Evelyn Zneimer said she aims to restore trust in City Hall in seeking the District 1 seat on the South Pasadena City Council in this year’s election.
The 35-year local resident, who has been the elected city clerk here for seven years, said transparency is going to be key in the work to assure South Pasadena’s financial stability in a post-coronavirus pandemic world. She decried the long delay of the ongoing audit for the 2018-19 fiscal year and the manner in which, she said, surprise expenses just seem to pop up.
“I really would like to involve the community. There’s got to be transparency. Right now, no one trusts City Hall,” Zneimer said in an interview. “Transparency is really one of my priorities here, and we have a lot of problems.”
Zneimer touted her career as an attorney as giving her the necessary temperament to navigate political and legal issues facing the city. She was critical of past practices of opting to litigate lawsuits instead of using mediation to reach settlement agreements, as she sometimes does as a judge pro tem for Los Angeles Superior Court.
“I bring in the perspective of an experienced attorney. I’m able to listen to issues,” she said. “[Mediating is] my function, so in our city, that seems to be absent. We have eight lawsuits pending against us at the moment, and a potential other one. I don’t like the stance that you don’t mediate or compromise, because litigation is so expensive.”
Additionally, Zneimer said she would like to help guide the city through police reforms, a topic at the forefront of most metropolitan areas right now. She cited the fatal 2018 shooting of a local resident, actress Vanessa Marquez, by police officers responding to a wellness call as highlighting the need for reforms; Marquez’s mother is also currently suing the city over the killing.
“With the advent of what happened with Vanessa Marquez, I would like the Public Safety Commission to really get involved,” Zneimer said. “I would like de-escalation training with the police, rather than a use of force. They need to understand that that’s not the answer to any civil unrest or criminal act. You just don’t use lethal or excessive force.”
Born in the Philippines, Zneimer moved to the U.S. when she was 16 and later enrolled at UCLA, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in bacteriology; she followed that up by earning her master’s degree in behavioral and molecular genetics from Cal State Los Angeles on a $350,000 research grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Zneimer said that after deciding against teaching, she worked her way up in an investment firm for three years, until the 1980s market crash. After that, it was during a divorce that she decided to begin her legal career; she earned her law degree from the University of West Los Angeles School of Law in 1994.
“I just wanted to understand the legal world in my own sub-compartment of the divorce process, and that’s how it started,” she said.
She began her law career with the Pasadena Legal Center, where she focused on immigration and family law. Zneimer formed her own practice in downtown L.A. in 1998 and has continued to focus on trial and appellate immigration law; she added that she also does some family and criminal law work as well.
Having lived in South Pasadena since 1985, Zneimer watched both of her children go through South Pasadena Unified School District schools. Before she moved here, she recalled telling her friends she wanted a place with good schools, equestrian trails and a golf course; her friends doubted she could find that, she said.
“Well, I found South Pasadena,” Zneimer said. “I’m here to stay.”
Zneimer is challenging incumbent Bob Joe for the District 1 seat.