Petty overlooking Hermosa Beach. Photo by Chelsea Sektnan
City council candidate Carolyn Petty, 49, knew she wanted to run for one of three open city council seats after realizing that Hermosa Beach was in financial trouble and she had the experience to sort it out.
As a Division Controller and Sales Center manager for Coca Cola Enterprises and later an Executive Director at Paramount Pictures, where she worked in corporate finance on Entertainment Tonight and The Insider, she felt like it was her duty to use her financial background to educate the council.
“Last year there was some financial information about our town that was made public, and it was bad,” Petty said. “It was disturbing. When that happened, I knew it was bad for our future because that’s what I do for a living— so I went to a city council meeting and I told them what I felt they needed to do to fix it and I gave my opinion on what their fiduciary responsibility to residents was, and then some people said that I should consider running.”
The political newcomer had previously been unaware of the city’s financial predicament.
“I didn’t realize we had financial issues,” Petty said. “I had no idea, I just assumed everything was fine.”
Originally from New Jersey, Petty moved to Hermosa Beach with her husband to find a close-knit community to raise their family of two young girls. Since moving to Hermosa Beach 19 years ago, Petty has been very active in the area through the Hermosa Beach school district as the auction chair for Hearts of Hermosa for the Hermosa Beach Education Foundation, a part-time job in itself, as well as the CFO of Harbor Interfaith Services in San Pedro.
“I said to the people who said I should run, ‘I don’t think you really know me, but I am not a politician, okay?’” said Petty. “But it was funny because it caused me to be somewhat introspective and I realized when I voted for people in the past, I voted based upon their attributes. So I was like, ‘He’s nice and friendly and seems sincere,’ so I checked the box. It never occurred to me to think, ‘What are your qualifications?’ I just didn’t think about it, now I’m shocked I didn’t think about it. It’s no wonder we have financial problems.”
Petty graduated with a double major in Accounting and Finance from the University of Arizona and also received an MBA from the University of Southern California. For over 25 years she has worked at Fortune 500 companies as well as small start-up companies and currently works part-time as controller at Aurora, technology firm in Torrance where she works on software configuration, strategic planning, cash flow and financial management.
“I thought about it more and there was this one day I was walking my kids to school… and I thought, ‘I’m so lucky to live here,’” said Petty. “And I know that if I get involved, because of my background I can make a difference.”
After her morning walk, she talked with her husband and children about the possibility of running for city council.
“If you love where you live how do you not step up?” she told her family. “We had a long talk about community service and stepping up for what you believe in because it takes time and its a big time commitment, but I talked to my family and that’s why I’m here today.”
Petty wants to focus on upgrading the city’s streets and sewer system as well as working with the local business owners and police to implement a strategic plan that moves towards a more family-friendly atmosphere.
“We have some serious financial issues that affect our future, and it has to be addressed,” said Petty. “People like to kick the can down the road to someone else.”
During a budget discussion in mid-January, Petty noticed a bigger issue.
“The problem is when you want to dig into certain issues it becomes challenging and controversial,” said Petty. “People know it needs to change, but very few people are willing to stand up for what they believe in because they’re so concerned about being reelected or liked. But if you really care about the future of this town you have to figure it out.”
During a discussion at council about pensions, Petty watched the reactions of the current council members.
“Only two of them were engaged and only one appeared to understand what he was saying,” said Petty. “One person never said a word and one even argued with him. I sat there and thought that there’s the problem. If you’re in a city leadership position, you have to figure it out or you shouldn’t be up there. It’s just responsible management, in my perspective.”
Petty also thinks that residents should have strong leadership so residents have all the facts for everything that’s going on in the community— including the potential E&B oil drilling project.
“I hold leadership to a higher standard,” said Petty, “I believe they should be unbiased, because if they’re the ones providing the info and they’re already biased then you can’t trust them, and you have to trust what emanates from them. We have to get the facts out, and then let’s start figuring out what our options are.”
She is confident that if she were on the council, she would be able to provide responsible guidance to help figure out many of the city’s problems that will befit current and future generations.
“I think that it’s your responsibility to the residents who voted you in to figure this stuff out. If you can’t understand it, you can never fix it,” said Petty. “In January when I was thinking about this I thought, ‘Could I really do this?’ So I started researching and learning and I thought, ‘Yeah, I really could do this, I can figure this out.’” ER