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Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Yvonne Horton and Jerome Horton at Horton’s swearing-in (photo credit Ian Foxx)
A Dream Fulfilled!
When Jerome Horton was appointed to the State Board of Equalization by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, he became the first African American to be so appointed since 1879.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
At the swearing-in ceremony for Jerome Horton as the state’s newest member of the state Board of Equalization (BOE), the California African American Museum was packed. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger along with the state’s political elite were on hand to witness the ceremony. Some of the distinguished guests present included Speaker Karen Bass, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Senator Rod Wright, Assemblyman Isadore Hall, former Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally, Councilman Mike Gipson (who was also the master of ceremonies), and members of the Tuskegee Airmen and the Buffalo Soldiers.
The Mayor welcomed the Governor and made reference to Horton’s appointment as an first in line with the election of President Barack Obama as the first African American president. Horton and his wife, Yvonne Horton entered the room to the cheers and applause of throngs of well-wishers and to the tune of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’On.
After the MC Gipson introduced the famed Buffalo Soldiers and Tuskegee Airmen, the National Anthem was sung followed by the reading of a letter of praise from the President to Horton. In the background of the stage, stood a large sized photograph of President Obama.
Former Lieutenant Governor/Congressman/Assemblyman Dymally went to the stage and presented Horton with a Masai stick in-keeping with an African tradition of passing the torch (the Masai Stick).
Speaker Bass welcomed Horton back to Sacramento–referring to his recent tenure as an assemblyman–and praised the Governor for his wisdom and insight in appointing Horton to the position, which she said, was unanimously confirmed by the California State Senate. She then introduced the Governor.
Governor Schwarzenegger thanked the Speaker, the Mayor and others, and mentioned some for their special work, including Dymally, “Sweet” Alice Harris, Alice Huffman, and (former speaker) Willie Brown, in absentia. He said, “I appointed Jerome Horton to the BOE because he is the right person that California needs. He’s a great advocate for the people.” The Governor also gave special mention to wives of public officials in general and to Yvonne Horton, in particular saying that the wives are the ones who make what the husbands do possible.
There were musical selections, a singing rendition by a choir of young ladies and a soloist who performed a single vocal selection.
Jerome Horton offered thanks to God for the opportunity to serve once again; and after being in the Assembly and the Inglewood City Council, he has a history of service to the community. He gave honor to his wife, his children and his grand child, and explained what the people of California can expect from him as their BOE representative. Horton also thanked the Governor, the Speaker and the Mayor, and those who helped him, guided him and even “those who tolerated me,” he said. He further stated, “the Governor and legislature do work together fine,” in reference to his appointment and unanimous confirmation. On a lighter moment, Horton said, “Eliot Ness did not get Al Capone; it was the tax man,” referring of course, to the power and authority of his new position.
“I have been blessed with an opportunity to lay a foundation and pave the way for others,” Horton has said, “I believe that success requires a successor and that power is measured by one’s ability to empower others. Accordingly I intend to expand youth leadership and internship programs to empower others to lead.”
Â It is important to note what the BOE does and how Horton’s position and responsibilities will impact average Californians especially the African American community. As a member of the BOE, he becomes the third African American constitutional officer in the state’s history, having previously served 21 years with the BOE as a tax consultant.
The BOE is a public agency that administers the collection of taxes and fees throughout the state and has the authority in the following areas sales and used taxes, property taxes, special taxes, and as an appellate body for franchise and income tax appeals. Last year, the agency administered taxes and fees that produced $53 billion and it employs over 4000 staff members including auditors and attorneys.
U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein has said, “Mr. Horton is very well-prepared for the position of member of the Board; his extensive knowledge and experience clearly make him the most qualified candidate for this position.”
And Maria Elena Durazo, president of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor said, “Horton has the ability to bring people, from all walks of life, together to forge real solutions that generate good jobs and prosperity in California. He has been a loyal friend and confidant and we were proud to support this historic confirmation.”