'The only way'
Former El Centro head surprised but undaunted by mayor’s critical comments
Randy Ertll said he was taken aback by comments made by Mayor Bill Bogaard regarding his decision to leave El Centro de Accion Social after serving eight year’s as the nonprofit agency’s executive director.
While a number of local community leaders praised Ertll for his work, Bogaard, who typically does not publicly criticize local activists, lit into Ertll, who in recent years has found himself at the forefront of a number of major issues involving police misconduct, immigration and homelessness.
“El Centro has played an important role over the years in supporting and schooling Latino youngsters in our community, and that area of El Centro activity appears to have diminished the last couple of years,” Bogaard said.
“Randy has been occupied with other activities, such as books that he has written,” Bogaard is quoted saying in a story that appeared in the Tuesday edition of the Pasadena Star-News. “It’s possible that his professional interests have evolved from the core programs at El Centro and that he is going on to pursue so to speak the next phase of his career.”
Bogaard stood by those comments on Wednesday morning. “Randy seems to be pursuing a new direction in his career as an author and a speaker. This is an opportunity for El Centro to take a fresh look at its mission and confirm its commitment to providing recreational and educational opportunities to Latino youngsters,” the mayor said.
Ertll, who once served as a spokesman for the Pasadena Unified School District and has written two books, one on growing up in El Salvador and the other on the life of a community activist, did not respond directly to Bogaard’s criticism. He instead defended what he sees as his role as an activist working for a nonprofit.
“I would say that I raised over $3 million in eight years, and that money has helped thousands of students,” said Ertll, who most recently criticized the council for cutting $25,000 in community block grant funding from El Centro. “We are in the trenches, on the frontlines of helping kids. I would say we have had a transformative influence on people’s lives.”
In a letter to the agency board of directors, Ertll, who recently won the Harry Sheldon Memorial Award presented by the city’s Human Relations Commission for humanitarian service, called his work at El Centro a “labor of love.”
“I am very proud of how we improved our community members’ lives,” he wrote. “It is now time for the next new director to come on board with his/her fresh ideas and inspiration to share with all.”
Ertll said he doesn’t have another job lined up, but is awaiting the release of his second book, “The Life of an Activist: In the Frontlines 24/7,” due out in September.
“The role of a nonprofit is to advocate,” Ertll said. His advice for the person who will take his position: “Do not be afraid to speak up and point out the inequities in Pasadena,” he said. “That is the only way we are going to make progress.”