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Greuel recalls working for Clinton on Northridge quake relief

March 25, 2013|By Maeve Reston
  • Mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel discusses her endorsement from former President Clinton and her role in the response to the 1994 Northridge earthquake during a press conference at California State Northridge.
Mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel discusses her endorsement from former… (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los…)

Looking to turn the page from a series of staff shakeups, Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel touted her endorsement by former President Clinton in the San Fernando Valley on Monday — turning a spotlight on her role in the recovery efforts after the 1994 Northridge earthquake when she was an administrator in the federal housing department.

In a letter first obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Clinton said he was backing Greuel in part because she was a valued member of his team during that crisis and "sprang into action" to help deliver more than a billion dollars of aid to rebuild roads and help Angelenos who had lost their homes.

Greuel, who served as the field operations officer for Southern California at the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton years, said she had long admired the former president’s ability to forge relationships with leaders in both parties, a nod to her own efforts to draw the support of San Fernando Valley Republicans to her campaign.

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“He united communities and built partnerships. He delivered results. And that is precisely what I will do as mayor of the city of Los Angeles,” she said.  “President Clinton has been a role model for me — he has shown what it means to be a leader, how to build coalitions and create jobs where they are needed most, and how to [be] steady in a crisis.”

Pivoting to her runoff rival, City Councilman Eric Garcetti, the city controller said Angelenos were facing a fiscal crisis at City Hall and a choice in the May election between “a strong leader” and “the same failed leadership that got us into this mess.” 

“I’m the only candidate who can govern City Hall because I’m the only candidate who can bring together business and labor to make the tough choices for Los Angeles,” Greuel said. “If you want L.A. to work, vote for me. If you want paralysis, vote for my opponent.”

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During her press conference at Cal State Northridge — where she had stood with Clinton in 1995 as he marked the one-year anniversary of the Northridge quake — city and county leaders, including County Supervisor Gloria Molina and Robin Kramer, the former chief of staff to Mayor Richard Riordan, described Greuel as a relentless and effective administrator in the days after the earthquake.

“She was calm during this incredibly tough time, very determined, and it was unspeakably difficult every day,” Kramer said.

Richard Katz, a former Assemblyman who represented the San Fernando Valley, said Greuel gained valuable experience coordinating state, city, county and federal resources at that time: “Without a good traffic cop, sorting out those issues, directing those efforts, a lot of help doesn’t get where it needs to be. We were fortunate that we had on our side Wendy Greuel … who knew this Valley, knew what it would take.”

The endorsement from Clinton, who was traveling out of the country Monday, could help Greuel with San Fernando Valley Republicans as well as African American voters in Los Angeles. She noted that she came in second in votes in South Los Angeles and has been endorsed by numerous leaders in that part of the city, including Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“Every endorsement, including President Clinton, who was beloved across the city, in the African American community, in the San Fernando Valley — each one of these are going to help ensure that people know that I’m going to be the kind of mayor who is going to bring people together like President Clinton did,” she said Monday. 

Greuel brushed off questions about the recent changes within her campaign staff.

“If you’ve been involved in campaigns, people come and go throughout the campaign,” she said. “You go from one step to the next, and we’re excited about the direction we’re going in.” Gesturing to the reporters posing questions at her press conference, she added: “You all are the insiders trying to figure this out — no one else actually cares.”

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Twitter: @maevereston

maeve.reston@latimes.com

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