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Henry Lo

Episode 057

Mayor from the School Board

Henry’s history of public service spans over 20 years. In March 2020, he was elected to the Monterey Park City Council, District 4, and made history as the City of Monterey Park’s first openly gay Councilmember.

Previously, Henry served from 2003 to 2020 on the Garvey Elementary School District Board of Education. As a Board member, he co-founded the Garvey Education Foundation, which has raised community support for the schools in the district since its founding in 2007.

As a proponent of creating collaborative relationships between public agencies, Henry’s leadership helped to develop an academic partnership between the Garvey Elementary School District and East Los Angeles College.

Between 2016 and 2020, Henry was appointed to the City of Monterey Park Economic Development Advisory Commission, where he and his fellow commissioners provided input on how to improve the city’s economic climate.

Since 1999, Henry has been an advocate for our communities to the State of California and has served as staff for several of the San Gabriel Valley’s state legislators, including State Senator Dr. Gloria Romero, State Assembly member Mike Eng, and State Assembly member Ed Chau.

Henry is the son of working-class immigrants who came to California seeking the American Dream. He grew up as a latchkey kid while his parents worked and were the first in his family to attend college.

Henry received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Government from Colby College and a Master in Public Administration from the California State University, Northridge.

Henry’s community involvement also spans his interest in civic affairs and progressive politics. He was an elected delegate to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party from 2007 to 2020.

Henry also served on the Boards of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Los Angeles Lodge; OCA-GLA; the Gay Asian Pacific Support Network (GAPSN); and Asian Pacific Islanders for Human Rights (APIHR).

Henry has received recognitions from the Los Angeles County Democratic Party as the Pat Eastman 2020 Democrat of the Year and 2010 Democrat of the Year, representing the 49th District; the Garvey Education Foundation for their 2017 Pioneer of Education Innovation Award; API-Equality LA for their 2017 Trailblazer Award; Stonewall Young Democrats for their 2016 Hero Award; the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association for their 2015 Outstanding Youth Award; and, Chinese-American Citizens’ Alliance, Los Angeles Lodge, as a 2008 “Public Service” Awardee.


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Henry Lo Takeaways

  • Henry grew up outside of Los Angeles near Monterey Park.
  • Henry worked hard to make his hard-working parents proud.
  • Henry was elected Garvy School board and stayed there for 17 years.
  • Henry was able to make connections to students at Garvy because of his similar background to the students.
  • Henry then became Mayor of Monterey Park.
  • Henry is a good friend of Scott’s. He is a politician and public servant, especially in education. On the SGV Master Key Podcast, Russell and Scott talk to the first openly gay council member of the city of Monterey and the mayor of Monterey Park.
  • Henry started his career 17 years on an elementary school board of education. Henry served for the same school district where Russell went to school.
  • “They really personified that work ethic, especially you see as working-class immigrants, but I always said that she shouldn’t have had to work as hard as they did.”
  • “I think that we all acknowledge that climate change is an existential threat to our community, and it’s going to take all of us working together to address it, and yes, change does begin at the local level.”

Were you born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley?

Henry was not; he was born in Los Angeles Chinatown in 1975.

He lived there for several years until his parents moved further east. It was very close to his part of LA, and he would spend a lot of time in Monterey Park.

The San Gabriel Valley was something of the American dream for his family because it represented a place with excellent amenities and good schools.

And when Henry became a council member, he realized the American dream for them and made them proud.

And even though Henry’s parents worked extremely hard and were not educated beyond middle school, they were also a success story. They earned enough to buy a home, provide for their family, and make sure Henry had a place to feel safe.

It led Henry to have that drive to work in public service. He always wanted to make sure that people would have to work as hard as his parents did for him.

When he ran for the Garvey school district, he saw that the students in that community had a similar background, with parents working hard and struggling. He felt like he was helping raise the visibility of that district and how to allocate resources to Garvey families.

Henry’s parents were immigrants to America. They came from Hong Kong but spoke Cantonese. They immigrated together to the Bay Area of San Francisco. Henry can speak Cantonese.

It’s obvious you have passion; you must feel lucky in what you do.

Henry’s day job, outside of being an elected official, is serving as a staffer. He has been a staffer for three members of the Democratic Party and servers in state legislatures.

Where was this passion born from?

Henry’s hard-working parents inspired his passion for helping people who struggled.

His father worked two jobs. He worked as a machinist during the week and at a Chinese restaurant on the weekends. And his mother worked five days a week as a seamstress.

To Henry, his parents also represented the problems with society. They were the perfect myths of Americans who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. It also highlighted the injustices in society as well.

He also acknowledges that his parents were lucky because, with blue-collar jobs, they could settle down and buy a house in a city where they probably could not do that now.

Garvey used to have the reputation of being not very good and was associated with gang violence.

This was something Henry wanted to change when he first started with the council in 2003. He tried to address the image of the school. To raise its profile to bring in rescuers.

How do you handle parents needing more time to help their students?

Henry truly believes that parents who are extremely busy outside of their Children’s lives care and they will make the time. They will find that extra 10 dollars or set aside an hour to volunteer a month. They understand the importance of education.

Is the Monterey Park you live in now better than the one you went to as a child? And do you think the country is in a better place than it was?

Henry believes that Monterey Park has a lot of advantages. There has been a lot of development and business done in the area. The new tax flow can help the schools grow.

However, there are serious issues that are rooted in society that are hard to address. Affordability, traffic, school safety. Some cases change the dynamics of a community.

Henry has concerns about the country as a whole. Is the American dream a cliché, is upward mobility even possible or is that only for the elite? That’s what he is concerned about.

Even with his concerns, Henry is proud of his contributions to Monterey Park and the positive influence on his community. Henry also knows that a mayor shouldn’t take their time in office for granted because one should not assume they will be re-elected, so he tries as hard as he can now.

Picture of Henry Lo

Henry Lo

The Cascades Fountain in Monterey Park.

The Edison Trail, which is small and a nice short, approachable trail.

East Los Angeles College because it is a great school and has reached for beautiful art worldwide.