“My job involves understanding people and finding common ground to get a project going,” says the senior policy director in the Office of Economic and Business Policy of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “That’s a skill I developed as a leader at LMU. Service learning was important.”
- Los Angeles-born and -raised
- Loyola High School graduate
- Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts graduate, 2006
- UCLA School of Law graduate
- Married: Maria (Jarquin) Pearson ’07
- Member, African American Alumni Association
- LMU student memberships: Alpha Sigma Nu national Jesuit honor society
Magis service organization; Brothers of Consciousness; Beta Theta Pi fraternity; Urban Studies Society; the Learning Community (TLC); ASLMU officer; resident adviser; African American Alumni Association scholarship recipient
Chris keeps his family close to him every day. “I wear a cross around my neck that my grandmother gave to me. And I also use a money clip that my grandfather gave me. He’s dead now. I carry it during important moments or celebrations, or during my accomplishments. My grandfather is not able to be with me. I want him to be there 100 percent, so I clip it to my belt to make sure he’s there with me.”
Of the many business projects he has worked on for the mayor’s office, his favorite is the 2010 reopening of the Maverick’s Flat nightclub and restaurant in south Los Angeles. He helped with the permitting and the financing, keeping the venue locally owned.
“There hadn’t been a mid-level, high-class, sit-down dining experience in south LA in a long time,” he says of the legendary nightclub, which hosted a number of acts over the years, including Ike and Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations and Earth, Wind and Fire. “It’s not a huge place, but it’s a cultural landmark. Since [it reopened], two more similar places have reopened, too. It’s a jewel of the community and has a broad social impact.
“When residents can’t go out and have a meal in their neighborhood, it’s unfortunate. Most people remember going out to eat with their family when growing up. People [in this neighborhood] can now go out with their family. They’re going to hold onto that memory, and I had something to do with that. It means a lot to me.”
Sprouts as Teacher
What pushes him outside his comfort zone? “I’m a foodie,” Chris says. “My favorite place at the moment is Baco Mercat downtown. They have this Caesar [salad] with Brussels sprouts. Growing up, I would never eat a Brussels sprout, but now I do. With the right chef, food is a work of art and takes in all your senses — taste, smell, touch, vision.
“At LMU, I was a dorm food person,” he laughs. “My wife, Maria Jarquin [whom he met while he was her resident assistant], really helped me out of my comfort zone.”
Chris wastes no time when describing his most indispensible tool: his Blackberry. “It keeps me connected and affords me the freedom from having to be at my computer all day. I can visit jobsites and stay connected.
“Government gets a bad rap for not being responsive. My Blackberry allows me to respond.
“Time is money. I can be helpful only if I have information in real time.”
As a student, Chris was a founding father of a chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. “There was this idea that fraternities don’t have a lot to offer black communities,” he says. “We wanted to start the chapter as a sign of community, that fraternities are meant for everyone. They’re bridge builders, not separators.
“We wrote the bylaws of the chapter — how we wanted to act and what we wanted to stand for. We wanted to stand on principle. It took a lot of reflection — we had to ask ourselves, all 63 of us, what we wanted to be and how we wanted to interact with the greater population. And we did.”
“LMU provided me with the ability to donate, and I always wanted to give back,” says Chris, a campaign donor. “It’s important.
“I want to support diversity [at LMU], and having a voice is sometimes driven by the giving of your time and money. My donation will help improve the university.
“And besides, my little brother, Nick, is a sophomore at LMU this year. I want him, and plenty of people after him, to be future beneficiaries.”