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Bell Gardens Mayor resigns

Joe Brizzolara

Bell Gardens Mayor Alejandra Cortez, less than a year into her second term, resigned on Monday citing professional and personal commitments. 

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce my resignation from the Bell Gardens City Council,” Cortez said in a statement delivered to her council colleagues and posted to her Facebook page. 

“Time has come for me to transition and focus on my family and my career,” the statement reads.

An official statement from the city confirmed Cortez’s resignation the same day and said the City Council will consider options for filling the vacancy at a future meeting. Cortez’s term is set to expire in 2026.

“The City follows California Government Code section 36512 regarding this issue,” City Manager Michael B. O’Kelly said in an email. “It provides various option[s] for filling such vacancies.” 

State law governing vacancies created by government officials provides cities with alternatives for filling vacancies including calling a special election and appointing a replacement. Within 60 days of Cortez’s resignation, the City Council is required to either appoint a replacement or call a special election which would be held at the next regular election date. 

The City Council canceled their next regular meeting, previously scheduled for July 10, and will next convene on July 24 unless a special meeting is scheduled. 

Cortez thanked community members and her colleagues and stated it had been an “honor to serve this city” and that she was “humbled to have led during some of the most difficult times.” 

Cortez was first elected to the Bell Gardens City Council in 2018 and served as Mayor during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 shutdowns heavily impacted Bell Gardens which relies on the significant revenue generated by the Parkwest Bicycle Casino located near Florence Avenue and Eastern Avenue.

Last year, Cortez told The Los Angeles Daily News that the city lost “about $10 million” when the casino was closed for nine months in 2020. 

Councilmember Marco Barcena was Cortez’s only council colleague to provide a response to the resignation news as of press time. Mayor Pro Tem Francis De Leon Sanchez and Councilmember Maria Pulido did not provide a response to an email inquiry. Councilmember Jorgel Chavez declined to comment. 

“It is unfortunate that the mayor had to step down only months after her re-election,” Barcena said in an email, “But sometimes the right decisions are the toughest ones to make.” 

“The city will continue uninterrupted as we have plenty of momentum and great leadership,” Barcena added. 

Barcena also signaled support for appointing a replacement to Cortez’s seat, avoiding an expensive special election. 

“I would be interested in looking at applicants to be appointed before considering a costly special election,” Barcena said.

Cortez graduated from Southwestern Law School in May and is employed by the Montebello Unified School District as a District Parental and Community Liaison, according to the district’s website. Cortez could not be reached for comment as of press time.