Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-El Monte) announced her retirement Saturday at the age of 86.
Napolitano, who has served in Congress for 24 years after a long career in local and state politics, made the announcement at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday morning for the Grace F. Napolitano Nature Education Center in La Puente.
"This is the only city I have represented for all those years, even before in the state Assembly," she said. "That is why it is fitting that I here today announce the end of this term, which is in 2024 I will be retiring from the United States Congress."
Napolitano represents California's 31st Congressional District, which includes El Monte, West Covina, Covina, Baldwin Park, Azusa, Bradbury, Duarte, Irwindale, South El Monte, Industry, La Puente, Avocado Heights, West Puente Valley, Valinda, Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne and Monrovia.
"I am incredibly grateful for the people of the San Gabriel Valley and the people of Southeastern Los Angeles County for the trust they have bestowed in me to represent them for a quarter century," she said Saturday. "I have lived in this community since I moved to Norwalk, California in 1960. I have seen our region grow with ingenuity that has built some of America's greatest businesses, and the desire for residents to live in a kind, picturesque, and family-friendly community that has made millions of people move here, build homes, and have their own piece of the American dream.
"I am proud of the work we have done together that has improved this community."
Napolitano ticked off a long list of her accomplishments, including the Gold Line connecting the San Gabriel Valley and East Los Angeles to the rest of the county, and "over 20 highway-rail grade separation projects and 40 grade crossing improvement projects."
She mentioned being the founder and co-chair of the Mental Health Caucus and the National Guard Youth Challenge Caucus in Congress, and expanding water recycling capabilities.
Napolitano also thanked her staff, family, and "the invaluable political supporters who have helped me throughout my career including organized labor, Emily's List, and other women's groups, Latino organizations, and the long list of volunteers who have helped on my campaigns."
"Thank you all so much for being here and this great honor," she said. "My focus has always been representing my district, first; state, second; and nation, third. We still have a year and half more of work to do, and I will give 110% every day fighting for the San Gabriel Valley in the United States Congress. Thank you, all! God bless!"
Napolitano's congressional colleague Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, was also on hand at Saturday's dedication.
"I knew she was a fighter for her constituents, but it wasn't until I went to Congress and joined her that I really got to see what a fighter she is," Chu said, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. "Thank goodness she's the lead on water because together we were able to secure $20 million in the last two years to help with that cleanup effort -- Thanks to Grace."
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn also paid tribute to Napolitano.
"Congresswoman Grace Napolitano has been a friend of mine for years and a friend of the county of Los Angeles for decades," Hahn said in a statement released Saturday afternoon. "Over the course of her long career, she has been perhaps the single greatest champion in Congress on all things water, from access to safe clean drinking water to investing in our port infrastructure. She has always led with heart and compassion and an unwavering commitment to the communities she serves and loves. We are lucky to have had her fighting for all of us in Congress for as long as we did."
Napolitano began her political career in 1986 on the Norwalk City Council, and was appointed mayor of that city in 1989.
Napolitano was elected to the state Assembly in 1992, and won election to Congress in 1998.
She's the highest-ranking California member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, where she currently serves as ranking member on the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, which oversees EPA's Clean Water Act and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water programs.
She also serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources, dealing with such issues as conservation, water recycling, desalination and groundwater management.
Her retirement touches off a battle for an open seat in the largely Democratic district. State Sen. Bob Archuleta, D-Pico Rivera, Citrus Community College Trustee Mary Ann Lutz and Baldwin Park Planning Commissioner Ricardo Vazques have already opened campaign accounts to run, according to the Los Angeles Times, which cited information from the Federal Election Commission.
Napolitano endorsed Archuleta on Saturday, according to multiple reports.
"I have known Bob for over 30 years. I endorsed him when he ran for Pico Rivera City Council, where he did a great job, I endorsed him for his current state senator position, where he continues his passion for serving, and now I am proud to endorse him for my congressional seat," Napolitano told Los Cerritos Community News.