Mel Wilson holds job-related event to get to know
South L.A. residents
By Ural Garrett
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The other Black candidate for Los Angeles mayor in the 2022 municipal election visited South Los Angeles Oct. 30, co-hosting a jobs fair at a strip mall off the corner of Florence Avenue and Gramercy Place.
Businessman Mel Wilson, a former member of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors, doesn’t have the name recognition of U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, who became the frontrunner in the mayor’s race when she announced her candidacy to replace Eric Garcetti as mayor Sept. 27, but Wilson has had a two-month head start on introducing himself to city voters.
Wilson announced his candidacy for mayor in mid-July at a Pacoima shopping center where he helped facilitate the building of a Food 4 Less store 35 years ago.
Though he lacks electoral experience and high-profile endorsements, Wilson has served on various state, national and regional real estate association boards as well as the United Chamber of Commerce of San Fernando Valley, which he once served as president.
He served two different stints on the MTA board, being appointed by former Mayors Richard Riordan and Antonio Villaraigosa. During his second stint on the board he voted in favor of constructing the LAX/Crenshaw light rail, which is slated to open next year.
He said he plans to use his background in real estate to help solve the city’s homeless and housing crisis.
“I’m a housing guy,” Wilson said. “I’m steeped in housing as an advocate. I’ve been an advocate for a large real estate organization promoting ownership for people coming from all income brackets.
“I’ve done that for over 40 years. I used to have a contract with the city of L.A. as a broker for the housing department. I was the first broker for the Restored Neighborhood Los Angeles program. I know how residents can get to a place to build generational wealth.”
Wilson, who also calls himself a “small business guy,” wants to drive business recovery as well.
“Small businesses are where a majority of employment comes from,” he said. “We need to help give them breaks just like we did the big banks. They’re going to create private sector jobs for the communities that we live in.”
Among the voters who turned out to listen to Wilson at the event was strip mall owner Mahmood Harati, who also owns a prosthetics shop inside the mall.
He said he believes in Wilson’s vision to help small businesses. Having owned the strip mall for 10 years and pouring around a million dollars into it for remodeling, he said how difficult it has been for tenants to keep their businesses.
“Basically, we are really hurting here because people around here are low-income and can’t hold on to their stores,” Harati said. “That’s why my stores have been empty for the past couple of years. Their budgets are very low. Before [business owners] can get things going, they go out of business. With people like Mel, maybe Florence [Avenue] will look as good as Century Boulevard.”
Wilson plays off his status as a newcomer to politics with a humorous campaign video entitled “Who Is Mel Wilson.” He has high hopes that he will rise above the crowded pack of more notable individuals that includes City Attorney Mike Feuer, City Councilmen Kevin de León and Joe Buscaino, civic activist Jessica Lall and Encino businessman Ramit Varma, who entered the race last week.
Real estate mogul and billionaire Rick Caruso reportedly has hired a high-profile political consulting firm, a sign that he could be planning to run for mayor as well.
Wilson’s campaign event was held in conjunction with nonprofit foundation Goals For Life, an outlet created by former NFL players as an educational youth development program. According to the organization’s website, former professional football players are carefully trained to deliver a detailed 24-week curriculum in public schools.
“There are a lot of job opportunities within the city of L.A.,” Wilson said. “The Housing Department, [MTA], Department of Water and Power, Los Angeles Police Department and Fire Department are all hiring right now and we all have a tremendous shortage of truck drivers in relation to the issues at the harbor. My goal was to talk about jobs that don’t even require a college degree.”
If elected, Wilson would be the second Black mayor of Los Angeles joining Tom Bradley, who served five terms from 1973 to 1993 and he views himself as a serious contender.
“I’m in it to win it,” he said. “I’m going to fight my way to the top. I’ve been an underdog all my life. “Black, raised by a single parent, born in the segregated south — the odds were always against me. Guess what? I’ve made it in business. I got an education I was told I couldn’t get. I know that we can do this.”