Our mild-mannered mayor on the birth, growth and future of the LB Post

People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Robert Garcia, mayor of Long Beach, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.

I have a confession to make. I’ve always wanted to be Clark Kent. At a young age I started collecting comics and became enamored of the art form. As an immigrant who learned English as a second language, comics were a great way to read and learn. I immediately fell in love with Superman and identified with the character.

Clark Kent was a reporter at the Daily Planet with great friends and a good job. So, since I couldn’t be Superman when I grew up, I settled on the mild-mannered reporter. In high school, I was the editor-in-chief of my newspaper and at Cal State Long Beach I started as a journalism major. I was going to be a reporter until I got involved in student government.

I got elected student body president and I switched my major to communications. I also became friends with a guy named Shaun Lumachi. We first met while we were both involved in student government. He was a student at Sacramento State and I was at Long Beach State.

We became good buddies. Shaun was smart, funny, well liked, and smoked cigarettes as much as my father. He also had an amazing girlfriend, Deziré, who later became his wife.

Shaun had moved to Long Beach and landed a job as vice president of government affairs at the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce. Randy Gordon, the president of the chamber, was his boss. At first I found the job an odd fit for Shaun because he was pretty progressive. But he loved it and excelled.

I had just finished grad school at the Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism at USC. I learned a lot about hyperlocal news and communicating with local audiences. I quickly put those skills to use and started teaching at CSULB. I realized teaching would be my lifelong love and passion.

Shaun and I spent hours debating democracy, the media, national politics, and Long Beach. We were both concerned there were not enough local media sources.

Out of our talks came an idea: One day, we drew up what would become the Long Beach Post on a piece of paper. It had ad boxes, a logo, and some names of people Shaun and I had discussed as possible writers.

We loved Long Beach and we wanted to tell stories that would capture its history. On February 13, 2007, we launched the Long Beach Post.

Faster than a speeding bullet

Within days of going online, we knew the Long Beach Post would be a success. We put together some great columnists and we were producing original content.

We weren’t the Daily Planet, but our writers did great work covering local politics, arts and culture and sports.

Over the years the Long Beach Post became a platform and launching pad for some great local voices and reporters including Brian Addison of Longbeachize and Sarah Bennett of the LA and OCWeekly. Shaun and I also gave Mike Guardabascio and JJ Fiddler, now well known local sports writers, their first reporting jobs in Long Beach.

The Post grew quickly, but Shaun had it under control. He was a force of nature and his work with the chamber gave him the flexibility to work on the Post throughout the day. I had started working at Long Beach City College as the communications director so my time became much more limited.

In 2009 I ran for and won a seat on the Long Beach City Council.

We began to look for other partners to bring financial stability and support to the organization. Shaun suggested Jay Davis, a respected local businessman who he knew through the chamber. Jay stepped in, provided financial support, and the Post continued to grow.

My election also changed my role at the Long Beach Post. We decided it would be best if I stepped away from all editorial and business decisions and we tried our best to make it work.

Then 2011 happened.

I had boarded a plane in Houston to return to Long Beach from a conference. While sitting in the plane awaiting departure I received a phone call from our city manager, Pat West. I picked up, even though a flight attendant had just told us to turn off our cell phones.

Pat told me Shaun, who was at a conference in Florida, had been killed in a car crash. He wanted to know if I could contact Shaun’s wife Deziré and tell her.

My best friend was dead and I was in complete shock. I wanted to run off the plane and call Deziré, but knew if I did, I would miss my flight and I needed to get back home immediately to the unfolding tragedy.

I had no time to call Deziré and was worried about her reaction to the news, so I told Pat I would text him the number of Shaun’s other best friend—Dave Sommers. I told Pat to tell Dave the news and to have him call Deziré since I needed to hang up my phone. I sent the number to Pat and hung up.

It all happened so fast and I was sick instantly. I broke into a sweat and the remaining three hours on the plane are to this day a complete blur.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s Supergirl

Shaun was dead but we knew immediately the Long Beach Post needed to live on. The new widow Deziré, our investor and partner Jay Davis, and I mapped out a plan in which Deziré would serve as publisher until we could figure out a long-term plan.

The business was 4 years old and had a loyal following but not much of a business plan. Shaun had controlled all the finances and drove the ad sales as well as managed the editorial team. We all knew we could not sustain the business.

Then we met our Supergirl.

I didn’t know Cindy Allen well. She owned a successful local advertising agency and was a former Long Beach police officer. But she knew Shaun and he had mentioned her as a possible investor and partner on numerous occasions.

We all instantly liked Cindy. She was smart, loved Long Beach, and really believed in the importance of hyperlocal news. When we approached her to become a partner on the Long Beach Post, we thought she could bring stability and financial resources to an organization that desperately needed both.

Cindy knew how to run a business and had the capacity to grow the publication. So we made a tough decision. We would walk away from the Post and give complete ownership to Cindy.

The business I had co-founded with Shaun was in the hands of an experienced businesswoman who could increase readership of the publication.

We sat back and watched Cindy expand the Post’s reach, especially on social media, and hire a newsroom of dedicated reporters. They broke important stories, never lost their unique and independent voice, and dominated social content. They became the go-to source of news for the next generation of residents.

I’ve had no ownership or financial interest in the Long Beach Post since 2013. We all separated from the publication before I was elected Mayor, but I’ve been a loyal reader and supporter ever since. I contribute monthly (as all readers should), and I am rooting for it to succeed. In fact, I want all of our local publications to grow and cover what I think is the best and most interesting city in America.

Like most of the city, I’m excited that Pacific6, a locally owned company, has purchased the Long Beach Post. Cindy Allen has passed the baton to a great group of business people. It’s also serendipitous that leading the Post as publisher is Dave Sommers—the same Dave whose phone number I had passed along to Pat West on that horrible day on the airplane.

I know the best days of the Long Beach Post are ahead. I’m confident its journalists will report important stories, keep our local government accountable, and publish stories that we at the city won’t like—and isn’t that the point?

Long Beach needs the Long Beach Post. We need local news.

We need truth and justice, the Long Beach way.

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.