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Q&A: Claremont’s new mayor Larry Schroeder

Claremont Mayor Larry Schroeder has officially started his year in the city council driver’s seat, ready to tackle economic sustainability, but still in shock over the honors.

“It’s surreal,” Mr. Schroeder smiled.

He recognizes however, just because he sits in the mayor’s seat, does not mean his role is significantly changing.

“Everyone needs a figurehead and I guess I am it right now,” he said.

The council continues to focus on economic development, of which the new mayor is arguably an expert. Mr. Schroeder spent 26 years working with for the cities of Glendora and Lakewood. He has 17 years of economic development under his belt, serving as treasurer, chairperson of the finance committee, and member of the claims committee for the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority.

Mr. Schroeder reflected on his past in order to talk about his present and future as Claremont’s newest mayor.

Q. What is your priority as mayor?
A. There are always many priorities, but I think it’s the whole idea of economic sustainability. We are coming up on a 2-year budget cycle and we want to make sure we can divide the money up according to our needs.

We have to deal with the elimination of the RDA, which ties into that sustainability, there’s the water system, and another money issue is finishing negotiations with the police department.

Q. How is your strong financial background going to focus or drive your priorities?
A. I think in general the whole council has concern about this. I know sometimes they look to me for some of the more technical issues because I’ve been there. I guess it is an expertise I have. I’m also concerned about the quality of life, the social implications of all this as well. I try to bring a balanced view to it, but I know I have that background. I’m kind of pigeon-holed there.

Q. Every mayor usually has a project that they focus their year on. What is going to be yours?
A. I am going to bring a theme of trying to strengthen our connections in Claremont in 4 ways: one with citizens, one with businesses, one with the schools and colleges and one with our staff. By that, I am not going to try and recreate the wheel or do anything exotic, but I’d like to encourage citizens to look at the website and sign up for City Clicks. It gives them a monthly look at what we are doing. There are a lot of ways for the citizens to connect with the city that way.

We do the Farmer’s Market booth the first Sunday of every month and we are looking to change that to the second Sunday of every month. I hope to start that by May. The reason for that is the first Sunday of the month we are running into New Year’s and Memorial Day and all those times people or the council may be out of town. I think in general the council agrees if we do it the second Sunday of every month we will be out there more for the people. We will also continue our neighborhood forums we do every month. We send 2 council members out every quarter just to make sure people can ask questions and we can communicate.

Q. Why did you choose this focus?
A. Just to encourage communication as much as I can because I want to make people feel we are transparent and that sort of thing; we are really trying to connect.

Q. In addition to connection with the citizens, you mentioned connecting to local businesses.
A. I am going to attempt to visit every business in town. I say ‘attempt’, but I am going to try and do that because we [Claremont] are not that big and we have the ability in this town to walk and do that. I know we have done that with the Chamber [of Commerce] before when we had things like the bike race and that sort of thing. I’m going to try and get around to every business and let them know that we appreciate that they give us the shopping opportunities, the jobs, the sales tax and just thank them.

As far as the schools go, I think our relationship with the schools and colleges has never been better. We have had our joint meeting with the school board, we keep constant contact with them. I know public safety and the school safety are always talking to each other. We have a lot of joint ventures, we share some of the fields and things, and we will continue to do that. We have a great relationship with the Claremont Colleges and the Claremont University Consortium. I think it’s terrific. The colleges bring a lot to Claremont and we want to foster that relationship.

Q. What about your means of connecting with staff?
A. I want to take a ride-along with several departments: police, sanitation graffiti removal, get out there and visit some of the work sites Go up to the Hughes Center once in a while, stop in city hall and say hello just to let people know we appreciate what they are doing and that we are aware of what they are doing. We value their services.

That’s going to be my theme. Maybe it’s not a new program, but it’s really strengthening those connections and that is what I am really going to focus on.

Q. What are maybe one or 2 specific projects or things you are looking to do in terms of economic development?
A. We are certainly looking at Auto Center Drive, and we are looking at Foothill Boulevard to see if we can get that from the state and see how that transpires.

We had a good year with the Super King (that was 200 jobs), Norms was another 40 jobs. That was a lot and then with the sales tax. I think the economy is showing some signs of growth and I see things happening in the city and it’s good. Sales tax, the last quarter we got reported on, was up. It’s all good signs. I’m the eternal optimist.

Q. Your approach in leading the council?
A. Setting a theme.  All 5 of us are clearly dedicated to Claremont and concerned about what Claremont is all about. I know there’s 5 people involved so there are 5 different approaches, and we don’t always agree 100 percent, but I know that everybody has the best interest of Claremont at heart, and it’s good to work with a group like that. It’s helping to guide that along.

—Beth Hartnett

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