LaBonge represented the Fourth Council District, which included parts of the south San Fernando Valley, from 2001 to 2015.
Lupita Sanchez Cornejo, a regional director for legislative and external affairs at AT&T who got to know LaBonge when she was a special assistant for then-Mayor Richard Riordan, said that Los Angeles is a better place because of him.
“Tom was one of our city’s greatest ambassadors – and whether it was local residents, tourists and city family he engaged with everyone to welcome them to Los Angeles,” Cornejo said in an email to the Business Journal. “He played an instrumental role in Hollywood’s revitalization and renaissance, was a great ambassador with our Sister Cities program, and was a fierce advocate for our first responders.”
In a joint statement, Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez said that LaBonge loved Los Angeles and the city loved him right back. In a city of 4 million residents, LaBonge was Mr. Los Angeles, the pair said.
“He was a true public servant who was never afraid to roll up his sleeves or pull a city worker over if a constituent needed help or a street needed servicing at a moment’s notice. He knew every mascot of every high school in Los Angeles for a reason – so he could engage people and talk to them about their lives,” Garcetti and Martinez added. “As a councilmember, he took care of his constituents and was a champion of one of L.A.’s greatest treasures, Griffith Park.”
Brad Rosenheim, chairman of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association and chief executive of consulting firm Rosenheim & Associates in Woodland Hills, met LaBonge in the early 1980s when they were both City Council staffers.
There was no one who loved Los Angeles more than LaBonge, and it was only outweighed by his love of his family, Rosenheim said in an email to the Business Journal.
“Anyone who knows Tom LaBonge has innumerable stories of his passion for L.A., his generosity and caring for his friends and the people of his community and his family,” he added. “Tom’s death leaves a gaping hole in the collective love for the city of Los Angeles.”
LaBonge is survived by his wife Brigid and two children.