LDS Mayor is 'conscious of example I must set'

As he nears the end of his first year as the first LDS mayor in the Southern California city of Pomona, Eddie Cortez continues to acknowledge the hand of God as he carries out the duties of his office.

"Just knowing that I am entitled to the Lord's help so long as I live worthily is a great source of strength," he said. "No matter where I have to go, or what duties I have to fulfill, I am conscious of the example I must set and of the standards I must uphold. I know the Lord blesses me every day, and I am very grateful for it."Brother Cortez of the Pomona 1st Ward, La Verne California Stake, is also the first Hispanic mayor of the city of 105,000, located about 75 miles east of Los Angeles. He was elected by just 258 votes in a runoff election on April 20, 1993, and was sworn in six days later.

The new mayor credits his Church experience and testimony with helping him in the community and political arena. "If you have a testimony, you know you must be compassionate. You must be tolerant and forgiving, even if you disagree with another person's point of view. There need not be discord or hatred just because there is a difference of opinion. Latter-day Saints understand what is really important and what isn't."

Brother Cortez has used this approach to overcome a number of roadblocks he faced as he worked for community development. He has been instrumental in bringing several large enterprises to Pomona and affecting a total turnaround in the economic forecast for the city.

Brother Cortez's public service began years ago. Both his first wife, Maricela, who died in 1985, and his second wife, Sally, who he married in 1986, were instrumental in his community involvement and have provided invaluable support as he has given more and more time to public service. "Maricela talked me into working in the PTA back when men just didn't do that," he recalled.

He eventually served as district PTA president. In addition, he has held every position from coach to president in the community sports programs.

From there, it was a natural step for Brother Cortez to become president of Community Action for Peace, a local organization that works with at-risk youth to provide alternatives to gang activity and promotes understanding between the city's youth and the police department.

Brother Cortez also served on the city planning commission for six years and was founding president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

During the campaign for mayor, there was some anti-Mormon prejudice to overcome, he said, but it was not an organized effort. Rather, Brother Cortez said, "Many churches have been misinformed about what we believe. I must have spoken to at least 10 different denominations.

"In every case, once the religious leaders understood that we believe in Christ, and we don't believe in abortion and we believe in strong families, these leaders were behind me."

What helped Brother Cortez in these meetings with religious leaders was his calling as early-morning seminary teacher, which he has done for three years. "In meeting with other church congregations," he related, "it was definitely an advantage to be able to quote from the Bible. That's just one more way the Church has helped me as mayor."

Brother Cortez and his family are converts to the Church. He and Maricela, along with their six children, were baptized in 1978. In 1980, the family was sealed in the Los Angeles Temple. The mayor and his new wife recently adopted a baby girl.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed