Walnut City Mayor in California, USA is from Basilan PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 18 November 2014 13:42
Reading and learning success stories of Filipinos abroad makes us proud. And if you happen to drop by Walnut City in California, USA, the current City Mayor is from Basilan. He is Antonio “Tony” Cartagena.
Here’s his story I pick from the internet (www.asianjournal.com)  about him “A Trailblazer in Public Service and A Leader Committed to Community-Building.”
In California alone, a number of Fil-Ams have secured positions in the corridors of power, where they can exact a manner of positive change for the Filipino community in the Golden State.
A few names come up when Filipino public servants in California is discussed: State Assemblyman Rob Bonta, Cerritos Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Pulido, and Carson City Mayor Pro-Tem Elito Santarina. The list of current and former Fil-Am politicians would no doubt include many other illustrious names.
However, only a few can compare to the tenure, experience, and legacy of Walnut City Mayor Antonio “Tony” Cartagena.
Born and raised in Basilan, Mayor Cartagena is a four-time Walnut City Councilor and City Mayor. He is currently serving his fourth term in office as City Mayor, after being appointed in July 2013.
He received his formal education at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, where he earned his BA degree in History and BS degree in Education. While at the Ateneo,  Mayor Cartagena was exposed to leadership and community-building, as a member of the Ateneo Catechetical Instruction League (ACIL). He then became a high school and college instructor at Claret College, where he also served as an advisor for the Student Advisory Council, and was also involved in scouting programs, sports activities.
In November 1975, Mayor Cartagena moved to California, after being petitioned by his mother. He then worked for the LA County’s financial services division as a Patient Financial Services Quality Control Worker (PFSQCW) Supervisor, and Interim Head PFSQCW. After 35 years of exemplary work in the LA Couny Hall of Administration, he was given a commendation by the LA County Board of Supervisors in October 2010. Later on, Mayor Cartagena retired to spend more time with his family, church, and community.
As a community-minded resident of Walnut, Mayor Cartagena wears many hats. He is always engaged in civic groups and organizations. He is on the advisory board for two prominent Catholic church communities: St. Martha’s in Valinda and St. Lorenzo Ruiz in Walnut. He has also dedicated many years of service to the Walnut Family Festival Committee, which he served as chair in 1998.
Mayor Cartagena is very active in the Filipino-American communities  of areas where he has resided: Baldwin Park, West Covina, and Walnut.
In fact, community work is part of the reason why Mayor Cartagena entered politics.
In the early 90s, while working with the St. Martha’s Church community, Mayor Cartagena became part of the movement which pushed for the building of a new church in Walnut (which eventually became St. Lorenzo Ruiz Church).
However, the construction plans included a fusion of traditional architectural elements and modern design techniques – an approach that did not sit well with the then-incumbent officials of the Walnut City Council. Because the council did not back down on their stance, the community decided it was time to become involved in politics and civic activities themselves.
Around the same time, Mayor Cartagena was appointed into the Transportation Committee. This appointment served as the launch pad for his political career. The rest, as they say is history. According to  Mayor Cartagena, he didn’t face any difficulties in making the decision to enter politics or not. Given his experience in community service, leadership and education, pursuing a career in public service was the next logical step. His wife was initially hesitant about the new phase in their lives, thinking that politics in California would be similar to politics in the Philippines. However, Mayor Cartagena assured his wife that this was not the case.
Aside from the Transportation Committee, Mayor Cartagena has also served in the Planning Commission and in the Cultural Awareness Resources Exchange for Law and Code Enforcement. He was first elected into a four-year term the city council in 2000, and was re-elected in 2004, 2008, and 2012.
Today, Mayor Cartagena is serving his fourth consecutive term as Walnut City Mayor. He previously held the post in 2002, 2006, and 2010. He entered public service because he wanted to preserve Walnut’s rural atmosphere by preventing the proliferation of street gangs and by conserving Walnut’s open spaces. Ever an advocate of education, the mayor also wanted to continue the tradition of excellence in the local school district.
He has worked hard with his colleagues to preserve the rural charm of a primarily residential community that boasts having 600 businesses. For the first time in the Walnut’s history, because of the Quiet Zone, locomotive operators are now prohibited from sounding their horns while passing through a three-mile stretch of track that runs near Walnut.
Another key project that Mayor Cartagena pushed to develop in the city was the Neighborhood Watch program. Officers from the LA Sheriff’s Department would be dispatched efficiently throughout the city, based on reports and calls coming in from the neighborhood watch system. According to the mayor, this effective use of local law enforcement also prevents the proliferation of street gangs.
Mayor Cartagena defines public service as a field, where individuals work to provide services that greatly benefit the community. Simplistic as it may be, this core value is at the center of Mayor Cartagena’s leadership.
It has also kept the mayor grounded in his work, as it always reminds him of the difference between being a public servant and a career politician – one who uses local politics as a stepping stone to reach higher public office or to prolong their grip on power.
“Career politicians could be detrimental to our community if they focus more on preserving their job,” Mayor Cartagena said. This, he added, often results in politicians allowing special interest groups to render influence over city matters, enriching themselves, as they prepare to campaign for higher office.
However, Mayor Cartagena also said that there is also a special kind of career politicians – those who, like him, choose to remain in local government office for as long as they can so that they can have more time to pursue the greater good of the city.
A man of vision, integrity, unquestionable trustworthiness, fairness, humility, and adaptability, Mayor Cartag "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the
rights of the poor and needy."
Proverbs 31: 8-9 (NIV) ena recognizes the true worth of a real public servant.
As a Fil-Am trailblazer in public service, he has this to say to those who want to follow in his footsteps: “Aim high. Get an education. Find a role model. Apply for internships. Be organized and positive. Learn the importance of teamwork, and volunteerism. Being a leader means not being afraid to fail, and being ready to always try again. Every single day is a learning process.”
By Dante Corteza
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31: 8-9 (NIV)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 13:57