A trailblazing politician for nearly a quarter of a century, Gloria Molina was the first Latina elected to the California Assembly, to the Los Angeles City Council and to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Voters in the supervisor's 1st District -- stretching from downtown Los Angeles east to Pomona -- have elected her four times since 1991. She is seeking a fifth term in June.
In a recent interview, Molina said being a supervisor is a complicated task.
She and her four colleagues preside over the nation's most populous county, a behemoth of 10 million people that is larger than all but seven states, with the biggest county jail system, the second-biggest county healthcare system and a $20-billion annual budget.
With that giant size have come giant problems. In the last year, overcrowded jails and understaffed juvenile detention facilities have seen race riots, beatings and deaths. Gang violence remains high in several parts of the county. Troubles persist at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center. And the county faces a looming healthcare financial crisis.
But Molina, 57, faces token opposition from only a few inexperienced challengers, as is almost always the case for incumbent supervisors.
When she talked to The Times about her reelection campaign, she offered few new prescriptions for the county's most serious ills:
Question: Do you have any kind of a reelection platform?
Answer: It's always been the same issues. To ensure a good quality of life for people in the community, to make sure we are fiscally prudent within our budget. And it's always been the same issue about accountability of county services to all the residents.
They are the same issues I ran on in 1991. And they are the same issues today. Those are the campaign themes we always strike....
We have over 80,000 employees, so it's a tough job all the time.... It's a tough part of the responsibility here because we're not just the legislative, we're the management.
Q: Are there any services in particular that you plan to focus on?
A: It's always different. At certain times, you know, there are issues in public works ... monitoring what's going on in cleaning streets and things of that sort. Other times, it's patrolling by the sheriff. More recently, as we've seen, it's the issue of the jail riots we've had.
I've been a constant thorn in the side of children's services, because I'm never pleased with the quality of the delivery of services that we provide to children throughout the county, whether it's in healthcare, mental health or children's services.
So, there are a lot of things that we monitor all the time, and some that are constant and never-ending and others that really improve along the way.
But we've done other kinds of things. We've built a lot of affordable housing since I got here. I'm impressed with the number of units we've built throughout the district.
Q: In four years, what will they say you have accomplished?
A: We're going to see the opening of L.A. County-USC, which is one of the largest medical facilities west of the Mississippi. And believe me, it took me 12 years of fighting for that.... We will also see, hopefully ... the Eastside extension of the Gold Line [transit system]....
The other thing is that people are going to say, as I think they do today, 'When I call her office, she responds to me.' That's one of the most important things that I do every single day....
I'm very proud of that kind of thing. And it's probably not the kind of thing you can write headlines about, but it's the kind of assurances that I want every resident that I represent to feel.
Q: Last year, the Los Angeles mayoral candidates talked about tackling big issues like failing schools and gang violence. Are you contemplating any big initiatives?
A: So much of what I do on an ongoing basis is to assure good quality of life for people and accountability of services. And that's done on a regular basis.
I don't know that you can measure a great accomplishment by saying, 'This is what I did here.' And I'm not going to pontificate on those things.... I think the work I do here on a regular basis is probably not the kind of work that every single day you can write headlines about it. And I'm not going to pontificate [on] them. But we do an awful lot of work.
We have a task force right now that is dealing with homeless children in skid row.... It has been a tough, tough job, but we have implemented that program. And we can't tackle the entire homelessness issue, but we are tackling the part dealing with children and parents....
There are programs like that that I am doing every single day.
Q: So, you don't have any specific targets to, for example, reduce the number of homeless by a certain amount?