In working in my city, county, and state for over forty years, I have always had the goal of making change by working together with others to improve my community – and being clear about who I am.
Thirty-five years ago, I joined with others to found a community credit union to provide credit for those who couldn’t get it, and keep our money local for reinvestment – an organization that now has thousands of members and tens of millions in assets and has led to the creation of many local jobs. Almost thirty years ago, I was one of the six gay men that organized our local AIDS service agency. I served as executive director for three years at the height of the epidemic, organizing hundreds of volunteers to educate the general public and to provide support to those with HIV.
As a City Councilmember and Mayor, I was part of a team that brought new people into the municipal system, won a court case to establish greenbelts around our city, and established one of the early domestic partner benefit programs in the country.
As a state legislator, I authored eighty-two bills signed into law, and led my house in budget matters as Assembly Budget Chair. I was proud that one of my civil rights bills was the basis for a state Supreme Court decision protecting a gay couple in adoption matters and that other bills restored community college health services, established the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, and expanded water conservation state-wide.
As a member of the Governor’s cabinet, I have worked at his direction to finish the establishment of the largest network of marine protected areas in the nation, help save the Lake Tahoe Compact, and help him be on target to meet the state’s goal of 33% renewable energy by 2020.
In each of these efforts, I have worked to be the best person for the job – while being clear who I was. In 1983, I was one of the first three openly gay mayors in the country – all elected that year. When elected to the State Assembly, I was one of the first two openly gay men ever elected to the California legislature. In my work I have been proud to have made a difference.
John Laird is the California Secretary for Natural Resources.