Claremont Colleges alumni and faculty run for Claremont City Council

Two Pitzer College alumni and a Claremont McKenna College alumnus, who is also a government professor at CMC, are running for the three open seats on Claremont’s city council this November.

They are joined by three other candidates vying for a spot on the five-person governing council.

Zachary Courser CM ’99, the CMC professor, ran for city council in 2017 and lost, according to the Claremont Courier. This year, he is making another bid for the seat.

Courser attributed his interest in politics to his time at the 5Cs.

“The Claremont Colleges made me more civically and politically aware,” Courser said. “The experience I had as part of the Washington Program inspired me to devote my career to public policy. It helped me understand all the work and research that goes into making policy.”   

Courser first fell in love with the city of Claremont when he attended CMC and wanted to become more involved with the community after he moved back to Claremont. Courser has been a long time supporter of the Claremont Homeless Advocacy Program and is chair of the Claremont Traffic and Transportation Commission.

If elected to city council, Courser said he would focus on balancing the city budget and managing the extension of the Gold Line.

“I have the experience and the background to get to work right away on big issues that are affecting Claremont,” Courser said. “I understand the city and the issues we are facing, and I am ready to work with the city and the council to get these issues solved.”

Michael Ceraso PZ ’14 is another one of the candidates. Before attending Pitzer, Ceraso also attended Citrus College in Covina, California, and worked on political campaigns for four years.

Ceraso was part of Pitzer’s New Resources Program, which allows non-traditional students 23 years or older to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“I was 29 when I went back to school, and I was part of the Pitzer New Resources Program,” Ceraso said. “[Pitzer] gave me the critical thinking skills that I [needed] to look at complex problems. Pitzer really developed my ability to write, developed my ability to think through things critically.”

After graduating from Pitzer, Ceraso served as Bernie Sanders’ New Hampshire deputy state director and helped Sanders obtain a 22-point victory in the state primary election. Following the campaign, Ceraso returned to Claremont and participated in the Affordable Housing and Homelessness Ad Hoc Committee.

He also organized Claremont’s first city council candidate forum on homelessness as co-founder of Winning Margins, a community organization that helps local Democratic candidates, according to the Claremont Courier. As part of Claremont’s city council, Ceraso wants to focus on balancing the budget, supporting local businesses, providing adult care, and fostering diversity.

“If you look at Claremont south, beyond the railroad tracks, you’ll see that voter engagement is very low,” Ceraso said. “I believe as councilmen, our job is not only to speak to voters and people who are vocal but also to figure out ways to get people who are not as vocal to be engaged.”

Ceraso hopes to balance the budget without sacrificing key social programs.

“As a candidate, I look at our budget issues; I want to make sure that we stay on budget so we don’t have to cut programs,” he said. “I hope to prevent us from cutting youth programs, programs that serve the elderly, and programs that prevent us from taking care of our infrastructure.”

Jennifer Stark PZ ’98, a Claremont native, is also running for Claremont’s city council. After graduating from Claremont High School, Stark moved away from Claremont but returned in 1994. Stark has worked as a yoga teacher at Pomona College for the last 14 years.

If elected to Claremont’s City Council, Stark would want to help make Claremont more sustainable, advocate for accessible and affordable housing, and foster a positive relationship between the City of Claremont and The Claremont Colleges.

“I am excited to create really high, impeccable standards for new buildings in regards to sustainability,” Stark said. “I also want to see policies that promote diverse housing stock, so that we have housing for all our citizens. In particular, I want to focus on providing housing for our elderly population. Safe, affordable, and accessible housing is one of my priorities.”

Stark attributes her passion for community service to her parents and her four years at Pitzer.

“Instead of getting power, I want to empower,” Stark said. “‘Provida Futuri’ is my motto in life, and I learned that at Pitzer.”

The last day to register to vote in this election is Oct. 22, and election day is Nov. 6.

Jaimie Ding contributed reporting.

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