Joe Ganem has worn many hats in his life. Now retired, the 73-year-old has worked in law enforcement, city management and development, among other things.
“They don’t have anyone up there, nor is there another candidate, that can give them the in-house view of having been a builder, a developer, a housing provider, a city manager and an activist of environmental issues,” Ganem said in a recent interview. “I know those issues. These are not things that I studied in a book or prepared to talk to you about—I’ve lived a lifetime of them.”
Ganem describes his decision to run for the District 1 council seat as one made out of urgency. He had gotten home from the first candidate forum in August frankly unimpressed with the panel of candidates before him. He went home fighting with himself about running for office until he shot up out of bed at 3 a.m. knowing he had to put his hat in the ring, he said.
Ganem and his wife, Marsha, have lived in the 1st District for eight years. They moved to Long Beach from Seattle 14 years ago when Marsha was offered a promotion in her job at L’Oréal. They have four sons who have their own successful careers.
After moving to Long Beach, Ganem and his wife got involved in the Downtown community by helping found the Downtown Residential Council, which brought together the various residential associations in the area, and turning it into a non-profit. Ganem also brought his experience with city government operations to help create the Ocean Residents Community Association, according to Bob Kelton, former president of the DRC.
“With that knowledge and his dedication to get things done, we were able to put it together,” Kelton said, noting Ganem’s commitment to even the more mundane, but important things like creating the bylaws for the organization. Kelton has known Ganem for more than 10 years, working with him on numerous projects, forums and events for the DTR.
Ganem also knows the issue of homelessness, not only by his frequent bike rides down the L.A. River, but also through his four years on the Homeless Services Advisory Committee and the Long Beach Continuum of Care.
Through that experience, he said he’s seen the current city and county system pump $30 million into the issue of homelessness and get virtually nowhere. In Ganem’s mind, the only solution is permanent, supportive housing and wraparound services for homeless people.
“It isn’t because we don’t have the money. I just dare anybody to show me we don’t have the money—we’re spending the money, we’re just not spending it on the right thing and what we’re doing is inadvertently sustaining the status quo,” Ganem said.
Just before moving to Long Beach, Ganem also witnessed the beginnings of efforts to end homelessness in Seattle, where he and his wife lived for 17 years. There, he was the executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, which lobbies for the building industry and helps standardize building codes.
He was also the executive director of the Northwest Bicycle Federation and led an effort to build a modern paved trail near Tacoma.
Before moving to Washington, Ganem lived in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. As a juvenile police officer there in his early 20s, the kids called him “Mod-Squad Joe.” While he was a full police officer, Ganem says he wore civilian clothing and drove a police radio-equipped 1968 Mustang so the youth he was working with would see him as a person rather than a cop.
From that position, he started writing grant proposals for community relations programs, which then landed him in an assistant city manager position and eventually, as the city manager of the small community.
His varied work experience could be considered reflective of how he spends his free time. Ganem has been homebrewing beer for 40 years—“since before it was cool.”
He is an avid cook, utilizing flavors from his Lebanese heritage and his parents’ Arizona upbringing, and he likes to pick up new hobbies. He fondly recalled taking a sourdough bread-making class at Gusto Bread the day after filing his campaign papers (he recommends the class).
“You ever heard the term ‘Renaissance man’? I think that’s maybe where I’m headed,” he said. “What do they say? ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’?”
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