Leo Cabral | Managing Editor
Patricia Lock Dawson, member of the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) Board of Education, and Andy Melendrez, member of the Riverside City Council, are in the running for the Nov. 3 general election to be the next mayor of Riverside.
Recently, in an exclusive interview with the IE Voice and Black Voice News, candidate Dawson shared her qualifications for the job and plans for the city upon her election.
She is an elected member of the RUSD Board of Education where she has served for nine years. If elected mayor, Dawson plans to use that experience to aid her in navigating Riverside’s homelessness, the post-pandemic economic recovery, and city debt.
“Being on the board of RUSD, I have managed an organization and led an organization larger than Riverside,” Dawson said. “The City of Riverside has 2,500 employees and we have 4,300 employees. We have a bigger personnel budget; despite that, our budget is balanced and our pension obligation is secure. That’s more than I can say for the city which is headed for bankruptcy right now.
Dawson said she will use her experience managing large budgets, employee compensation, pension obligations, and fiscal responsibility to aid her in her role as mayor. She remarked, not only did RUSD balance our budget, we fully funded our pension obligation and maintained a healthy reserve all while improving education for children.
“Our graduation rates are at 97%—the highest in the county,” Dawson said. “When I first came on the board they were at 81%.”
While working with RUSD, Dawson focused on trying to improve education outcomes for underrepresented students and students of color. She assisted in the launch of the Heritage Program which focuses on sending African American students to college. She said their “college readiness rates rose over 50 percent.”
Last year, African American students throughout California public high schools had an average College-Going Rate of 59.7% within the first 12 months of graduating.
Additionally, Dawson sees the Black Lives Matter movement as an opportunity to grow through adversity, to make meaningful change, and to bring the “right people to the table.”
“I think it is an incredibly healthy change and it presents an opportunity for us as a society to grow and grow together and correct some of those things from the past,” Dawson said.
During Dawson’s nine years on the RUSD Board of Education she has simultaneously served on the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS). She was appointed in 2010 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and again by Gov. Jerry Brown. During this overlap, she “leveraged” her role with the BBS to create a “model mental health program” at RUSD.
“We actually have now 39 mental health professionals in the district,” Dawson said. “And other districts look to us for ideas on how to help our students with mental health issues.”
Dawson believes that based on her experience with mental health, environmental science, the RUSD board, the planning commission and her networking at the federal, state and regional levels she has the leadership skills to address Riverside’s growing homelessness, COVID-19 recovery, economic growth and budget.
For more information on Patricia Lock Dawson’s campaign and mission visit patriciaforriverside.com.
Leo Cabral is a proud first generation Chicanx multimedia journalist working on their associate degree in journalism at Riverside City College. They are a strong advocate for QTBIPOC visibility and rights. Leo is managing editor at Viewpoints, RCC’s student operated newspaper, and at Black Voice News and The IE Voice.