Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is one of the few elected officials in California who could have pulled off a coup of such magnitude. Few seem to have the strength of conviction to stand up and publicly dress-down those who had been their supporters for so long.

On December 10, 2010, Mayor Villaraigosa did precisely that. In a speech to State leaders in Sacramento, the Mayor was willing to take on one of Los Angeles’ largest unions. His intent was to bring a former ally back to the table as a partner to progress, instead of an impediment to reform.

That was how Mayor Villaraigosa chose to cap a year that will be remembered much more for the reforms that our education system saw than for the Race to the Top money that we didn’t win.

For embracing the reforms that California’s K-12 system needs, and for speaking plainly to those who would stand in the way for their own self-serving reasons, PublicCEO is proud to name Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa our 2010 Elected Official of the Year, as part of our Local Government Awards.

It isn’t a speech that wins him this award; rather it is the candid summary of the battles he overcame during the year’s work towards true and lasting reforms that earned him this honor. And he justified our selection by proving that a new approach to reform and progress can be achieved.

In his speech, he describes the litany of actions that a coalition of stakeholders from the community, the Mayor’s office, and the School Board attempted to take, only to face consistent opposition from the United Teachers of Los Angeles.

The mayor partnered with the school board and charter school community to increase the number of charter schools; he partnered with Parent Revolution to pass a Parent Trigger, he worked with LA Unified to turn around the 21 lowest-performing schools, and he partnered with civil rights organizations to fight against seniority-based layoffs.

According to the Mayor, however, “At every step of the way, when Los Angeles was coming together to effect real change in our public schools, UTLA was there to fight against the change and slow the pace of reform.”

Their actions were counter-intuitive to the mission of teachers, caring for and educating children.

“It is no longer acceptable for those who care about our children and our teachers to remain the loudest opponent and the largest obstacle to creating quality schools… where students are engaged,” the Mayor said during his speech.

His speech that day made a statement about how the California and its local governments must approach problem solving in the coming years. His actions, when reviewed along side his comments that day, highlight that it is possible to work against the agenda of a union without necessarily being anti-union.

Mayor Villaraigosa will have to call upon that same sentiment of inclusive resolution in order to overcome the significant deficit that Los Angeles is facing in the upcoming fiscal year.

Should he succeed, he certainly won’t be any more popular. The choices that await him, and the cuts that must happen, won’t make him new friends. But he can continue building upon the respect he earned last year by being as fair in those negotiations as he wanted to be with the reforms of last year.

When you look at what Mayor Villaraigosa accomplished without the labor unions, it’s exciting to see what could come in this year or next if he can bring parties to the negotiation table that often have trouble facing each other all.

Please join us in saluting and congratulating Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for being named the PublicCEO Elected Official of the Year.