William “Rusty” Bailey, a 1999 UCLA Luskin School graduate in Public Policy, won the November election to become Riverside’s next mayor, representing his hometown and the 12th-largest city in California.
Between his Luskin School graduation and election, Bailey interned under Governor Michael Dukakis, was a fellow at the White House in Washington D.C. and worked for the Riverside County Economic Development Agency in New York City. However, what were the unseen obstacles Rusty confronted along the way? He characterizes his journey as a hard-fought battle to represent the community that raised him. A Luskin interview provides Bailey's own words on the story:
"[After UCLA and] my internship with Governor Dukakis, I was awarded a Presidential Management Fellowship from 1999 to 2000, under both Clinton and Bush. It was certainly an interesting transition to experience.
"[As a PMF], I worked in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Executive Office of the President. At HUD, I was involved in the Enterprise Community Initiative, a program delegating over $1 billion to fight poverty. I got to see how local communities were fighting poverty.
"Then, I married my wife, who got a job teaching in Riverside. We wanted to move and raise our family back home. In fact, right when I was offered a dream job overseeing HUD, we decided we weren’t going to stay in D.C. long-term.
"During 9/11 I worked at the County Economic Development Agency in NYC, while my wife was teaching back in Riverside. It was then that I got the call about a teaching position in government at my old high school.
"So, I returned to Riverside, I went into teaching, coached soccer and had a kid. It was the hardest year of my life [balancing everything]. To tell you the truth, it was worse than the campaign.
"[At Riverside Poly High], I was department chair, and eventually took over student government. At that point, I was asked to run for City Council against the incumbent who had name recognition and money. People thought I was crazy, but I couldn’t say no to that.
"I personally walked to 5,000 houses and another 5,000 with the team, but it became a runoff. I got 49.1 percent of the vote [in the initial round] in June. It was a matter of 40 votes that caused us to enter a second round of elections - meaning an additional $100,000 of costs and five months. In the runoff, I beat the incumbent with 57 percent of the vote, surprising everyone.
"After four years, in June 2012, I was reelected with an 87 percent approval rating which allowed the thought of running for mayor. [Riverside mayor] Ron Loveridge, having been in public office for 33 years, even encouraged me to run and promised he would endorse me.
"There were then seven in the initial [mayoral] election and four city council members running for an open seat. I started walking at the beginning of year, personally walked to over 5,000 doors and over 20,000 as Team Bailey.
"My campaign for mayor was definitely grassroots. It was this approach that set us apart. Going door-to-door made the difference in connecting the voters and informing me of the issues out there. They appreciated that the candidate came out the individual doors, and I gained important local knowledge as well.
"[Initially], we got 33% of the vote, also receiving the support of two more of my colleagues. I was now against Ed Atkinson, who was painting me as an 'experienced teacher that lacked any business background.'
"To tell you the truth, it was a hard-fought battle. We outworked them and had more volunteers, so we ended up winning 58 percent versus 42 percent. With the support of Mayor Loveridge, the election result was a pretty clear mandate.
"All the stars simply aligned. It positioned me to take the torch from Loveridge, from one educator to another. [Now, as Mayor Pro Tem], although the demands have increased in terms of time and energy, people have embraced me. They seem to be excited and energized by the manner and message I bring.
"People, though, are looking for the next generation of leaders to step up. I’ve been blessed to have my own mentors, but we’ve got to make sure and find good leaders who look through a lens of public service instead of [focusing on] political gain."
Rusty Bailey will be officially sworn in as Riverside’s new mayor on December 11, 2012.