Council Member, City of West Covina
James Toma and his wife, Minerva, chose West Covina as the place to raise their two young children for the promise of safe neighborhoods and good schools. Their two children currently attend schools in West Covina.
Growing up James attended seven public schools and did not plan to go to college until late in high school. Despite his late start, his academic achievements led him to ultimately be accepted to Yale University. To make ends meet, he worked as a dishwasher, newspaper deliverer, custodian, and dining hall worker. He graduated from Yale in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in Ethics, Politics, and Economics.
After becoming the first college graduate in his family, James went on to earn a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley. He served as a legislative aide in the state capitol and successfully shepherded legislation into law to toughen penalties for elder abuse. James also served as a consultant to the Assembly Public Safety Committee, where he analyzed criminal justice legislation and organized statewide hearings on high technology crime and elder abuse.
James is an active member of several organizations. He has served as President of the Friends of the West Covina Library and the Japanese American Bar Association (JABA). He has previously served on the Executive Committee for the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) Litigation Section.
James’ parents taught him the importance of contributing to the community. James has long believed that working to improve the lives of others is the most important work that can be done. He has worked with poor, immigrant families in Los Angeles Skid Row, volunteered as a Big Brother, and recruited students of color from urban high schools for his alma mater. He has volunteered at food banks, toy drives, and raised money for Alzheimer’s and cancer research.
When not spending time with his family, volunteering, attending West Covina events, or working, he enjoys running, reading, and following local sports teams.
James was first elected to the West Covina City Council on November 5, 2013. He had the honor of being the top vote getter in that election. He served as Mayor in 2016.
Breakout Session 1.1: Cannabis Economics and Regulations