60 Minutes with Miguel A. Santana

When the company you work for hires a new President and CEO, you pick up your notebook as fast as you can, you walk over to his executive assistant and you schedule an interview. Sounds easy, right? Well, it would be if everyone wasn’t trying to do the exact same thing!

Fortunately for my colleague Heather and me, Miguel had an opening in his schedule so we met with him in his office where he walked us through his life, his goals and, most importantly, his passion for the work he does.

Did you always know you wanted to work in politics? If not, what inspired you?
The Rodney King riots in 1992 inspired me to work hard to make the Los Angeles general region a better and safer place for people. We have a responsibility to do everything in our power to strengthen and empower our community.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience at Harvard?
I knew what I needed to do, so I only applied to one school – which was Harvard. Packing my things and moving with my family to Cambridge, Massachusetts was truly a transformative experience. I was exposed to East Coast weather, urban living and a very diverse culture of students. That’s where I learned that school is a gift compared to working.

What motivates you to get up every morning?
My kids. I have 4 daughters, ages 19 to 28. Their creativity and their mindfulness of what they do, where they work and their beliefs. They’re courageous in that they pursue what they love and are passionate about it rather than just being practical. They write, sing, create art and have their hobbies. They are their own persons, representative of the future. They practice what they believe every day, and I think that is something Fairplex strives to be: a place where people can pursue their passions and interests. That is a core component of who we are.

Your CV is very impressive, what drew you to Fairplex? What is your vision for Fairplex?
I was drawn by the opportunity to build and expand on what we are currently doing here. From quilters to car aficionados, there are so many people who are drawn to what we have going on at Fairplex. There are so many interests and Fairplex is a place where people can develop their interests and share it with others, and hopefully even make a living off of it. Fairplex represents the best of who we are, and it revolves around the crossing of cultures and interests. The question we should be asking is how do we make this even more inclusive and how do we continue to foster and create new cultures? I look forward to transforming our work into a lifestyle, a community, and a place to live, play, learn and work. I think the Fair is the greatest expression of all of this.

What are some of your hobbies?
Exploring Los Angeles. I like to do something new every week, whether it’s trying new foods, visiting museums or historical parts of the city. In 2016, I spent a lot of time in the Westside areas from Venice to Westchester, so now I am really looking forward is to getting reacquainted with Pomona and the surrounding areas. As a food lover, my goal is to connect to places owned by real people, not chain restaurants.

During your 20+ years in government you’ve tackled some of the region’s most difficult challenges. How do you define success?
Success is what you take from something, what you discover and learn to appreciate from your experience. I’m always looking for ways to develop the potential in everyone, everything and everywhere. This can be applied to our mission at Fairplex, which is to give our guests something meaningful to take away. If we can accomplish this, we’ve succeeded.

Do you think it’s important to get to know the people working at Fairplex? Why?
Our employees are the heart and soul of what we do here. Our people are the ones who make Fairplex what it is and I aim to respect and appreciate the work of everyone here. Each person contributes something unique to the company.

In fact, I want Fairplex employees to know they can always stop by my office. I want to hear what they have to say and how they think we can best fulfill our mission and make company culture what they think it should be. Hope they stop by and say hello!   

It’s been more than 30 days since you assumed the position of President and CEO of Fairplex. What can you tell us about this milestone?
I’ve met with all of the elected representatives for Fairplex, and it’s been an interesting and educational experience.  I enjoyed discussing how we can support each other and how to make Fairplex a place to live, learn, work and play for all the residents of Los Angeles County. 

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with the editors of the Southern California News Group, which not only includes our local paper the Daily Bulletin but the Los Angeles Daily News, the Riverside Press-Enterprise and the Orange County Register. We had a productive conversation that included discussion of the Monday, Feb. 13, Pomona City Council meeting’s study session on F-Zone land uses.

Last month, LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis toured the campus, including The Farm and the Child Development Center. We discussed how the county and Fairplex can work together. Our conversation was positive and we look forward to building our relationship with the entire board of supervisors. 

So far, we’re off to a very good start.

If someone wants to get a hold of you, how can they do so?
They can email me at ceo@fairplex.com, send me a tweet at @FairplexCEO or stop by my office. 

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