The decision to run for political office is one based on a myriad of circumstances, but it’s outcome rest in the hands of voters who determine their fate.
There have been a number of established elected officials whose offspring have attempted to follow in their footsteps.
Former State Senator Kevin G. Murray became the first California Assemblyman to serve alongside his father Willard Murray in 1994.
Curren Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) is the son of former State Senator and longtime Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden.
Others tried, but were not successful.
Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, the 26-year old son of Avis, who was the administrator of the Dispute Resolution Center in the office of the Los Angeles City Attorney and powerful Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, is representing the NEXT generation of African American leadership.
Sebastian’s quest to serve follows in the public service footsteps of his mother – Avis Ridley-Thomas, a pioneer in conflict resolution – and his father, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Chairman of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and founder of the community empowerment movement that has become a model for communities nationwide.
“He is a new generation of leadership, committed to public service in a honored way,” explained 2nd District Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.
The 54th District Assembly Seat that Sebastian is vying for is one that encompasses a long and illustrious history of dynamic African American political leadership, from Ret. Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke, late Assemblyman and Congressman Julian C. Dixon, Ret. Senator Kevin G. Murray, City Council President Herb Wesson, Congresswoman Karen Bass and current Assembly-member Holly Mitchell who is vacating the seat to run for State Senate.
The 54th Assembly district includes Culver City, View Park, Windsor Hills, Ladera Heights and parts of West and Southwest Los Angeles.
“This seat represents significant African American leadership and a cross section of diversity that stretches from Westwood to Western Ave. I am very well aware of its significance because I was raised in the district,” eloquently stated Sebastian in an exclusive interview with the Sentinel.
It was during the Senate Fellow Program where he impressed many state office holders with his acumen and he was subsequently sought after by several senators, but chose to work for then Senator Curren Price.
Sebastian served as Public Policy Director for State Senator Curren Price, advising Price on economic development, transportation, housing, public safety, and local government issues – all of which are of critical importance to constituents in the 54th Assembly District.
“He has seen with his own eyes what can be accomplished as a public servant,” added his father.
His experience as a legislative consultant to the Senate Select Committee on Procurement which is responsible for securing the community’s fair share of lucrative state contracts to qualified small business owners in underserved communities, has prepared him for his first political campaign.
It is a campaign that is already steep in financial resources having surpassed the $200,000 threshold just out of the starting blocks.
A graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, it’s not by design that he has selected to dip into the murky waters of politics. His twin brother Sinclair by contrast is a polished accountant enrolled in the prestigious USC Marshall School of Business. Sebastian and his twin brother came of age as students of participatory politics.
“I’m supportive of both of them, but he and his brother were not raised to follow in my footsteps. I was in my mid 30’s when they was born, so my wife (Avis) and I created opportunities for exposure not knowing where it would necessarily lead,” continued The Supervisor.
It was Sebastian who led Price’s successful campaign to win a competitive 9th District Los Angeles City Council race and that is what inspired him to run for Assembly.
“It was really the encouragement of my community and the work that I did with Councilman Price, helping the Black Caucus in Sacramento as their political director that helped me made the decision to run,” said candidate Sebastian.
His father’s advice was clear; “I told him to think long and hard about it, twice and then some. It’s not for those who are weak. It’s for those who are committed to service and he’s ultimately convinced me of that.”
He currently works at as senior deputy for Councilman Price, focusing on economic development and health.
Sebastian served a full time internship at the Children’s Defense Fund, sponsored by American Baptist, and worked jobs between Washington DC and Los Angeles, while spending numerous hours in seminars.
Deeply grounded in faith, Sebastian was responsible for bringing together some 500 religious institutions spanning all faiths across 30 square miles as Senator Price’s chief liaison to Los Angeles’ faith-based organizations and clergy.
“Living in a house that defines public service leadership, he understands problem solving and conflict resolution,” revealed the elder Ridley-Thomas.
Sebastian says that he learned about conflict resolution from his mother, but recently retired from The City of Los Angeles after 30 years.
If elected to the assembly he will join African Americans Steve Bradford (D-62), Shirley Weber (D-72), Cheryl Brown (D-47), Holden (D-41), Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-59) and Isadore Hall III (D-64), although Hall is a leading candidate to become senator.
Obviously, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas would be the youngest member of the fraternity, but wise beyond his years and oozing the intellect and character, he is poised to embrace public service like his many great predecessors before him.
“From the time he was in elementary school to high school at Loyola and onto Morehouse he has been involved in levels of leaderships that has prepared him. While at Morehouse he took it to another level, traveled internationally, studied theology and history,” concluded Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Assembly is just the first stop for this NEXT generation leader.