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Thank You, Roz Wyman

MY THOUGHTS - I’m sure all of us have had people in our lives who either started or steered us along a certain path. 

Some directly…some who had no idea they were an influence. 

Rosalind Weiner Wyman passed away last week at the age of 92.  She was THE female politician of my era.  I was disappointed the LA Times did not place her obituary on the front page, although maybe it did belong in the California section.  

This is not the reason I want to talk about her today.  Many of you may not be familiar with her achievements but are enjoying them now.   Sports may be the only area that is politically non-partisan.  She was responsible for bringing the Dodgers to LA, the Giants from New York to San Francisco, and the Lakers to LA from Minnesota.  

In 1953 Roz Wyman became the youngest person at 22 ever elected to the L.A. City Council. and the second woman to ever serve. The first female on the City Council was elected in 1913.  Los Angeles wasn’t exactly the poster child for electing women to political office.   The story goes, she and a few Democrats were looking for someone from the Westside to run for City Council. When they couldn’t find anyone they all liked, the group selected her. Sort of a George Bush Jr, Dick Cheney situation 

She grew up loving baseball and one of her major campaign goals was to bring major league baseball to Los Angeles.  She loved this City and wanted to be the best in both the Arts as well as sports. When she saw Walter O’Malley, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was looking to move his team, she began an all-out pursuit.  When he couldn’t get Brooklyn to build him a new stadium and Wyman showed him Chavez Ravine, he became interested. 

That particular coup for the City, probably cost her a career in elected office. It had been cleared to build public housing, but nothing happened.  Unfortunately, an entire community…mostly Latinos, were previously evicted and they turned their resentment onto Roz.  

As important as sports is to many of you, it is not the reason she has a special place in my life.  She was my inspiration to enter a form of public service.  We all have several people in our lives who have influenced us to follow or change paths.  I bet our politicians running for elected office next Tuesday, also had someone inspire them or perhaps motivate them, to undergo one of the most grueling and humbling experiences of their lives. 

I was still in High School, when the Councilwoman came to speak to the student body about her job, her education (she was a Trojan) and some of the things she wanted to accomplish.  I was writing for the school newspaper, “The Highlights”, for those of you who are Alumni.  I remember being mesmerized by this gracious, bright young woman, who was definitely making a reputation in this man’s world.  No “token” was she. 

Listening to her, I remember thinking, like it was yesterday, “I want to be the first Lady Mayor of the City of Los Angeles…if she doesn’t beat me to it first.”    At that stage in my life, it was OK to dream and the fact I wasn’t yet an American Citizen, didn’t stop me. 

She ran for other offices and lost most to some of our illustrious politicians.  She literally became the leader of the LA Democratic Party.  She was the first female Chairman of the National Democratic Convention when it was held in Los Angeles.  She had an illustrious career behind the scenes both fundraising and managing campaigns.  She was known as a power broker. 

I kept track of her various projects and was happy she hadn’t yet run for Mayor.  Meanwhile, after College, I had joined a small trade magazine for the apparel industry and decided to become active in industry affairs.  Perhaps fifteen years ago or more, I was sitting in the LA airport and who should sit down next to me but Roz Wyman, taking the same flight to Washington DC.  We jaded Angelenos are so accustomed to seeing celebrities in the supermarket, the park etc. that we have learned not to gush or even acknowledge their presence.  But…I couldn’t restrain myself.    We chatted a bit and she asked me why I was going to Washington DC.  It gave me the perfect opening and I said really it was “your” influence. 

She was very surprised, since she didn’t recognize me as one of the Party activists.  I explained the story briefly and I had the opportunity to thank her for influencing me to take this path.  When she passed away last week, I drank a toast to her achievements and thanked her again for steering me onto this life. 

I can’t end this without commenting we have had some great women who have accomplished extraordinary things for this City and this Country.  Then I look at some of our current female examples, fortunately most out of our State, like Kari Lake (Arizona), Marjorie Taylor Green (South Carolina) Michelle Steele (California) none of whom will ever be inspirations, heaven forbid, for the young women coming along.   We hear a lot of talk about civility these days, or I should say lack of civility.  These three are good examples of what not to emulate. 

Please Vote-We all have an important stake in this election. 

(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatchLA columnist and a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected])