2002 Inductee - Joe Serna


2002 Inductee - Joe Serna

Joe Serna Some politicians are overshadowed by their offices and quickly forgotten when they leave politics, but Joe Serna hasn’t been forgotten. Delta College’s amphitheater is named after Joe and a 3-ft. by 5-ft. mural, the same size as Delta’s Cesar Chavez mural, will soon become part of the Delta College architecture. He was mayor of the capitol of America’s biggest and most important state, yet was known by most people as “Mayor Joe.” In 1939 he was born to farmworker parents in Stockton and raised in Lodi. His first job was at a Lodi sheet metal company when he was 19. He attended Stockton College (now known as Delta College) before transferring to Sacramento State. He returned to Stockton in 1998 to help COMA dedicate the Chavez library. He became a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala in 1966. He specialized in cooperatives and credit union and taught Political Science in Spanish. Joe was the director of the United Farmworkers of America’s Support Committee in Sacramento from 1970 to ’75. He was also a member of the Sacramento Central Labor Council. Joe was Sacramento’s mayor from November 1992 to his death in 1999. He was also a professor of government at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) since 1974. He earned the Distinguished Faculty Award in 1991. A Lifetime Service Award was posthumously given to him in 2000. He served on several CSUS Chicano Studies committees. Joe also was involved with Sac State’s Affirmative Action and various hiring committees. Teaching was a transition into politics for Joe. He took a leave of absence from CSUS in 1975-77 to serve as the Education Advisor to then Lt. Governor Dymally. His first taste of a career in politics - that was to last almost 30 years - was as the founder of the Chicano Organization for Political Action. He became a member of the Sacramento City Council in 1981. He chaired the Budget & Finance Committee from 1981 to ’89 and the Transportation & Community Development Committee from 1989 to ’92. He served on the Law & Legislative Committee from 1989 to ’92. He focused his efforts on fiscal policy, urban planning, social and human services and public safety. As Mayor, Joe “showed strong leadership by appointing Sacramento’s first Council of Economic Advisors to help in framing the city’s economic agenda. The National Council for Urban Economic Development selected him in 1995 for its Economic Development Leadership Award. He also established the Mayor’s Commission on Education and the City’s Future and the Mayor’s Commission on Our Children’s Health. He founded the Mayor’s Summer Reading Camp, a literacy program for below average scoring 2nd and 3rd graders. “Joe was most proud of working on educational reform,” remembers Maria Serna, his sister. Mayor Serna helped revitalize downtown Sacramento by starting Thursday Night Market, Farmers Market and the Neighborhood Services Department, which “consolidates city services that support neighborhoods and customers.” He was a member of the board of directors of “Freddie Mac,” a federal home loan mortgage corporation, and the League of California Cities, co-trustee of the Crocker Art Museum and part of numerous other vital and prestigious groups. Sacramento’s EPA building, the Sac State plaza and a Lodi charter school are named after Joe as well as a state law, the Joe Serna Farm Worker Housing Act and the Sacramento Unified School District education center.