Author: David Simon
“You don’t just gain knowledge; you gain wisdom,” says Ray Larios of his experience in the 2020 Community Advocates Leadership Academy (CALA) cohort.
Before applying to CALA, Ray was getting settled in his role with the Citizens Advisory Committee for Peninsula Clean Energy, and he thought CALA would be a good fit for him. “I was fortunate enough to get in and to get the scholarship for it.” Ray was thrilled to have his headshot taken at the beginning of the program. “I’d never had a professional headshot; I didn’t have the resources at the time…It was empowering for a person like me, who’s just starting their activism. I still use that headshot.”
The Benefits of Patience and Perseverance
Through CALA and since, Ray has learned to be more patient noting “…you can’t always get what you want immediately. You need to step back and be strategic. Also, persevere.”
Ray put this lesson to use when he applied for membership on the Burlingame Planning Commission. He was turned down, but it led to his appointment to the Rollins Road Redevelopment Advisory Committee. Following his service on that committee, he reapplied to the commission and was appointed in Spring 2021.
In these roles, Ray used another CALA experience: working closely with people from vastly different backgrounds. His CALA peer workgroup – with whom he created a campaign plan as part of their class project – was quite diverse. Ray found the variety of approaches and considerations enriching. “Having a different person with a different background from a different community … when it’s time to brainstorm, it makes the process better.”
Becoming Process-Minded: An Equity Working Group and LatinX Democratic Club
Since graduating from CALA, Ray has advanced from being the junior member of the Peninsula Clean Energy Citizens Advisory Committee to being its vice chair. After George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent burst of energy in the racial justice movement, Ray used his post to create an equity working group, which wrote recommendations that are currently in the adoption stage.
“Before CALA, I was a little more results-driven as opposed to process-driven,” says Ray. But listening to different people, objections, and ideas led him to be more process-driven. “It’s messier, but it’s a better outcome in the long term.”
Since CALA, Ray has also been active in Democratic Party politics. He founded the San Mateo County LatinX Democratic Club, a group that counts two planning commission members among its ranks and has elected both a city council member and a county commissioner. “These are pipelines for future elected office. I want to make a difference by finding folks from these communities who are really competent to sit at the table,” he says. “I like to lead from the back. I like to elevate other people.”
Ray is also thinking of running for elected office himself. He’s already in the pipeline, after all! “Senator Larios” has a nice ring, no?
Guest author David Simon spent two dozen years leading for the Sierra Club’s national outing program and later became the club’s Vice President of Outings. Since then, he edited the Club’s local Loma Prietan newsletter for a number of years and has edited many of the articles that have appeared in Green Footnotes.