Q&A with Letitia Clark, Mayor of Tustin
Q: In two sentences, give us an overview of your career journey. How did you get from your first professional role to where you are today?
A: I began my career as an intern and then staffer for the New Orleans City Council shortly after graduating from Xavier University with a degree in political science and public administration. Fast forward—my experience in New Orleans, which included my work for the city during Hurricane Katrina, led to a career in government and public affairs, and eventually running for and winning a seat on the Tustin City Council.
Q:What’s the best piece of leadership advice you’ve received?
A: I had a mentor who quoted Zig Ziglar often and believed in taking calculated risks in life to succeed. She liked the quote, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start in order to be great.” To this day, I think of that quote when I’m nervous or hesitant about starting a new role, initiative or program because it’s not perfect. Once I’ve done my due diligence, sometimes it’s just best to go for it, which has served me well in moving forward in my leadership journey.
Q: What aspect of your job excites you out of bed in the morning?
A: Serving at the local level may seem like small potatoes to some. But I believe it is the most accessible political job to the public, which can be a blessing and a burden. What excites me most about the job, is that there is so much instant gratification, and I can see change happen in the community—often immediately. When someone is concerned about graffiti or debris, as a council person, I can help solve those problems quickly and see the result. And for the capital projects or global issues like housing and food insecurity that take more time to address, the great thing is that I live in the community where the change is being worked on. So eventually, I see the difference that my local policy decisions have in my own neighborhood.
Q: How do you manage high-pressure situations?
A: In today’s age, a lot of tension happens online—through social media, emails, and blog posts—and oftentimes a situation becomes high-pressure because the narrative is far from reality. I try my best to meet people where they are and in-person at our local parks or coffee shops. It’s amazing how much a face-to-face interaction can diffuse tension and help establish common ground, mutual understanding and respect. I also harken back to my time in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina when lives were truly at stake; I compare that experience and my actions to the situation at hand, which always helps put things in proper perspective.
Q: What is your favorite way to unwind after a long week?
A: Family time! Something with the entire family—watching a movie with popcorn and blankets in the family room or a good board game that can last for hours with plenty of laughter.
Q: What is your favorite part about living in Orange County?
A: It’s home! The beaches, outdoor activities, attractions, shopping, and great neighborhoods aside—I love riding down Ocean Ave. in Laguna Beach where my dad was born and getting to pop-in on home games to root for the Tillers at my alma mater Tustin High. My parents live less than 10 miles away, and the occasional run-in with a classmate from grade school is always the best. OC is a place I’m proud to call home.