This article is the second of a three-part series featuring a sit-down interview with Compton Mayor Emma Sharif
By Dennis J. Freeman
COMPTON (The Bulletin) – In an exclusive one-on-one interview with The Bulletin publisher Dennis J. Freeman, Compton Mayor Emma Sharif covered a plethora of topics, including public safety, fixing the citywide pothole issues, what it means to be a Black woman in politics today, and taking Compton into the future.
The most daunting task that Sharif feels she is confronting now is securing enough resources to make her city move forward.
“Well, right now it’s funding,” Sharif said matter-of-factly. “We need funding for streets. We need funding to actually do our buildings. We need a lot of things. We have a lot of things we need to get done here in the city in order for the city to be at the level that it should be.”
One tool Sharif and the Compton City Council hope to utilize in their favor is getting lobbyists to speak on their behalf.
“Well, right now what we’re doing we’re working with our lobbyists to make sure we get all the different grants that we can get,” Sharif said. “We’re working to make sure we are there when those things happen so we can be right…I’d put it like this: at the front of the line and try to make sure we can receive grant funding that we need. We need additional funding for our street repairs. We need additional funding to try to help [with] ways upgrading the buildings here in the city of Compton. Those are the things we really need to get done.”
Sharif was elected mayor after defeating Christian Reynaga during a runoff election in 2021. Aja Brown had decided she had enough of governing the city and chose not to stay on as mayor of Compton after eight years of service.
It was eight and done for Brown who left Compton with just as much baggage and issues as there was when she became the top elected official in the city. Sharif is now trying to tackle those issues head on. After years of working alongside Brown as a member of the Compton City Council, Sharif reluctantly took the initiative of running for mayor to winning into now governing as head of the city.
Three central issues sit at the core of Sharif’s tenure as mayor. The first challenge was and is getting long promised street repairs to bear fruit. Simply put, residents of Compton want those annoying and costly potholes to be gone. Sharif is well of this headache of a problem. She and the City Council are moving on it as quickly as possible. A bond measure has helped in getting some 21 streets to be repaved, which Sharif is excited about.
“We were able to put a bond piece together, which allowed us to be able to get funding, a large amount of funding, in order for us to be able to do street repairs, and that’s what we did with the first twenty-one set of streets that we have going on right now,” Sharif said. That’s something that I was really proud of because we got that taken care of. And so right now, with these twenty-one streets, we’re actually moving through different phases.”
That’s just the beginning, she said.
“We have miles of streets that need to be done,” Sharif remarked.
The second issue that could reflect on Sharif’s electability as mayor in the next election go round is public safety and her ability or inability of putting the hammer down on street takeovers and violent crime. The third vital element of Sharif’s time in office as mayor is the economic redevelopment in the city.
There are other pressing matters to solve such as the city’s homeless problem, getting the Artesia Bridge up and running again and weeding out deputy gangs that Sharif must address with urgency. However, fixing the lingering potholes issue, making residents feel safe, and flipping the image of the city with a robust economic redevelopment plan are at the top of the fixable problems for the former Compton councilwoman.
Being in the mix of political adventures and becoming a public servant was not something that Sharif had aimed to do originally.
“It was not something that I had envisioned in my life doing,” Sharif said. “It wasn’t something that I said I want to be ab elected official. It’s something that I never thought I was going to do anyway. It wasn’t something that I dreamed of doing, but I always wanted to help people. But being an elected official was not on the top of my list.”
Instead of going into the elected official business, Sharif had plans for the next best thing and that was to be an attorney.
“I love law,” Sharif admitted. “That’s what I desired to be was an attorney, but I had four children. Sometimes, you have to put things aside in order for you to move on with your life. I was telling someone I was applying to law school and when I went for an interview and in talking to some people, they were saying well, you know, you’re not going to be able to work your first year. I was like, ‘I can’t do that. I gotta go to work.’ I can’t do that I don’t think. Not right now. Law is a passion of mine. It’s something that I do love. But I do love this as well because it’s given me an opportunity to help a lot of people.”
Despite her efforts to improve the city since being elected, Sharif feels she hasn’t done as much as she would like to do.
“Not to the point of where I would like to do it,” Sharif said. “No, I don’t. Like I said, [I’m] still trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together; not a puzzle but just trying to put everything together to make sure you have what you have in this city to provide those services to the community, and that is a challenge that we are facing right now.”