Renison: Calexico mayor pro tem hopes to take his politics statewide

September 19, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — This city's mayor pro tem, John Renison, is considering a run for the state Assembly's District 80.

"Right now it is exploratory. I want to leave myself some options. I want to make sure I can get enough support to merit this run," he said.

Renison has served on the City Council here since 1996 and was mayor in 1997-98. He was re-elected to a four-year term in 2000. If he won the seat he would have to forgo the final two years of his council term.

He said he has not yet fully committed to running because he wants to make sure he has the support of the people of Calexico.


"I think the commitment of the city is there but that's what is going to be addressed," he added.

Renison would run as a Republican, although he said there have been recent overtures from the Democratic Party.

"If I was to make that prediction now, I'm going to file as a Republican. I've been a registered Republican for 15 to 20 years and I'm not changing allegiances," he said.

Renison is considering a run for the Assembly because of his "commitment to the community."

"Being a politician maybe isn't fun all the time but if you have a sense of accomplishment then it's worth it."

Addressing the challenges of winning an election in a district that is majority Democrat, Renison said, "It's not ideology. It's a question of can you represent the district — will you work your tail off for the 80th?

"It's time for the county to be represented by someone local who understands the border; understands the Mexican Hispanic community.

"I've lived a mile away from the border my entire life.

"My liaisons with Mexican business leaders and political leadership in Baja California goes without saying. It's taken years to establish those ties and those ties have paid off," he said.

Renison considers himself a moderate Republican who "would be receptive to listening to the ideas of all groups."

"You have to be out there like you are running for election every day. People pick up on that if you only go to the barbecue three months before an election," he said.

He realizes there is a local "push to get a Hispanic in (the Assembly)" but stressed his candidacy would address that issue, "because I am."

Renison said his mother was Mexican. His father was of French descent.

He said his heritage would allow him to "appeal to a variety of interest groups. Once they hear my spiel I think that it will become a non-issue."

Renison takes pride in the record he and his colleagues have amassed on the council. He said they have "turned the tide" and restored credibility to Calexico leadership.

"We've conducted our business in an upbeat and positive manner, as opposed to the closed doors of the 1980s.

"We're not perfect but we do not battle publicly and I think we're working for the betterment of the community," he said.

Renison is a 1966 graduate of Calexico High School and graduated from the University of San Diego in 1970 with degrees in Spanish and history. He earned his master's degree in public administration from San Diego State University in 1977.

In the late 1970s, Renison was manager of the Calexico Chamber of Commerce.

In the 1980s, he was

executive director of the county Private Industry Council. He worked to promote the maquiladora program "when it was unpopular."

"Back then people would say, ‘Working with Mexico. What's that about?'" he said.

In 1994 he was hired as director of advancement for SDSU-Imperial Valley campus, where he remains.

If he runs for the Assembly he will focus on economic development, the environment and higher education.

On economic development: "We need to work closer with Mexico." He hopes to get appointed to the Commission of the Californias and meet two to three times annually with Baja California's elected leaders.

"We need to ensure that Mexico's economy is healthy because it affects purchases and retail sales here," he said.

Renison advocates giving "tax breaks to U.S. companies that locate near the border in Mexicali and Calexico."

On environmental issues: "We need to verify that the energy plants (under construction in Mexicali) will meet environmental standards."

As for lobbying the federal government for assistance, Renison said, "The state can work with Baja. Governors in Mexico have a lot more power than governors in the United States."

On the New River: "I think it is mostly (Mexico's) responsibility, although we contribute as well."

Of higher education: "There should be more budget line items to offer the adequate programs and support and curriculum to meet the local needs.

"We're way under the curve as it relates to the ratio of spending — close to last in the state."

On infrastructure: "The highway issues are on the right road but they need to be stewarded: Interstate 7, Highway 111 and the Brawley Bypass — all of those issues can't be left forgotten or put on the back burner.

"You can't assume they will be completed just because there is a budget item."

Renison married Ana Rosa Garcia of Mexicali in 1990. They have one child. Renison has another son from a previous marriage.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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