"I'm a strong advocate of free enterprise," she said. "If any developer or small businessman goes down and applies for permits--if it's according to city code--I believe it should be granted. I don't believe in controlling or putting handcuffs on people that want to make a living."

But that philosophy has put her at odds with The Eagle Rock Assn., or TERA, a development watchdog group whose vocal members charge that Minser is indiscriminate in her support for new construction in the area.

"She is tremendously dedicated, but her view of what is good or bad for the community differs tremendously from the majority," said architect Jeff Samudio, a TERA member. "We perceive the community as being bombarded by inappropriate development, and she doesn't perceive the community as changing at all."

Minser also acknowledges that she has philosophical differences with her boss.

"Basically, he is for the poor that can't help themselves. He wants to make government serve them," she said. "My philosophy is that you have to help yourself as much as you can and not think that government is going to do everything for you. You should go the full mile."

But for the most part, Minser's political positions rarely come into play in the course of her duties as Alatorre's field deputy assigned to the Eagle Rock-Glassell Park area. Instead, she spends much of her time addressing problems that afflict Republicans and Democrats alike--such as insufficient street lighting, potholes, graffiti and parking.

Minser is well-respected by Alatorre's three other field deputies for her ability to push a sometimes-sluggish city bureaucracy into action. Marcos Castaneda, the deputy for the Highland Park-Mount Washington area, described her as a tenacious advocate, who has no qualms about complaining to a supervisor if she is dissatisfied with a city employee's response.

" Persistent is too weak a word to use for her," Castaneda said.

Minser's first boss, former Councilman Snyder, recalled that when he was in office, the Department of Transportation was slow in responding to requests to tow abandoned cars from the community's streets.

Fed up, Minser called a high-ranking department official and drove him around the neighborhood in her car, pointing out all the abandoned vehicles.

"She wouldn't let him get out of the car," Snyder said. After a few such tours, city transportation officials began responding more promptly to Minser's requests.

"She's like a bulldog," he said. "She gets hold of a problem and she won't let go till it's solved."

Several years ago, Minser had a contentious encounter with an apartment manager who was trying to evict some senior citizens from his building. As a result of Minser's pressure, Smith said, the seniors were able to stay.

A short, grandmotherly figure in sensible shoes, Minser has a softer, more compassionate side. Friends said she returns all her phone calls and visits older residents in their homes.

Once she dug into her own pocketbook to rent a motel room and buy train tickets for a homeless family who couldn't get established in Los Angeles and couldn't afford to go home, Smith said.

"Everybody who gets in trouble in Eagle Rock, they call Shirley," Smith said.

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