About Karen

At the Glendale City Hall on April 5, 2022.

Like most people, I never thought about running for public office; until a few years ago, I just wanted to write novels. I looked for a candidate who would say the things that need to be said and could not find one, so I figured that I needed to be the one to say them. This is my journey:

I was born in Korea and grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii—a melting pot of many languages and cultures, where people discuss our human differences in a warm, open, and friendly way. As an Asian, I am clearly good at math, so I majored in English Literature at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. Then I worked as an Editor in New York City for nearly 20 years, mainly for scientific and academic publishers.

After my second layoff from a corporate job—due to no fault of my own, of course, I decided to leave New York because I realized that I would never be happy there. I moved to Salem, Massachusetts and worked for the Office of the State Auditor in Boston.

Then I moved to Glendale, California in early 2017. Here, for the first time, I felt at home. However, I had a much tougher time find a job in the LA area than I ever did in New York or Boston. This gave me time to become involved in my community, and it’s funny how things work out, sometimes. I knocked on my neighbors’ doors and listened to their concerns. I talked to many tenants who wanted rent control but were afraid of retaliation if they signed our petition. This is how I first got the idea that the secret ballot at the voting booth might serve my neighbors better than by a public petition, because no one knows how we voted.

My (unpaid) work as an activist led me to City Hall, which was like walking into an alternate universe. The issues I hear discussed by the City Council bear very little resemblance to the concerns that my neighbors express at community meetings. I found this disconnect fascinating and have been a regular at City Council meetings ever since, as often as my paid work allowed (https://www.linkedin.com/in/karenkwak1704). My main reason for watching City Council meetings remains the same—it’s free entertainment. City government really does not do what most people think it does, and I have been explaining this to friends and neighbors ever since.

I also frequently convey my neighbors’ concerns to City Hall. Although our rent control drives have not (yet) succeeded, we have gained some victories like creating the new Tenant-Landlord Committee to make sure that tenant issues are heard by the City.

Please see the Issues pages for more information on the discussions I’d like to have with City Hall.

Here are pictures of my cats because they are much cuter than I am—and because I’d rather sit behind the camera than in front of it.

Callie lounging above my philosophy books, demonstrating why the philosophy of cats is superior to the philosophy of humans. Cats know what’s important in life: good food and water, a clean litter pan, a safe place to sleep, someone to love, and something to do.

Lolly lounging above my science and math books, alarmed at hearing about Schrodinger’s cat.