By Katta Hules
Tom Beck made the jump from councilmember to mayor two weeks ago when former mayor Gary Kovacic termed out. The council bucked the tradition of appointing the mayor pro tem after former Mayor Pro Tem Roger Chandler refused the position. Mayor Beck said his appointment was “not a total surprise but it was a pleasant development.”
Beck was active in the community of Arcadia for many years before setting his sights on the city council. In addition to coaching “about 18” sports teams, he was the founding chair of the parent’s clubs at Highland Oaks Elementary and Foothills Middle School where his four children attended. Beck was also on the Methodist Hospital of Southern California foundation board of directors as a member and chairman for over 10 years. His wife, Jerilyn Beck volunteers there as well. He is still involved with the hospital as an emeritus board member.
“After I retired from being a trial lawyer for 34 years, I decided that, knowing my personality … I need[ed] to be busy and I wanted … to give back to my community.” He was encouraged by Mayors Mickey Segal and Gary Kovacic to run for city council and so in April 2014, he did.
While he was running, it came out that the Los Angeles Conservancy was regularly giving Arcadia a failing grade for historical preservation efforts. He pledged to change that and since his election has gotten the wheels turning on the issue. The city is in the process of identifying all its historical aspects, residential and commercial. The council will then decide how best to protect them. “I think that would probably be the thing that gave me the most satisfaction in the first two years.”
Beck also took on issues along the 210 Freeway, working to get sound blocking walls installed and the ramps cleaned up. The walls are set to go up next year and the on and off ramps have “substantially been cleaned up since I got elected.”
Additionally, he is an advocate for the city’s trees, getting the sycamores protected and working to get more tree species safeguarded. “I’m very protective of trees,” he explained. In holding with his environmental concerns, then Councilmember Beck started the Conservation Awards. The awards, which recognize residents and businesses that conserve water, will be given out for the first time later this year. “I think water is going to be a problem for a long time, possibly forever,” he said, explaining the reasoning behind the awards.
So far, Beck has found being the mayor “very time consuming.” A recent excerpt of his mayoral calendar included giving a proclamation to the Tzu Chi Foundation in San Dimas on Mother’s Day, giving another the previous Sunday at the Performing Arts Center for the Chinese Mother’s Day celebration, a third proclamation the day after Mother’s Day at Methodist Hospital, then giving out the Senior of the Year award and cutting the ribbon at the Breeder’s Cup. “There’s a whole new layer of invitations and obligations … I enjoy doing it but there’s a lot more work as mayor than there is as a city councilperson.”
In addition to his expanding his ceremonial calendar, Beck has been using his expertise as a lawyer to oversee the legal fees accrued from lawsuits against the city. He is hoping to put together a subcommittee of the council to review the fees and make sure tax funds are being used efficiently for legal expenses.
As mayor, he has several ideas for improving the city. The first is the installation of walking loops in downtown. Originating near the hotels on Second Street, the loops would promote foot traffic around the district.
Along these lines, he is “very interested in redeveloping and getting more commercial development in all of our business corridors.” Specifically South Baldwin where he wants to see the area’s trees, sidewalks, and planters cleaned up and made to look more attractive. Beck wants to draw more businesses to the Live Oak and Las Tunas business district as well. The city has made a start both there and on Duarte and he wants to build upon it. Commercial development is one of the new mayor’s top priorities, second only to public safety.
“I think we’re off to a smooth start and I just want to continue that,” said Beck. See the new mayor and the council in action at the next city council meeting on May 17 at 7 p.m.