During conversations, Misi Tagaloa often pauses for a few seconds to respond to a question or statement. As a pastor and community leader, he often utilizes the practice of “listening without loss,” he says, meaning he doesn’t listen just to respond, as people are prone to do, but he listens to really hear what people say.
“It’s a very deep, engaging listening … It’s an ontological skill set that touches who we really are as people, as beings, as humans,” Tagaloa said.
He practices this type of listening because he believes people in the 1st District don’t feel like they belong, leading to apathy, which eventually leads to more crime and lower voter turnout, he says.
“When you don’t belong, you don’t engage, you don’t participate, you don’t show up for the events because it’s not yours,” Tagaloa said. “And when you do venture out to a place that’s not for you, you confirm that sense of not belonging.”
His congregation, Second Samoan Congregational UCC, is working to get people to feel like they belong, he said. They help provide some transitional housing for homeless people and connect them to resources, he said.
Tagaloa, 54, comes from a family of pastors— his father and grandfathers were all pastors in Samoa, where he’s originally from. His family came to Long Beach in 1985 and he’s lived in the 1st District for about 25 years. Tagaloa and his wife, Mareta, have raised their three kids in the area.
He is the president and CEO of Canopy Communities, a non-profit that owns and manages affordable housing. He’s also the senior minister of the Second Samoan Church of Long Beach. Prior to ministry, he worked as a real estate broker and in banking. He still brokers home sales from time to time, he said.
Tagaloa says he grew up not wanting to follow in his family’s footsteps because he saw how pastors lived: Depending on the compassion of people to live and then having to share what they had with others. It wasn’t until his father passed away that he realized “what was really important” and saw the injustices around him. It was three years until he felt comfortable in taking his father’s place as head of their church, he said.
This is the third time Tagaloa has run for the 1st District council seat. He says he keeps running because “the challenges are still there,” noting his district does not have a neighborhood library.
When it comes to issues like air pollution, he’s fairly optimistic that businesses would do the right thing— although he rejects the idea he is overly optimistic, pointing out that he has an MBA— he believes it’s possible for businesses to put people before profits.
Tagaloa has one endorsement: 6th District councilman Dee Andrews. The two have known each other for years, Andrews said, seeing each other nearly every day at Cabrillo High School, where Tagaloa’s kids go. They often get into conversations about education and what kids face in their communities and schools.
“He was talking about trying to work with his community and his district and I feel like that’s a strength he brings to the 1st District,” Andrews said. “I like his work, I’ve been to his church and I think we all need a whole lot of prayer.”
Tagaloa said his family is funding the bulk of his campaign—records show he gave about $42,000 to himself. He feels as though he’s up against the “machine,” a common theme among candidates who are not endorsed by the mayor and state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, both of whom occupied the 1st District council seat.
“This is the industry that needs to be disrupted,” Tagaloa said, noting that politicians often have the attitude of being the first to be served. “Because of that, we have these systems that don’t really represent us and as long as we’re a democracy, we really need to take a look at that.”