This final post of 2018 -- my last as your Councilmember -- is more bittersweet than other holiday messages of previous years. The decision to leave City Council was one of the most difficult I've had to make in my lifetime. And while I knew saying goodbye would not be easy, in the period since I made this announcement, you, along with the constituents, friends, colleagues, and staff that I have worked with all these years have only made it more so.
Simply put, I've been overwhelmed by the memories and relationships that we have built together in the 15 years that I've served the 12th Council District. Whether as a Chief of Staff or as a Councilmember, service is a privilege unlike any other. Second only to marrying my wife and raising our two daughters, my time serving the 12th District has been my life's proudest achievement.
Never in a million years would I have thought my life would be so blessed. As a child, I was just a punk kid from the Valley who could have easily ended up on the wrong side of life. My family had little in the way of money and, for a time, we didn't even have a place to call home. It is only thanks to the love and support of my mother, brother, sister, uncles, a few kind mentors, and a community that saw more in me than I saw in myself that I was given the opportunity to be more than what my circumstances might have allowed.
This is the life experience that I brought to bear during my time on Council. I devoted myself to ensuring that families across Los Angeles could feel safe in their own communities and that youth who did not have the most support or resources at home could be given an opportunity to succeed. And, because of hard work -- not just my own -- but of staff and colleagues and the community which supported our efforts, we have made progress on every front.
We've founded and expanded the Devonshire PALS Youth Center which every year provides programming and opportunity for thousands of at-risk youth turning kids who might end up in gangs or on drugs into community leaders in their own right. Our partnerships with non-profits such as the North Valley YMCA have raised millions to provide families programming and opportunities to thrive. We grew our police force and equipped them with the modern tools such as on-body cameras that help them build trust and keep communities safe. We transformed our Fire Department into a metric driven agency and reduced response times for emergencies because, when it comes to matters of life and death, seconds matter. We passed legislation that will retrofit and improve tens of thousands of structures so that when the next earthquake strikes, our residents will be safe. We pioneered new park designs to make them accessible to all children regardless of ability, cleaned up and re-opened Chatsworth Park South, funded the reconstruction and repair of our pools, acquired and opened a new park at the historic Oakridge estate, and broke ground on a brand new 50-acre park in Porter Ranch which will serve as the gathering point for visitors and community members alike. We founded Clean Streets-Clean Starts which has expanded from a small, single pilot project in Northridge to a city-wide program that allows individuals experiencing homelessness to work with community beautification teams and do clean-ups of their local neighborhood while receiving job counseling and connection to services that put their lives back on track.
I could go on and on with this list of achievements. However, all of this is to make one point: nothing happens because of one person. Everything we've accomplished has come to pass because we as a community made it happen. The 12th Council District has among the highest rates of volunteerism, engagement, and civic participation of any area in the City of Los Angeles.
It is only because I am confident in the durability of this progress that I am able to make this decision to move on to the next chapter of my life. There will not be a single moment when the 12th District is without representation on the Los Angeles City Council. My staff will remain in place to ensure that we don't miss a beat when it comes to serving the people of our district. What's more, my colleagues on Council have agreed to take the historic step and hold a vote to seat a new Councilmember to serve the 12th district until a special election can be held. The individual nominated is no stranger to the 12th district. Greig Smith was my predecessor on the City Council and was already twice elected by the voters in 2003 and 2007. There is no person who can match his knowledge and experience in serving the communities of the Northwest Valley.
It is thanks to Greig, his wife Christine, and my staff that I leave my position on Council confident that the progress we've made will continue. And while I am proud of all we have achieved, it is not without sadness that I step away from the work and the relationships that have defined and enriched my life for the last 15 years. The experience is something I will always carry with me and treasure.
As we settle in for the holidays and prepare for the New Year, I look forward to spending more time with my family and the new opportunities that life provides. However, though I am moving on to a new chapter, my devotion, love, and gratitude for the community which has given me everything in life will always endure.
However you celebrate, I wish you the best for a holiday season filled with family and friends. May the New Year bring you blessings and joy and, until we meet again, my deepest gratitude for all the love and support you've given me and our community.