Talks with Tim is a weekly Q&A by Tim Grobaty, who has been a columnist in Long Beach for nearly 50 years. If you’d like to suggest an interesting or influential person in Long Beach for this (unconventional) interview, reach him at [email protected].
Councilmember Al Austin II represents the 8th District on the Long Beach City Council. First elected in 2012, he is currently serving his final council term, set to conclude in 2024.
Tim Grobaty: Go ahead and take the first punch. What question do you want to ask yourself?
Al Austin II: I don’t really have a first question. All I can say is 55 feels good. Today’s my 55th year around the sun. I have a lot to be thankful for and to be proud of, most importantly to have a good family and good health.
Q: How are you going to celebrate?
A: I’m speaking at a conference tonight in Paso Robles, so we’ll have to postpone the celebration ‘till the weekend.
Q: How? Is there a special restaurant you go to for celebrations?
A: No, I think we’re going to go to Atlanta to see our son play football. [The Austins’ oldest son, Alex, is in his first season with the Houston Texans as a defensive back. Their youngest, Daylen, is in his freshman year playing DB for the University of Oregon.]
Q: So you and your wife try to attend both of your sons’ games? You must have a million air miles by now.
A: We’re taking advantage of every mile-reward program there is in order to make it all work. Because of travel with football for the last several years [before turning pro, Alex played for Oregon State University] we’ve made football travel our travel season, so we haven’t gone on many personal vacations.
Q: In the last redistricting, your district seemed to tighten up some, while others, particularly the 5th, which now snakes all the way across town, have changed more dramatically. Are you happy with the redistricting as it affects the 8th?
A: We lost Los Cerritos and Bixby Knolls, which moved into the 5th. My district is more working class than it was before and it has some challenges that are unique to the district and require us to shift our focus in terms of constituent services and policies. We have the Luxury Inn which is going to be a Project Homekey destination to house the unhoused, for instance. It’s a district now with vast infrastructure needs, so we’ve been focusing on improving quality of life in areas of the city that have been neglected for decades.
Q: You and Mayor Rex Richardson were sometimes at loggerheads when he was the District 9 councilman. How do you get along with him now?
A: I have no issues with the mayor. He’s doing fine.
Q: What about Rep. Robert Garcia?
A: Garcia is doing a great job of representing us.
Q: Ooookay then. Maybe we should switch to something like what do you and your wife do to relax after a hard day of work?
A: We spend quiet time at home, maybe with a glass of wine. We watch a lot of Netflix. Seen most of the popular series. And we enjoy watching sports together; we were doing that while we were young and dating. And we enjoy hanging out with the dogs.
Q: Oh, that’s right. You got yours from the same rescue we did. Sparky and the Gang.
A: That’s right. We have a Staffordshire terrier, a mixed mutt and Frenchie that our son left with us when he went to college. Now that my wife and I are empty nesters, the dogs have replaced our sons.
Q: What’s your wife’s name and what does she do?
A: Daysha. She works as district director for a state assembly member.
Q: Josh Lowenthal? [Josh Lowenthal defeated Al Austin in the general election for California State Assembly District 69 in 2022.]
A: (Laughs. A little.) No, she works with Reggie Jones-Sawyer in the 57th.
Q: Did you go to school in Long Beach?
A: No. I went to high school in the San Gabriel Valley. I was born in Detroit and my parents moved us out to California when I was a preteen. My dad had worked for Chrysler in New York and then got a job at McDonnell Douglas so we moved to the Valley. We stayed at the Holiday Inn on Lakewood in Long Beach until the house was ready for us to move in. Right out of high school I got a job at McDonnell Douglas in the fabrication department. I became a leader there and a union rep and political coordinator and I haven’t looked back since.
Q: How do you spend your down time between traveling to football games?
A: I really enjoy boating. We spent a lotta time boating with our friends. We have friends that have boats and we may buy one someday.
Q: Having friends with boats is a lot better than owning one. Are they motorboats or sailboats?
A: Powerboats for the most part. We spend a lot of time on the boats either just at the dock or out in the ocean. In the summertime, that’s where you’ll find me, at the Shoreline Marina with friends.
Q: You’re termed out next year. What are you going to do then, just powerboat off into the sunset?
A: No. I’ll still be a public servant one way or another. I’ll stay involved with shaping public policy on the local and state level for the foreseeable future. I still have a lot of service left in me. And I have a lot to offer with the experiences I’ve developed through my career and time.