Charity Chandler-Cole (Courtesy Photo)
Charity Chandler-Cole (Courtesy Photo)

Charity Chandler-Cole didn’t grow up dreaming about running for office of any type. Her childhood however, had been preparing her for that destination all along. She is now running for a seat on Gardena’s City Council, hoping she says, to make her city a viable and quality place to live.

“[My family and I] are tired of having to drive to other cities for things like good schools, restaurants and shopping,” she explained to the Sentinel in a recent interview.

“I decided to run for office to improve the quality of my life in the city that I’m in…”

Her drive to make Gardena a better place to live comes from an unstable childhood, wrought with constant fear and insecurity. Chandler-Cole and her siblings started out in some what normal home, or so it seemed on the surface. But as it often does, divorce changed their lives.

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

“I grew up all over the place really. I was born right here on 7th and Adams, lived in Carson, Compton, West L.A., Gardena, Hawthorne… my family kind of moved around. Though we weren’t rich, we weren’t even middle class, we were a happy family. When I turned 10 my parents got divorced and my mother got breast cancer,” Chandler-Cole recalled.

“There are six of us total. My life drastically changed when I turned ten and my mother got cancer. I had to take ownership of our family.

“My mom gave up due to depression. We took care of ourselves by stealing and I began selling drugs when I was 14. Statistically, I was supposed to get pregnant. When I left the group home I had been placed in… I did.”

Through all of that, she said, the city of Gardena represented love and hope. It had been a safe haven, somewhere she lived when her best friend’s family took her in. It was where she first began turning her life around by getting a job at the Hometown Buffet there.

She is now married and raising a blended family of five children with her “loving and supportive” husband Terry, who is also making his mark around Los Angeles and in the city of Gardena, something she says, makes her run for City Council so crucial.

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

“When I was pregnant with my daughter, I started noticing that we weren’t happy with the leadership in our city,” Chandler-Cole said.

“So, it’s that saying, ‘when you want something done, you have to do it yourself.’ I’m all about creating a strong democracy. Democracy is not a spectator sport but we have way too many people watching and not enough people involved.

“So, we need to find ways to get our citizens engaged. A lot of our seniors in the city are engaged but folks under 50 are just not interested. They feel like their voices aren’t being heard.

“They’re just coming. They’re living. A lot of them aren’t even working in the city. They’re just living life like what happens in Gardena doesn’t impact them.

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

“I also want to find ways to bring more services to our community. We hear economic development all the time. But it’s really about economic prosperity. Are we bringing in the right businesses and services?

Are they what people in Gardena want? Are they going to thrive?

We have a stadium being built not too far from us. What are we doing to prepare for that?”

Chandler-Cole said her life thus far has prepared her for the job.

“I began working at City Financial in 2006 and I decided to go to community college while working there,” Chandler- Cole said.

“I had been in the transfer program at West L.A. College when I did a tour of Loyola Marymount University. I loved it.

“It was the only school I applied for because I wanted it so bad. I paid for school through the work study program.

“I graduated in the top 5 percent of the school. I got financial aid, as many scholarships as I could, I did whatever I had to do. LMU offered me a position as a financial aid counselor right after I graduated in 2012.”

She finished grad school in 2015 with a degree in public administration.

“The degree I got prepared me for running a city,” she said.

“I want to be the voice of Gardena’s residents. The endorsement that matters to me is not of an official, its of my neighbor who wants to see the water quality improve or the one who doesn’t want to leave Gardena so her daughter can get a good education…

“Once I dedicate my life to doing something and staying somewhere, there’s going to be change whether I’m in an elected seat or not.  Being elected gives me the platform and legitimizes my position when I want to fight for these things.”