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Downey Mayor Guerra Has ‘Higher Calling’ at St. Linus Catholic Church in Norwalk

Downey Mayor Mario Guerra gets new "calling" as Deacon at St. Linus Catholic Church in Norwalk. Photo by John Zander of the Downey Beat.

Downey Mayor Mario Guerra gets new “calling” as Deacon at St. Linus Catholic Church in Norwalk. Photo by John Zander of the Downey Beat.

By Brian Hews

Many local elected officials can’t wait to run for “higher office,” especially in these days of voter mandated term limits.

But scores of city councilmembers, mayors, and even the county tax assessor have landed in hand cuffs for allegedly accepting bribes, committing forgery, money laundering, criminal public fraud and lots of other scandalous misdeeds.

Then there is Downey Mayor Mario Guerra, who just may be “the exception to the rule” of those who have been consumed with “bad behavior” in public office.

His pristine reputation as a community leader recently reached another pinnacle when he embarked on a new assignment as Deacon at St. Linus Catholic Church in Norwalk.

Guerra will be participating in Easter vigils as well as Holy Week services at the parish and he couldn’t be more thrilled or in his own words “incredibly blessed.”

Guerra was ordained a Deacon in the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese by Cardinal Roger Mahony in 2002 and his Faith has catapulted him into the record books as being the only “elected official” in California who is a member of the Roman Catholic Clergy.

His path is like many Americans.

Guerra came to the United States from Cuba at the age of 6 back in the mid 1960’s.

Guerra hit the books and after graduating from high school, went on to college to major in Economics.  He then co-founded Scanlon-Guerra-Burke Insurance Brokers and today is now the President of the firm.
The ambitious community leader set his sights on a seat on the Downey City Council and was elected in November 2006 with 64% of the vote.  “It was an amazing feeling to know that the community believed that I had the ability to serve and allow me to give back,” Guerra said.

He was re-elected in November 2010 and has since served as the city’s mayor on two occasions, in 2008-09 and as well as 2012-13.

Guerra has become somewhat of a local political rock star and has named the “Non-Partisan Elected Official of the Year for Los Angeles County.”

“I have my priorities down pat. My family, my faith, and my community mean everything to me. Life is about giving unselfish service, and in these tough times all of us need to show more compassion for our neighbors,” Guerra said.

Guerra loves being on the Downey City Council, and talks glowingly about “all the good things that we have done, together as a community.”

“I look at religion and serving as an elected official as being the same thing, it is about serving the community,” he pointed out.

But, his path in life was also filled with tragedy and grief, and he even left the Catholic Church all together at one point in his life.

“I left the Catholic Church for many years. My brother was killed in a plane crash along with my uncle and two cousins after they left the Long Beach Airport. I was going to be the co-pilot with him on that horrific day back on June 9, 1979,” Guerra said.

“They took off from Long Beach Airport and were going to Catalina Island and I couldn’t go that day because I was a little league coach.  They had mechanical problems and tried to land on the Long Beach Freeway and he pulled up at the last minute to miss a couple of Long Beach Press Telegram Reporters. All of them perished that day,” Guerra recalled. “I was obviously very angry at God and I took it out on my Faith and I left the church for a long time.  Ironically, it was my aunt who lost her husband and two kids who brought me back to the Church,” he recalled during his interview.

CHURCH and POLITICS

When asked what is more challenging, church politics or city politics, Guerra chuckled. “It depends. Sometimes our Church can be very human. In city politics you can’t please everyone.  At least with the church, most people know your heart is in the right place and you’re doing something for the right reason.

“Our Church can be very human. City politics you can’t please everyone.  We come with servant hands and loving hearts here to St. Linus and the community,” Guerra said.

“Sometimes some of my fellow city council members in Downey have come to me asking for spiritual guidance.  They realize it is a different calling that I have. I baptized one of my fellow city councilmembers children two years ago, and have been Chaplin for the Downey Police Department for well over ten years,” Guerra commented.

“I have been on many late night and middle of the night calls with family members when their loved one has been murdered.  To me, being a mayor and a member of the clergy has never been a conflict,” Guerra said.

Guerra also pointed out that all five city councilmembers on the current Downey City Council are “devout” Catholics.

Guerra also said that he has his “detractors” in the Downey community.  “Some residents who get angry at me call me names and throw things in my face, you know, some unfair shots.  But I asked for this when I decided to run for public office,” he said.

As his new chapter begins to be written at St. Linus, his days as an elected official will be winding down in 2014 due to Downey’s strict term limit policy.

“I am fine serving only two terms.  We get a stipend of $743 a month to be on the Downey City Council, and that is the way it should be in my opinion,” Guerra said.  “We don’t get medical insurance, or a retirement, no perks, no credit cards.”

STRENGTH IN FAMILY

Mario, his wife Ann, and their five children have made Downey their home for over 30 years. His children are Mario Lewis Guerra, 33, Lynne Guerra Jackson, 32, Matthew 23, Haley 20, and his youngest is Ryan, age 13

“My family is everything to me,” Guerra said.

Last month Ryan was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes, and they have all rallied together in “solid support” of the youngest sibling.

“Ryan is going to be a freshman at St. John Bosco next year and has big plans to play basketball and sports there. We are working through this situation, together as a family,” the Mayor said of his son.

“Trust me; we have the Faith, and the strength to tackle anything.”

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3 Responses to Downey Mayor Guerra Has ‘Higher Calling’ at St. Linus Catholic Church in Norwalk

  1. Elaine Langsdorf Reply

    March 28, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I 100% agree with Yvonne. You are a man of God and want only the best for the Church, people and the community. God bless you, Ann and the rest of the Guerra family.

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