California Forward is committed to advancing policy intersections that create a more inclusive and sustainable California where all people can prosper. The Voices of Shared Prosperity series amplifies the stories of Californians who are committing their time and talent to solutions that embrace equity, environmental sustainability, and economic opportunity.
The City of Hercules Vice Mayor Alex Walker-Griffin was ten years old when President Obama was running for his first term. That’s when he became interested in politics. “My mother and my grandmother really emphasized understanding who your elected officials are because those are the ones who really create the most change,” said Walker-Griffin.
His interest turned into action when he was in high school and started a cleanup project on the Hercules Waterfront. “I was walking along the waterfront and I just thought to myself, ‘Man, this place is really dirty and I have to do something about it.’” He spoke at a Hercules City Council meeting and after, received a polite email from the City Manager letting him know to leave it alone. “I decided to take matters into my own hands,” Walker-Griffin recalled. “I got a bunch a people from the private sector to help out and I enlisted a bunch of folks from the high school to help out as well. Actually, it’s a reoccurring event to this day.”
After graduating high school, he attended Contra Costa College, where he was a senator, student vice president and student body president for two years. He was later appointed to the California Community College Board of Governors by Governor Jerry Brown. He was one of the founding members of Calbright College, which is the nation’s first 100% online community college.
He returned home and, at the age of 22, decided to run for the Hercules City Council. He had his supporters, but also those who offered “friendly” advice that he should first work in Sacramento or Washington, D.C. to gain experience. But he did have municipal and policy experience working for the City of Richmond City Council, and also working as the chief lobbyist for March for Our Lives and with children with disabilities. In fact he has recently lead the charge to increase Hercules’ budget to include playground amenities for children with disabilities.
“In my opinion, I had built up enough information, not only about the City, but also about many different things,” said Walker-Griffin. “And also bringing a new perspective on it, because I came to find out that I’m the very first councilmember in the City’s history to have grown up in the City.”
Environmental issues and how it impacts cities such as Hercules are among the priorities of the 24-year-old city councilmember. Walker-Griffin introduced an ordinance that would require certain newly constructed buildings (including residential buildings, hotels, and office buildings) be all-electric buildings. He is also working on increasing the City’s supply of electric charging outlets for electric vehicles.
“Most of the challenges that we face, like other cities, involve the infrastructure due to rising sea level changes,” explained Walker-Griffin. “I’ve been here since I was six years old. That’s 18 years. I can just see for myself the water level rising.”
And it’s not just rising sea levels that concern Walker-Griffin. Wildfires and the importance of forest management are always on his mind. “We haven’t been affected by fires like some of our neighbors in Sonoma County, but we do have a lot longer dry season and the risk for fire hazard just continuously goes up.”
To battle climate change, he advocates for infrastructure and new development to be based on electricity, as well as the creation of incentives for older developments to switch over to electric. He also thinks about how food consumption and food waste affect our environment and the importance of eating local instead of shipping food across oceans.
“I think that there’s not just one thing,” said Walker-Griffin. “But there’s a collective range of issues that we need to start addressing if we’re going to start making a dent in some of these areas.”
And if helping to run a city isn’t enough, Walker-Griffin is a small business owner, a member of CA FWD’s Young Leaders Advisory Council (YLAC), serves on the Hercules Education Foundation Board of Directors and is an officer in the California Guard. In his precious spare time, the self-professed foodie says you can find him skateboarding around Hercules.
“For me, it’s not what’s next. It’s more so what can I get done while I’m here.”
CA FWD’s Young Leaders Advisory Council is looking for its next cohort of new members to work toward an inclusive and equitable California. The application portal will open on Monday, May 16.