Mayor and professor Tom Chavez is the ideal image of a “Superman.” He has established his primacy as mayor of Temple City and as a business instructor at Pasadena City College for the last 23 years.
A mayor, lawyer, father and professor, Chavez came to teach at PCC in 1992. He has now been at the school for the last 23 years and has been a lawyer for 30 years. He started to teach through a friend who introduced him to the campus and he immediately took great interest in the paralegal program that was offered and became permanent.
He may not appear with a blue costume, a red cape or an “S” on his chest, but it’s clear that he serves his people. As a working lawyer, professor and mayor he can share not only the academic knowledge he has, but also real life world experiences and what it takes to be successful in the field.
“I’m a creature of habit and when I like something I just keep doing it so there is no reason for me to look elsewhere. As far as teaching goes I get everything I can being here at PCC,” Chavez said. “Now that I’ve reached a certain point in my life I can have a certain balance that seems to level all three jobs. I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.”
Before Chavez became a professor he went to law school in hopes of getting into real estate since it was the family business. He took a real estate law class at East LA College and ended up liking the legal aspect of it.
Soon after, Chavez went to law school and has now been an attorney for decades. Seven years after being an attorney, one of his friends told him to teach at PCC and he has been here ever since.
As far as politics goes, Temple City was undergoing some problems many years ago and Chavez was involved in different aspects of the city at that time. During those years people urged him to run for city council and he listened and soon after was elected. Now he is serving his second 4-year term and is also serving his second term as mayor.
“I think being an elected official brings a whole new perspective to the dynamics of the class and we can try to use that and how the law works and how it works with politicians, especially with ethics,” Chavez said.
He is also a father who is able to manage his time with all the different tasks he’s responsible for throughout his day. In everyday life there are different roles to be played and even though all the roles that Chavez takes are all complimentary, they are also different.
“I get a lot from each career,” Chavez said. “From the law I get that challenge of representing clients. From teaching I have the opportunity working with younger students and getting them interested in the law and then of course politics is just being involved and giving back to my community.”
David Sanepour, a former paralegal student of Chavez’s at PCC, said he was impressed with Chavez’s multitasking abilities.
“Its not easy to be able to manage three or four different tasks at once—being a father, being a teacher and being a mayor …,” Sanepour said. “In order for you to be able to perform all three it takes a very special and unique individual.”
His ambition isn’t to go into higher office or to be known as just a good professor. Instead, he wants to initiate change by establishing a new set of ethics rules and protocols for all his students to follow.
“He’s a man of the people, he honestly cares about each of his students and the populace of Temple City and his clients,” said Kathleen Sandford, a current student of his.
Chavez said that he knows being an attorney and his career in politics will come to an end eventually simply because he has been practicing law for quite a while now and politics has term limits.
But when it come to teaching, he says, “I will teach as long as they let me teach it’s something that I do enjoy.”