The new mayor of Beverly Hills said his ethnicity places a heavy responsibility on his shoulders to represent Iranians in a positive light and pave the way for more Iranians to enter politics.
“The main reason I ran is that I feel like opening the door,” said Jamshid (Jimmy) Delshad.
Delshad, a CSUN graduate, is Beverly Hills’ first mayor of Iranian descent.
Los Angeles houses the biggest community of Iranians outside Iran. Out of approximately 33,000 residents, Beverly Hills is home to nearly 8,000 Iranians.
Delshad, 67, said he has fond memories of his early years as an undergraduate. He enrolled about 48 years ago when CSUN was San Fernando Valley State College.
“When I was there, there weren’t that many Persians,” he said. “People were looking at us saying, ‘Where are you from? Persia? Where is that in France?'”
Delshad recalled that he and some friends formed an international club, where once a month they would gather, play their countries’ music and eat their specialty foods.
Delshad also formed a band with his two brothers playing the santour, which is a traditional Iranian instrument played by tapping on strings pinned to a horizontal base.
“We’d go out and play Christmas parties or Hanukkah parties,” he said.
From the beginning, Delshad said, education was very important to his mother. A college graduate herself, in 1945 she opened up the first girls’ school in the Iranian state of Shiraz.
Delshad first moved to Minnesota with his older brother, who was accepted to the University of Minnesota. Upon moving to Minnesota, “we worked together, went to the same school and used the same books to save” money, he said.
But the brothers quickly became too cold and lonely. Determined to leave Minnesota, and in pursuit of different terrain, they moved to Southern California and enrolled at San Fernando Valley State College.
After graduating with an engineering degree, Delshad worked for a technology company, which sponsored him for a green card.
“I didn’t have to marry anybody,” he said, laughing.
Delshad explained that in an effort to prepare for his political career, he took two years off from work in order to study every aspect of politics.
“I went to every community meeting and council meting, so when I talk it’s with authority and knowledge,” he said.
Delshad found himself in trouble with Iranians and others when election ballots featured English, Spanish and, for the first time, Farsi together all on the same sheet.
Delshad said four years ago he introduced a separate Farsi ballot. But this year, the city clerk, an independent, decided on his own to combine all the languages on a single ballot.
“People were shocked. They weren’t warned and that caused a lot of reaction,” he said. Also, this time around, an unprecedented three out of the six candidates for mayor were Iranian, he said. This, combined with the trans-language ballot, divided the community, he recalled. “That was a mishap.”
Delshad initiated an idea to make the Iranian New Year “Norouz” a holiday in Beverly Hills. He said it would require three votes from the council to approve such an initiative.
Delshad, who has a background in computer technology, said he wants the city to do everything “smart.”
He has become involved in a project to utilize government-funded “smart traffic cameras.” According to Delshad, this means having a “traffic light that goes based on the density of traffic rather than sequence of time.”
Delshad wants to install “active cameras” that are intelligent enough to know something out of the ordinary has happened. For example, if you are walking and fall down, the camera detects that and connects to the police station, Delshad explained.
“So the big brother issue goes away since the camera doesn’t know the difference between people, it just senses that you have a gun in your hand or you fell down,” he said.
Delshad said he feels strongly that the federal government should make Beverly Hills a test city for the new technology.
Aside from the threat of terrorism, Delshad said even though the city is relatively safe, it still has a ways to go.
“There are home burglaries, and people are attacked here and there,” he said, adding that he believes most crimes are committed by people from other cities.
Delshad also wants to install “smart” solar-powered parking meters that scan credit cards and allow people to text message more money while away from their cars.
Delshad said he created a technology community to come up with “smart” ideas for Beverly Hills.
Delshad wants more Iranians to run for politics throughout the U.S. “I thought, ‘If I lose, it’ll be a real let down. Then nobody is going to run,'” he said.
Delshad attributes the Iranian lack of political involvement to a general mistrust of government rooted in their experiences in Iran. He said most Iranians aren’t comfortable giving personal information at the registration process, afraid the information would be used against them.
“So when they come here they try to stay under the radar,” he said.
Delshad said his success elevated the acceptance level of the entire Iranian community.
Still, having two communities watch his moves means he has had to prove himself more.
“I tried to remove everything that was a conflict of interest,” he said. “I wanted to serve my term with dignity.”
Delshad said he is saddened by the current relationship between Iran and the U.S. government. Iranians are very pro-American, he said. Most ordinary people love this country and what it represents, Delshad said.
“I’m just so sorry that the (Iranian) government takes such a derogatory attitude,” he said. “I think it will take Iran 300 years back in terms of PR.”
Delshad entered politics four years ago when he ran and was elected a city councilman. He said it was his term as president of the non-profit Sinai Temple that prepared him for politics.
Delshad said Beverly Hills isn’t the metropolitan city people think it is.
It’s like a little village where everybody knows each other and people are very close to each other, he said.
Aside from his volunteer work as mayor, for which he is paid a token salary of $600 a month, Delshad said he operates a food packaging company, called International Packaging Company.